If you have read my previous blogs...and chances are good that you haven't...then you will know that I have recently, and frequently, questioned the Penguins aggressive approach to playing hockey.
In a nutshell...the Penguins are supposed to take the game to other team...keep the puck in their end...generate scoring chances...and either score goals or cause the other team to take penalties...and then score goals on the power play.
In a nutshell...IT'S NOT WORKING!
While this approached worked in 2008-09...during the last quarter of the season and thru the Stanley Cup finals...it has not really been effective for the Penguins through much of 2009-10 and into this season.
The biggest problem is that the underlying assumption...that the Penguins have the guys that can score the goals...has proven to be questionable...at best.
Over the past season and now 4 games into this season...how many times have the Penguins outshot an opponent...but not outchanced them...or outscored them?
A talented team that gets 30-35 shots per game should score at least 3 goals.
But the Penguins have done this on a number of occasions and still only managed 1 or 2 goals.
They have had countless games where they have a handful of power plays (sometimes 6 or 7) and failed to scored a goal on the PP or scored just 1 when they desperately needed a second goal later in a game.
They just can't seem to translate this approach into scoring goals...and more importantly, wins.
What's worse is that their opponents have developed a way of scoring 3,4 or even 5 goals on what often amounts to less than 25 shots. Sometimes, like last night...4 goals on 14 shots.
It seems that the aggressive style of play has left the Penguins open to making positional mistakes...which result in "golden opportunity" scoring chances for their opponents.
Add in a little questionable goaltending...and you have a recipe for disaster.
Aggressive play that doesn't lead to goals
Positional mistakes that lead to scoring chances for the other team
MORE LOSSES THAN WINS.
Now is the time to mix things up a little.
It appears to me that the guys really don't play like they believe in the system/approach at this point in time.
Sure, they may say that they do...and there are moments where it seems effective...but the recent won lost history shows us that, on the whole, it's just not getting the job done.
So...what should they do?
1) Let Brent Johnson start a few games in a row.
No, I don't think the whole thing is MAF's fault like some people do. But to be honest, in the recent past, he has been more of the problem than the solution. Let Johnson gets some starts under his belt and try and rebuild Fleury's focus in that time. Make it so that Fleury is hungry to get back in that crease. And even after he gets back for a start, don't let him get too comfortable in that net. I hate to say it, but a little scolding from Michel Therrien might help right about now.
2) Change their offensive approach while Johnson starts...and after...when necessary. I wouldn't dare suggest a trapping offense...ok maybe I would...but I would surely suggest an overall game plan that prioritizes owning their defensive zone first. Would it be that terrible for this team to play a counter attack game for a while...or at least for a period of time during a game? I know this is not the fan friendly goal scoring frenzy approach that everybody likes to see...but the style of play they currently employ isn't creating that either.
3) Become a shooting team on the power play. Man this one is tough. Skilled players love to find the shot. but if you watch what the opponents are doing...clogging up the middle of the ice and making it very tough to find that shot...you can see why the power play hasn't been working so well. I say stress taking the shot and more importantly, stress how the other guys who are not taking the shot need to be in puck retrieval mode. This isn't a crazy idea...lots of teams do this. It's just a more meat and potatoes approach to the power play that requires the guys who are not shooting to be ready to go after rebounds and gain possession of the puck. Too often it looks like the Penguins are not in position to get the puck once a shot it taken.
4) Sit Geno and Sid. Yes, I have gone crazy...and I know this will never happen...but it might work. It's not that these guys aren't trying...but is seems like both could use a view from the bleachers. Sometimes that change in viewpoint is all you need to refocus your efforts and make things right.
These suggestions might not result in a positive outcome...but from my point of view...it's painful to watch a team with such talented players, look so out of touch with their own game. To me, Something has to be done to change the direction this team is heading in...and it needs to be done now.
UPDATE...ran across this blog written a while back...if you don't think the Pens have some issues, read this blog and tell me how much you think the current team looks like the one that's described in the blog.