Archive

Simpler-is-better approach by Penguins coaches boosts team | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Simpler-is-better approach by Penguins coaches boosts team

ptrpensla02103014
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Penguins' Chris Kunitz celebrates with Kris Letang after Letang's first-period power-play goal against the Kings on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

A season can’t be measured in 10 games, but some of the Penguins insist something is different about this team.

The difference, they insist, can be attributed to their new coaching staff.

Coach Mike Johnston and his assistants have worked hard to rid the Penguins of “bad habits,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said.

A 7-2-1 start — the Penguins had the league’s top power play, most goals per game and best goal differential (plus-19) through Saturday — is evidence bad habits might be eroding.

Scuderi said last season following a loss in Edmonton the Penguins were playing like the Harlem Globetrotters. His tune is different now.

“I think the coaches have played a big role in that,” Scuderi said. “It’s no secret that we’ve been burned in the past by playing the wrong way. It’s been a focus of all the guys in this room. We definitely talk about it a lot. If you don’t have a play with the puck, then make a safe play.”

The simpler-is-better approach hasn’t always been easy for the Penguins. They blew leads in losses to Dallas and Detroit during the opening month and struggled against the Flyers.

However, they concluded the month on a four-game winning streak. Three of those victories resulted in shutouts for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins outscored their opponents 19-3 during that stretch.

A more responsible brand of hockey was evident.

“Look at our power play,” said right wing Craig Adams, commenting on the unit that is clicking at nearly 42 percent.

“They’re not just scoring, but they’re doing all the right things now. It’s nice to see. Obviously when we get a chance, we have guys who can bury the puck.”

The Penguins’ latest victim also noticed a change in their approach.

Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber shook his head when discussing the Penguins’ power play. But he wasn’t just acknowledging the unit’s talent, even if it does showcase some of the league’s most gifted players.

Rather, Weber was blown away by the Penguins’ efficiency and willingness to stick with a simple game plan.

“We knew they had the best power play in the league, and obviously their personnel is where it’s at,” Weber said. “But look at what they’re doing. They’re doing all the simple things. They’re moving the puck down low. If they don’t have a play, they move the puck up high. Then it’s pass, pass, shoot. They keep it so simple. Maybe we should look at what they’re doing. That’s a good team, a consistent team. We need to find a way to be like them.”

A wake-up call in Detroit on Oct. 23 — they blew a two-goal lead late in the third period, the second time they blew a late lead — seemed to trigger something in the Penguins, who responded two nights later in Nashville.

Since that loss to Detroit, the Penguins have allowed three goals in four games.

Credit the coaching staff, the players said.

“They’ve taught me a lot already,” defenseman Simon Despres said. “They’ve taught us all so much. They’ve taught us how to play with a lead and to play the game the right way.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.