After a three-game stretch that saw them go 1-for-18, it looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ power play are in their first signs of waking up, and have now scored in three of the last four games, four goals in total.
Leading the way has been Kris Letang, who has scored two of the three goals in that span, sparking the sleeping-man advantage.
Besides the obvious boost with the addition of Letang, another player has stuck out like a sore thumb.
Chris Kunitz has been money on the power play this year, scoring three of his seven goals with the man advantage, and scoring one in back-to-back games. He has achieved this by doing the thing that made him a rich man this offseason, going to the net, and planting himself there.
It’s not a particularly fun job, as the punishment dealt out for trying to screen the goalie is relentless, but it is a necessary job for any power play to be successful. Kunitz has gotten back to that the last week, and the results have been obvious.
One can’t blame him for not wanting to work off the walls at times, to ask a player to sit in front of the net for 82-games is an almost unfair advantage. But if the last two weeks is any indication, it may be an ugly job but someone has to do it.
That is also depending on your definition of ‘ugly’. Scoring a goal by knocking the puck in between your legs with your back turned to the goalie and a beautiful mid-air deflection goal are far from ‘ugly’ goals.
It has become apparent that Kunitz must make his home in front of the net. Not to bash his stick-handling skills, or abilities in general, but the last two games have proved the power play has operated better the less he touches the puck, and he makes the touches he get count with deflections like the one in Friday night’s game.
We will see how much Kunitz posts up in front of the net, and with a physical game on the road likely to come Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road. The Penguins will have to work for every goal, which only plays to Kunitz’s strength.
Anthony Murphy is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.