Penguins' Bonino trying to rediscover his scoring touch
March 5, 2016 12:00 AM
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Nick Bonino will look to break his 30-game goal drought today against the Calgary Flames.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A two-on-one break against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist Thursday night was developing nicely when Penguins winger Bryan Rust slid a cross-ice pass to Nick Bonino.
Bonino took a shot from the inner edge of the left circle and fully expected the puck to end up in the back of the net.
Just like every other shot he has taken in his past 30 games.
The goal-less streak Bonino takes into the Penguins’ game at 3:08 p.m. today against the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center is the longest of his career. Almost certainly the most exasperating, too.
“This is a first for me, having this many chances and not scoring,” he said Friday after practice.
Coincidentally enough, Bonino got his most recent goal against the Flames, Nov. 7 in Calgary.
He enters the game today with three goals and eight assists in 44 games, hardly the kind of offense the Penguins were expecting when they acquired Bonino from Vancouver in the summer. Not the sort of numbers he was anticipating, either.
“As a guy who’s always been around 10 or 12 percent [in shooting percentage], for the puck not to go in with the chances I’m getting, it’s frustrating,” he said. “But I think I’d be a lot more unhappy if I wasn’t getting chances. If I’m getting three or four Grade-A chances a night, you have to think one’s going to go in soon. And once you see that one go in, hopefully, more come.”
Goal-scoring, it should be noted, is not the primary entry on Bonino’s job description.
After the Penguins realized they couldn’t afford to keep third-liner Brandon Sutter, general manager Jim Rutherford made certain to get Bonino in the trade that sent Sutter to the Canucks because of Bonino’s strong two-way game.
While Bonino had proven he can be a significant contributor to his team’s offense — he had 22 goals and 27 assists in 77 games with Anaheim in 2013-14 — he also is responsible in his end, kills penalties well and is good on faceoffs, winning 52.6 percent of his draws this season.
Having such a diverse portfolio makes his goal-scoring struggles less of an issue.
“I’m making sure I’m good in our end, trying to keep the puck out of our net and let the offense come around,” Bonino said.
Bonino missed 17 games in January and February because of a hand injury, but said he is feeling no lingering effects from that.
For whatever reason, though, his scoring touch has deserted him in 2015-16. Bonino has converted 5.3 percent of his shots this season; his career average is 10.2 percent.
“Obviously, I’d like to start scoring more,” he said. “I’ve had [a total of] almost 40 goals the last two years, so this is definitely frustrating, but it’s part of the game.”
Bonino said he has been able to avoid having his goal-scoring problems contaminate other facets of his game because “I’ve played enough that I know these things happen.”
The Penguins offense has become a bit more volatile in recent weeks — they have scored four or more goals in seven of their past 15 games — so Bonino’s inability to find the net hasn’t been a major issue. Nonetheless, he’s eager to start showing up on the score sheet a little more often.
“Goal-scoring would be helpful, but when [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] are scoring every night, and we’re winning, it makes it a lot easier to deal with it,” Bonino said.
“When the goals start coming — hopefully, soon — I’ll be that much more helpful to the team.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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