Special Teams

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Special Teams

Postby Henry Hank on Mon Dec 29, 2008 1:50 am

I've always fought the fight against the "Fire Yeo" crowd. I've always thought it's been a silly argument for a team that has finished with PPs in the top five every year he's coached here (they finished sixth in 05-06 if you want to split hairs). Again, this year the PP has been a lightning rod subject and the chorus of "Fire Yeo!" is as loud as ever. Here's something I think is interesting. The last two years around this time, the Pens have had an underachieving PP. I've always made the argument that it was only a matter of time before the PP got hot and things would even out. Look at the numbers. These are PP numbers for the last three seasons through the first three months of the season and then after.

2006-07:

Before: 39/230 (17.0%)
After: 55/233 (23.6%)

2007-08:

Before: 34/180 (18.9%)
After: 43/198 (21.7%)

2008-09:

Before: 30/163 (18.4%)
After: ???

If history is any indication, they'll eventually get it together on the PP and it'll be part of the reason why they catch fire in January and don't look back. Getting Whitney back into the fold can only help, getting Gonchar back eventually is even better. Bottom line: there's too much talent here to have a middling PP. Early struggles on the PP are nothing new to this team just as early struggles in the standings aren't new.

Now, the PK. It was doing quite well early in this season and was generally in the 5-10 range compared to the rest of the league. Then Gill went down.

Before: 87/104 (83.7%)
After: 36/47 (76.6%)

83.7% would rank eighth in the league right now. 76.6% surprisingly wouldn't be last but not far from it. Basically, their PK went from being one of the better ones in the league to one of the worst. They've been consistently getting beat in front of the net, which is where Gill really paid off. Zigomanis is worth mentioning here as well. The Pens were one of the better faceoff teams in the league before he got hurt. Their faceoff percentage has plummeted since then and is now something like 18th. I think faceoffs are a bit overrated, but having him certainly was something of an advantage that they no longer enjoy.

So, as we freak out about this rough stretch in December, just another sign that things will be better. The PP will eventually catch fire and bolster what is still one of the better offenses in the league even without profilic results from the PP. For the season, it's really been goals allowed that have been the problem. The PP will improve with Gill back, Zigomanis returning, plus Fleury getting back in the groove. He's been either brilliant or bad since he's come back, but we've all seen him play a prolonged stretch of excellent hockey when the stakes were the highest; he's not a worry.

Things will pick up sooner than later and the Pens will climb back up the standings while the teams that passed them up inevitably will cool down.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby Daniel87 on Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:33 am

I think the Pens powerplay woes are simply due to the fact that we haven't had Gonchar at the point. Most understand how valuable he is to the PP and team in general, but lately it hasn't been mentioned nearly enough. (Probably because he's been out all season)

He has the incredible ability to slow things down and set up the powerplay. For some reason Malkin hasn't faired as well at the point as Gonchar has. With the current unit, we have so much talent that they always try to set up the perfect play. With Gonchar in there he knows when to take a shot or make a pass. It's all about timing. Malkin clearly has the better shot and passing ability, but you can't beat Gonchar's experience of quarterbacking the PP.

Normally if the Pens have players like Malkin, Crosby, and Staal down low then we'd be looking very good. The problem is for the style of powerplay we have, we need a quarterback at the point. The only ones who have shown they can do that are Gonchar and Malkin. Like I said before, I think that most understand that Gonchar is a valuable defensemen to this team, but I still feel he's underated at times. He's a leader, moves the puck, and runs our powerplay while still playing great defense. I cannot wait until he gets back. Hopefully he can have a full recovery and return to his old form.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby Henry Hank on Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:45 am

I think there's some merit to that. I always thought Gonchar was pretty underappreciated for what he brought on the point. He's extremely good at keeping the puck in, playing his off side no less. He's very calm with the puck and makes good decisions with it, whether he's passing or shooting. Neither Malkin nor Goligoski stack up at this point in their careers, which makes sense - Gonchar's got over a dozen years experience on them.

Malkin's easily pressured and he doesn't always make the smartest plays out there, and I'm not just talking about on the PP. Goligoski still seems a step slow in his decision making. He waits too long to move the puck and he's prone to forcing a shot resulting in a block and a clear. Malkin forces it too. So I think those personnel differences have had negative consequences.

