Perhaps it was the cold, hard reality of allowing a power-play goal to Derrick Pouliot, the former Penguins prospect who frustrated the fanbase because he never contributed much offensively in Pittsburgh. Or maybe all the Penguins penalty kill needed was some turkey and stuffing. Whatever the exact reason, since Thanksgiving, that unit has been taking a serious bite out of opposing power plays, transforming itself from a liability into a strength. The Penguins penalty kill followed a run where it allowed two power-play goals in five of six to one where, over the past 11 games, it has gone 33 for 35 (94.3 percent). “We’re sticking together,” Carter Rowney said. “Everyone’s on the same page.” And what a page it’s been. Tactically, it’s not like the Penguins are doing something 180 degrees different. To put it in football terms, they didn’t switch from a running offense to one that operates out of the shotgun and chucks it 50 times a game. The same as it often is with this sort of stuff, they’re simply executing better. Clears have been a culprit when the Penguins have struggled killing penalties. Lately, they’ve been getting them when the opportunity has been there. They’ve also been better at picking the appropriate times to pressure and communicating properly to cover necessary holes when that happens. Then there are aspects like blocking shots and getting solid goaltending. Check and check. After scuffling through a large chunk of the season, the Penguins have finally gained some significant traction while shorthanded. “I think we’re playing hard, playing together as a group,” Bryan Rust said. “I think we’re doing those little things. We’re working hard in battles. We’re supporting each other, and we’re blocking shots.” They’re also working less, which is never a bad thing when you’re talking about the penalty kill. Thirty-five kills over 11 games works out to an average of 3.2 per contest. That compares with 88 over the first 23, an average of 3.8.
Penguins penalty kill has been getting its fill
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Dec 18