For a team that has been shut out twice in its last four games and has only scored five goals in that span, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins aren’t panicking.
Instead, they are taking matters into their own hands.
With a full week of practice before the Penguins host Portland at home, are spending their time not with drills designed to produce more goals, but focusing instead on improving the process that it takes to produce points.
According to head coach John Hynes, the issue isn’t as simple as the Penguins needing to score more.
“That’s a misnomer,” he said. “Everyone says you have to score, but that’s the end result. The focus is on the reason we’re not scoring and fixing that process that produces the end result.”
The reason why producing goals has been a problem of late is the Penguins are too light around the scoring areas, Hynes said. There’s too much “one and done” in the offensive zone and not enough second and third chances.
“You want to be able to outwork the other team’s goalie, and we haven’t done that,” Hynes said. “It comes down to playing a much more sound and heavy offensive game. It’s not the skill or the players, we have to be a heavier team offensively.”
Center Nick Drazenovic, one of the team’s veterans with a proven offensive track record, has this advice for his teammates when it comes to scoring goals:
“Score goals in practice like you want to in a game, and it will come back,” he said. “I’m trying to bury every shot I can in practice and set an example for the younger guys that it does matter.”
There is another ingredient to Drazenovic’s recipe to jump-start the offense — have fun. He cautioned against dwelling on the scoring woes and reminded his teammates that it’s a long season, the goals will come back.
“Right now with the feeling in the room, everyone’s wanting to do maybe a little too much and wanting to score so bad that it takes away from the ability to make plays and have fun out there,” Drazenovic said. “We have four practices this week before our next three-in-three this weekend, so it really sets up well for us.”
Still, the frustration is unavoidable until the goal production picks back up.
“It’s very frustrating when we don’t score,” said rookie winger Anton Zlobin. “With all the practices this week, now is the time to look at what I’ve been doing wrong.”
Zlobin’s solution echoes Drazenovic’s advice.
“My approach now is to score on every shot I have, practice and in games,” he said.
That approach could go a long way toward putting the Penguins back into a routine that was disrupted a bit last month as practice time was hard to come by during a two-week stint on the road.
“Sometimes that can get you out of the rhythm that you need to have in your game,” Hynes said. “That’s why weeks full of practices like this are great for us.”