I think the PP struggles ultimately are indicative of the main problem of the team, and that's their lack of work ethic and intensity on a consistent basis. Even without Gonchar, there's far too much talent on this team to have a middling PP. When Therrien has spoken about the PP to the press, he's pointed to their being outworked and their unwillingness to go to the net. And another general problem of the team crops up on the PP - they're trying to be too pretty instead of making the simple, sometimes mucky/dirty plays. Their lack of desire to get their hands dirty shows up in all areas. Again, that's something I think will pass. Hopefully we've seen this point finally hit in the Montreal game. Hopefully this is the point where they've finally realized what the proper intensity and work ethic is. It's got to be clear to them that despite their talent, even in the RS they need to work hard or they simply won't win very much. They can more easily get by on uneven efforts when they have their full complement of players, but when they're routinely playing without 1/3 of the lineup, that's not going to be enough.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby neophool on Mon Dec 29, 2008 4:03 am

POWER PLAY???? MORE LIKE POWER OUTAGE!!!!!

- Bill Clement
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Re: Special Teams

Postby KG on Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:55 am

Teams go through power play woes, it is very hard for any team to have a consistent 20%+ power play all year. Gonchar is obviously a huge loss...Yeo isn't getting canned...
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Re: Special Teams

Postby scals37 on Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:57 am

seems we arent getting as many power play opportunities either....
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Re: Special Teams

Postby KG on Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:59 am

scals37 wrote:seems we arent getting as many power play opportunities either....


You get power play chances by working hard...
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Re: Special Teams

Postby bhaw on Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:03 am

KG wrote:
scals37 wrote:seems we arent getting as many power play opportunities either....


You get power play chances by working hard...


That's exactly what I was going to say. If you noticed last game, the Pens got PP chances because they were beating the Canadians to pucks and fighting through checks. That is where you get the guys grabbing, hooking and tripping you. With the team playing much slower and less aggressive as a whole, the number of opportunities has gone way down. If a guy puts his stick between your feet, it won't do anything if you aren't moving. A ref won't call a hook if you're waiting for the puck and the hook isn't actually hooking.

It's pretty simple. If they play the way they did against the Habs every game, the PP chances will go up and so should the amount of goals.
Last edited by bhaw on Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby shmenguin on Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:29 am

settling for a middle rung power play for half the year is unacceptable imo. the complacency implied by the "don't worry, it will improve" theory may be largely responsible for the train wreck (yes, train wreck) of a power play this season. it looks like the players are waiting for the PP to get better all by itself.

when your power play stinks for 30+ games, it's a bad situation. period. even if we end up with a top 5 unit, it doesn't get us those points that we could have had if our PP wasn't a total mess.

yes...gonchar's absence is a reasonable excuse. and i don't blame mike yeo. but come on, it's been embarrassing this year.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby Pitts on Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:47 am

Wait, are we talking about a "Man Power Advantage" here? Hopefully, yes, the Pens will turn around their man power in the second half. They have too much man not to do it.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby Henry Hank on Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:48 am

That's not really the point though. I'm not endorsing their slow starts, I'm just saying that's how it is with this team. Part of the reason they've been struggling is that their special teams have been poor, and there's every reason to believe that they'll get better. Just another step away from the bridge thread.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby scals37 on Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:52 am

bhaw wrote:
KG wrote:
scals37 wrote:seems we arent getting as many power play opportunities either....


You get power play chances by working hard...


That's exactly what I was going to say. If you noticed last game, the Pens got PP chances because they were beating the Canadians to pucks and fighting through checks. That is where you get the guys grabbing, hooking and tripping you. With the team playing much slower and aggressive as a whole, the number of opportunities has gone way down. If a guy puts his stick between your feet, it won't do anything if you aren't moving. A ref won't call a hook if you're waiting for the puck and the hook isn't actually hooking.

It's pretty simple. If they play the way they did against the Habs every game, the PP chances will go up and so should the amount of goals.


couldnt agree more, very well put
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Re: Special Teams

Postby pcm on Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:45 pm

They miss Malone on the PP more than anywhere. He wasn't a big point producer, but he always ground it out down low and opened up space for Crosby and Malkin. More than anything else, he did the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet, like retrieving pucks, setting picks, drawing defenders away in high-traffic areas, etc. This also takes pressure away from the point, because there's more of a threat down low and in front of the net.

