Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The Penguins need James Neal to make an impact—especially on the power play.
Special teams are a difference maker in the playoffs. James Neal is a power-play stud. By proxy, Neal should be a difference maker.
That’s not the case.
Sure, Neal has missed some playoff action due to injuries. Regardless, he’s been playing with superstar linemates like Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla. His production should be better than a goal and two helpers in seven games.
What’s more concerning is that he hasn’t registered a point on the man advantage. Neal led the NHL in 2011-12 in power-play goals and led the team this season, too, despite missing eight games.
Neal wasn’t necessarily expected to score on the power play at that pace during the playoffs. Malkin always takes his game to a new level in the postseason, as does Crosby, so it wouldn’t have been shocking to see him assist more than score on the man advantage.
Instead, the effectiveness of the Penguins’ power-play unit has been quickly diminishing. It shined against the Islanders and was even instrumental in taking Game 1 against the Senators.
However, the Penguins have only converted on one of 12 opportunities between Games 2 and 3. Their 27 percent effectiveness is good enough for second in the NHL among playoff teams, but the unit can’t continue to thrive if its best player isn’t pulling his weight.
Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist. Stay up to date with him by liking his Facebook page and following him on Twitter.