The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a rough go of it as of late. Their luck should’ve turned around in their game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Sidney Crosby, Marcus Pettersson and Brian Dumoulin all returned from COVID protocol. However, the team lost by the worst deficit yet. A good portion of the blame can be put on the Penguins’ underwhelming special teams.
Take a look at every other year when the Penguins’ roster was healthy. Their powerplay could only be described as dominant. They have the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel all on one line. This year just isn’t the same. Malkin is still out and Crosby just came back into the lineup. To say that the powerplay is struggling is an understatement.
For the majority of the year so far, Jeff Carter has been at the helm of the powerplay. He’s reliable, but there wasn’t the same chemistry that Crosby had. Now that Crosby is back, fans expected things to turn around. They haven’t. In two powerplays in the game against the Capitals, there wasn’t a single goal. In fact, Pittsburgh has the worst powerplay percentage in the league with an 8.7% success rate. Overall, they’ve had 46 powerplays, but only scored on four.
It’s clear that something needs to change. With the talent the Penguins have, there’s no reason they’re not scoring more goals on the powerplay. Sunday’s game could’ve been an anomaly and Crosby could snap them out of it, but that’s not a guarantee. The true test is to see what happens when Malkin comes back. If the powerplay continues to struggle, drastic changes might happen.
The Penalty-Killing Unit
Just one week ago, the Penguins’ penalty-killing unit was No. 1 in the entire NHL. Now, they’re the seventh-best. Since Thursday, the Penguins have played against the Ottawa Senators and the Capitals. In six total penalty kills, the Penguins have allowed the opposition to score three times. This comes after allowing only two goals in 26 total penalty-kills in the entire season prior to last weekend.
The Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn combination has been incredible. Their defensive play was nothing short of astounding. Even after Blueger and McGinn, Zach Aston-Reese also proves to be an incredible defensive forward. Despite this talent, the Penguins just haven’t been able to stop the opposition lately, and it’s killing them on the scoresheet.
Without two vital parts of a team performing up to standard, it’s hard to win games. Again, only scoring in four powerplays out of 46 is nothing short of embarrassing. The penalty-killing unit, despite being solid most of the year, has been struggling lately. If nothing changes and the special teams continue to underperform, changes might have to be made in order to start winning.
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