Hockey history shows us that the more games a person plays, the truer a sense of his abilities that you have. It only makes sense if you think about it; after all, I don't think anyone expected Chris Conner to score two goals per game just because he did it once this January 25.
Because of this effect, though, we can use regular season career data to figure out who is due for a playoff surge and who might be about to cool off.
After the break, I'll throw a whole gob of data at you.
This is a table of all Penguins skaters who have played in the playoffs so far (plus Eric Godard), career regular season edition:
Reg Season GP
And here's the career playoffs numbers version:
What can we learn from all this?
Well, the first, most obvious thing is that compared to regular season career statistics, the number of games played for even the most experienced playoff veteran is small, often around 10% of the total. This can and will skew the results for most players, as it's not even approaching statistical significance. The benefit, though, is that it makes it even more obvious who is about to make a charge.
In line for a boost
Jordan Staal: Yes, really. The kid has been a great playoff guy already--on defense. It turns out, though, that he's off his career pace for points per game by 0.1, and when you're only about a half-point per game guy in the regular season, that 0.1 is quite a bit. Note, though, that his shooting percentage and shots per game are nearly identical between the regular season and the postseason, which indicates to me that he's not picking up as many assists in the playoffs. That might not be within his control, though, so we'll have to wait and see.
Chris Kunitz: Kunitz's points per game are right in line with his regular season numbers, but his shooting percentage is significantly worse. Look for this to improve, and if it does, his production should go nuts. Of course, then he's likely to start shooting more to even everything out.
Alexei Ponikarovsky: Everyone's favorite whipping boy (other than Mr. Fedotenko) is well off his personal pace in both points per game and shooting percentage. The team that has him when he rectifies this will be very happy indeed. Let's hope he finds his way in the next week or two.
Tyler Kennedy: I couldn't finish this second off without this guy. He's due almost as much as Ponikarovsky is, and he has the benefit of nobody really throwing him under the bus for it.
About to fall off
Alex Goligoski: I don't worry too much about this one, because he's still improving as a player, and really his sample size is so ridiculously small as to be meaningless.
Kris Letang: See what I said about Goligoski? It goes for Letang, too.
Max Talbot: You probably all saw this one coming. We all love the Superstar, but nobody doubles his production in the postseason and makes it stick long term. Thankfully, when we talk about doubling production, we're talking about going from a quarter-point per game to a half-point per game, so neither one is really any great shakes. Still, he can't keep doing this forever.
Interesting, isn't it, that Sidney Crosby's regular season and playoff point per game numbers are identical? It's amazing that he's become that consistent already in his career. Also, Bill Guerin would have been in the "in line for a boost" section if not for his age. It's unlikely that he's simply a playoff underperfomer; it's more likely that he just never got the opportunities someone who played as many games as he has would normally get, and now he's just too old for his numbers to catch up. Too bad, really. Also, Ruslan Fedotenko is a rich man because of one goal he scored in a Lightning uniform, not because he's anything special once the field is reduced to 16. There's nothing wrong with having a talented agent, though.
But the above information should be encouraging news for Penguins fans. I had to stretch to find players who would fall off soon, and the people in line to improve are some of the team's better young players, Ponikarovsky notwithstanding. Look at the list and smile, folks, because things are likely to get better from here on out.