The only guys on the team who play at all like that are Cooke, Kennedy, and Wallace. If I were Shero, I would be having Staal trained full-time to play like this. But he does too much gliding and not enough moving the legs to be effective right now.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby booboo on Mon Dec 29, 2008 3:23 pm

Henry Hank wrote:I've always fought the fight against the "Fire Yeo" crowd. I've always thought it's been a silly argument for a team that has finished with PPs in the top five every year he's coached here (they finished sixth in 05-06 if you want to split hairs). Again, this year the PP has been a lightning rod subject and the chorus of "Fire Yeo!" is as loud as ever. Here's something I think is interesting. The last two years around this time, the Pens have had an underachieving PP. I've always made the argument that it was only a matter of time before the PP got hot and things would even out. Look at the numbers. These are PP numbers for the last three seasons through the first three months of the season and then after.

2006-07:

Before: 39/230 (17.0%)
After: 55/233 (23.6%)

2007-08:

Before: 34/180 (18.9%)
After: 43/198 (21.7%)

2008-09:

Before: 30/163 (18.4%)
After: ???

If history is any indication, they'll eventually get it together on the PP and it'll be part of the reason why they catch fire in January and don't look back. Getting Whitney back into the fold can only help, getting Gonchar back eventually is even better. Bottom line: there's too much talent here to have a middling PP. Early struggles on the PP are nothing new to this team just as early struggles in the standings aren't new.


Allow me to twist the reading of your stats HH :)

The difference between "before" and "after" percentages for PP you listed are:
2006-07: +6.6%
2007-08: +2.8%
Now, if we simply extrapolated the trend from these two differences, we would forecast a negative
difference for this season, killing your theory of the upcoming improvement.

Let's not get fooled by the numbers.
How about just looking at how they play.

And that is not pretty.
Their PP is just painful to watch right now.

My personal theory is this.
I have no idea how come the coaches cannot persuade anyone
to make mess in front of the net during PP. If they can't do so,
they should be fired (Yeo, MT, I don't care, someone should go).
If the Pens are lacking the adequate personnel and despite coaches'
requests Shero does not bring that guy over, Shero should be yelled at.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby penmyst on Mon Dec 29, 2008 4:34 pm

I caught the Calgary-Ottawa game Saturday night on the HD channel. Now I know Ottawa is a rotten team right now, but their PP looked ridiculously good. With motion, guys slashing through the box, players rotating like a merry-go-round and quick passes across the face of the box setting up wicked one-timers, mostly for Spezza (who was just missing, but close).

They didn't have anybody in front of the net taking a beating, but then not every PP style does. This is what makes me question the Pens PP coaching right now. They no longer have a Malone to muck it up in the slot. Why haven't they adjusted what they are doing? Maybe looking to go with a motion oriented PP instead of a clog-the-slot-and-perimeter-pass PP?

This team's PP has been pathetic looking, even over the last couple of years. They get the numbers because they've got 2 world-class skill players (Malkin, Crosby) along with a world-class PP quarterback (Gonchar). Those guys make things happen sometimes simply due to their massive skill. This PP never seems to generate systematic chances.

They get stymied at the blue line, they dump-n-chase and usually lose. With a man advantage, you shouldn't have to dump and chase, but if you do you sure as hell shouldn't be losing on the boards. When they ARE setup, they look stagnant. Passes seem to emanate from Malkin at the point.... only to try and set up Malkin at the point.... Teams have zero fear of backdoor onetimers so they pressure Crosby (or whomever) hard on the RW boards and Malkin at the RP. Guys seem to stand around down low if they don't have "Malkin" or "Crosby" on their jerseys.

I don't care who the coach is. This team's PP should be better than it is. It relies far too much on Malkin/Crosby making plays. Gonchar's return will help, but it's not going to be the godsend people want it to be.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby pcm on Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:20 pm

Great post penmyst. I see other teams run their PP like a basketball offense with motion and picks and all sorts of set plays trying to break the box... and then I see the Pens pass it around the perimeter like they're waiting for the opposition to give them an open shot at net... You'd think guys as creative and talented as we have would draw up something a bit more proactive. It makes me wonder.
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Re: Special Teams

Postby npv708 on Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:27 pm

Pens special teams = Image
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Re: Special Teams

Postby penmyst on Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:24 pm

Without Malone, this team has nobody in that Ciccarelli/Stevens/Leclair type role to plug it up in front of the net. This PP gets goals in spite of itself, and that's not good enough.

That's what makes me curious as to why this PP hasn't taken a different tack.
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