Everything is going right for the Penguins. They're winning. They're scoring goals in bunches. They're getting air-tight goaltending. They're getting lucky bounces. They're getting healthy.
Everything is perfect.
That sputtering power play is the lone blemish on the Penguins six-game winning streak. In the past five games, all without superstar Evgeni Malkin (above), they've gone 2 for 19 (10.5 percent). Overall, the numbers with and without Malkin are drastically different:
|With Malkin||Without Malkin|
|20.1||Success rate||6.5 %|
Head coach Mike Sullivan was asked about his power play today and felt it took a step forward by going 1 for 7 in their 6-2 rout of the Capitals Sunday:
"I thought the last game we played, I thought our power play had some traction. Even though percentage-wise, it didn't appear the power play was good the last game, we felt as though it was. There was a quick whistle on which we thought Sid potentially could have scored. But there were a lot of scoring chances. So for me, all we can do is we can coach the process. I though the entries were good. I thought the decision making was good and just the mindset of outworking the penalty kill, retrieving the pucks, all those things that are so important to helping power plays be successful. We liked what we saw the last game. We've got to continue to build on that. Hopefully, that will translate to goals."
For what it's worth, the Penguins spent approximately the final 20 minutes of their practice Wednesday working on different power play combinations. Centers Sidney Crosby, Nick Bonino, right winger Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, defensemen Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley and left winger Chris Kunitz all seemed to get some work on the top unit at various times. It was almost as if Sullivan was running a research and development laboratory in Cranberry Wednesday.
-It's looking pretty likely right winger Beau Bennett (right) will return to the lineup tonight. He was off the ice fairly early from an optional morning skate today while center Oskar Sundqvist was among the last Penguins skaters off. Additionally, Bennett was officially removed from injured reserve today. Presumably, Bennett would take over as the fourth-line's right wing while Eric Fehr would slide to center in place of Oskar Sundqvist. Conor Sheary would serve as that team's left wing. Suffice it to say, Fehr would be the muscle on that line.
-It's also looking pretty certain Brian Dumoulin will return to the lineup after he appeared to injure a leg thanks to a big hit by Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin Sunday. Dumoulin referred to his ailment as "nothing serioius."
Devils rookie defenseman Vojtech Mozik is expected to play his second NHL game tonight. The Devils signed him from HC Plzen in the Czech Republic's ELH league this past summer and he spent most of the 2015-16 season with Albany of the AHL until a recent recall.
If HC Plzen sounds familiar, it's the team former Penguins all-star center Martin Straka owns and serves as the general manager of. It's also the team Penguins right winger prospect Dominik Simon played for. This morning, Mozik, who speaks somewhat limited English, spoke about playing for Straka and with Simon:
What was it like playing for Straka? And with him? You were his teammate when he retired as a player a few years ago.
"He's owner of Plzen hockey club. It's really good. He played in the NHL for like 20 years. He was big star. It was an amazing feeling. I played with him in 2012-13 and we win the Czech championship. It was nice. ... He is boss."
Note: In his final game as a player, Straka scored the winning goal in double overtime of Game 7, a 4-3 victory - in the 2013 ELH championship game against PSG Zlin:
You played with Simon last season?
"I played with him all last year all season and on the national team. We are good friends. Good guy. I see he played three games for Pittsburgh. Really good for him. He got a chance. Good for us. Good for Martin Straka."
Have you played against Simon this season in the AHL?
"We played two games probably against [each other]. We talk to each other after the games, we have dinner after the games."
Former Penguins right winger Nick Johnson was also your teammate in Plzen.
"Nick is really good guy. He [has had] a really good season this year. Plzen is a good team. I think they're going to win this year. We'll see."
How has your first season in North America gone?
"I think it's good. Tough start. Everything is new. Smaller rink than Europe. Everything is faster so decisions have to be quicker."
There are a few Czechs on the Devils. Has that helped you?
"Yeah, yeah. Make it easier. Patrik Elias, Jiri Tlusty. They are injured but they are still with the team. So it's good for me."
-Devils coach John Hynes coached 11 players currently on the Penguins' active roster at some point with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Tom Kuhnhackl was arguably one of his greatest successes given all of his struggles even at the ECHL level. Hynes talked about his development into an NHLer today:
“I think it's fantastic what's going on. He's an impact player and has really earned his way in. He came in as a high scorer when he first came to the organization. He struggled early in his time in Wilkes-Barre. He went down to Wheeling and really worked at his game. [Former Nailers coach] Clark Donatelli did an excellent job with him. He almost transformed his game, how hard he worked, his ability to block shots, wall play, breakouts and things like that.”
“But he was always a player that was willing to do it. So when you have an opportunity to work with players like that and you see them make mistakes, it's not because he wasn't trying. It was because he just didn't know how to do it. So that was an opportunity to take a kid that's got some potential, he's very coachable, he's got a high character [and] you try to help him with his game. I think when you look at his game … now he's a real impactful player. It's guys like him that make coaching or development enjoyable because you have an impact on them as players and people.”
(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)