We have not seen it a lot right now, but one of the more intriguing moves Pittsburgh Penguinscoach Mike Sullivan has made in recent weeks has been giving Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel some time together on the penalty kill.
They were out there for a brief stretch again on Tuesday night in the Penguins’ 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers and wasted no time in doing what they have done pretty much every time they have been out there — created an odd-man rush and nearly scored a goal.
I don’t know how much of this we are going to end up seeing, but I like it. I like it a lot.
For one, I’m of the school of thought that one of the biggest flaws NHL coaches have is they do not play their superstars enough. I get that you want (and need) balance and depth, and I’m not asking for them to play 30 minutes per night or something outrageous like that, but I still think there are opportunities to get players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews and others on the ice more than they usually are. It obviously carries some risk, but the penalty kill is one of those opportunities.
For one, a player like Crosby is good enough defensively to successfully do it. He is an outstanding two-way player and he is almost always going to be the best player on the ice every time he goes over the boards. That is going to be true whether it is an even-strength situation, a shorthanded situation, or a power play situation. You know he is going to have a chance to outplay whoever the other team has on the ice.
The risk here, of course, is that once one of these guys takes a shot to the foot or leg it will no longer seem like a good idea. But I am not a fan of playing afraid, and that risk will exist in every situation every time they have to spend a second in the defensive zone.