Penguins' time to kill... Penalties, that is

Killing penalties big problem

Craig Adams spent Game 4 of the Penguins' first-round playoff series against Philadelphia in the Wells Fargo Center press box.

It wasn't his idea -- Adams went there at the invitation of the NHL, which had issued him a one-game suspension -- and he didn't seem to care much for the view.

Even though it offered him a perspective radically different from the one he's accustomed to at ice-level, Adams, an accomplished penalty-killer, said that looking down from above didn't give him any significant insights on the Flyers power play.

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But, by the time the Penguins' optional practice Thursday at Consol Energy Center was over, he was willing to share his assessment of how the penalty-killers had fared against it the previous evening.

Scouting report
  • Matchup: Philadelphia Flyers at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
  • Series: Flyers lead, 3-1.
  • TV, Radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
  • Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ilya Bryzgalov for Flyers.
  • Penguins: Are 13-7 in Game 5s played on home ice. ... LW Matt Cooke leads both teams in this series with 15 hits. ... Won 53.7 percent of the faceoffs in Games 1-4.
  • Flyers: Own 10-4 playoff record against Penguins when getting first goal, 8-11 when allowing it. ... C Claude Giroux is averaging 4 1/2 shots per game. ... Had accounted for three of league's five short-handed goals in these playoffs before Thursday games.
  • Hidden stat: Penguins have lost five consecutive home playoff games for just second time in franchise history.

"We did a good job of shutting them down early," he said.

Then, his analytical expression morphing into a devilish grin, Adams added, "We only gave them three goals in the first six or seven minutes."

His math was a bit off -- the Flyers didn't get their third man-advantage goal until the game was nearly 16 minutes old -- but his point was hard to miss: It was a tough night for the penalty-killers.

The latest in a series.

Adams could joke about it because those three man-advantage goals were the only ones of any kind the Flyers got in what became a 10-3 loss to the Penguins, but the Philadelphia power play has been the most volatile offensive force in a series full of them.

The Flyers have nine goals in 15 tries with the extra man, a staggering conversion rate of 60 percent, through the first four games. It's no coincidence that they also have a 3-1 lead in the series, and could claim a spot in the second round with a victory in Game 5 at 7:38 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins finished the regular season with the third-best penalty-killing in the NHL, but have yet to slow the Flyers power play, let alone shut it down.

Philadelphia was 1 for 1 in the opener, 1 for 2 in Game 2, 4 for 7 in Game 3 and 3 for 5 Wednesday.

"It's disappointing so far, but what are you going to do?" Adams said. "We have to focus on [Game 5]."

The Flyers have all the elements required for a productive power play -- from a strong net-front presence to a handful of lethal shooters -- and are particularly dangerous because they can move the puck so quickly and precisely.

They dissect the penalty-killing unit with their passes, tossing the puck around until someone ends up with a tap-in from the lip of the crease or an uncontested shot -- often at a mostly open net -- from the slot or inside one of the circles.

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said the Flyers' puck movement is "probably the best I've seen," and that it's particularly effective because Philadelphia isn't predictable.

"Most power plays, you kind of know exactly what they're doing," Orpik said. "This one, I think they have so many different options and so many plays that they use ... that's what makes it so good.

"Most power plays, you can kind of cheat on certain plays because you know what they're trying to work against you. [The Flyers] just have so many different options that it kind of backs you off. And once you back off, it gives them time and space."

Orpik ran through a checklist of mistakes the Penguins have made while short-handed, from poorly executed forechecks to being tentative in the defensive zone, and those lapses are important, because Philadelphia has given the penalty-killers so little margin for error.

"Every time we get a puck on our stick and we don't get it out, or we don't make the right play, it's ending up in our net," Adams said.

"We put ourselves in the right position to break up those plays and get pucks out, then, all of a sudden, we don't, and it ends up in our net."

He pointed out, though it hardly was necessary, that the Flyers have had a lot to do with their productivity on the power play. That a unit featuring the likes of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere and Jaromir Jagr, among others, will sometimes find a way to score against even flawless penalty-killing.

"Even if we go out there and do a great job," Adams said, "it's not to say that they're not going to score another goal."

That surely is the objective, though, and the regular season proved the Penguins are capable of better than they've shown the past four games.

"We know what we have to do," Adams said. "We just have to do it better."

And they probably will have to do it tonight.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at Dave Molinari: and Twitter @molinaripg. First Published April 21, 2012 2:30 AM


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