Another 12 games down, and another Quarter in the books. The Pittsburgh Penguins have now finished up 36 games of the 48 game season. They have a commanding 17-point lead in the Atlantic Division, sit atop the Eastern Conference with a healthy 7 point lead, and are even currently #1 in the NHL with a meager 3 point margin, although they have also played 3 more games. The entire 12 games in this Quarter come as part of the Penguins monumental 15-game win streak.
My previous 1st Quarter and 2nd Quarter grades may be viewed for comparison, but I'm looking at just the statistics and performance during these 12 games, not the entire season up to this point. As with the 2nd Quarter, I'm looking at the standard and real-time stats from the NHL website as well as some of the advanced stats. Because of how well the team as a whole has been playing, almost everybody has better ratings than they did in the previous Quarters. Without further ado, we present the analysis of current player performances...
Craig Adams - B+
Adams played in all 12 games this Quarter, playing mostly Right Wing on the 4th line, though in recent games he has stepped in at Center. He came away with 1 Goal, 2 Assists, and a +3 Rating. He had an impressive 24 Hits, as well as 13 Blocked Shots, which is more than any other Penguins Forward. While he hasn't been called upon to take many face offs, he did manage some impressive numbers this Quarter winning 68.8% of them. As for Advanced Stats, his iFenwick was 6.8 while his iCorsi was 8.7. This is low, but not altogether unexpected for a player skating on the physical 4th line and defensively minded Penalty Kill. His low number of overall shots are partly due to his tendency to focus on taking good shots instead of just throwing everything towards the net, resulting in a Fenwick Shot % of 6.7%. He did everything that was asked of him and excelled this Quarter, but being that he is a 4th liner, a B+ is about the best one can expect to earn.
Beau Bennett - B+
Bennett played in 10 games this Quarter, having bounced around between the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines as well as the 2nd Power Play unit playing both Left Wing and Right Wing, before being reassigned to the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in order to make room for new acquisitions on the roster. Ostensibly he was brought in to be on the 2nd line, but still received relatively sheltered minutes and eventually bumped down due to new players taking over. Bennett managed 1 Goal, 4 Assists, and a +5 Rating. While originally a bit uncertain, he seems to have stepped up his physical play and has really blossomed as a promising NHL Top 6 scoring forward. He has 12 Hits and 4 Blocked Shots, with iFenwick of 8.3 and iCorsi of 9.7, resulting in a FSh% of 5.9%. He has performed admirably, and has a bright future ahead of him, but with the roster overloaded and the season wearing down, he is unlikely to see serious minutes until next season. Whether he returns to take on a Bottom 6 role this season remains to be seen, but it seems like it would be a waste of his talent that would be better suited to getting Top 6 minutes in the AHL.
Matt Cooke - B+
Cooke played in all 12 games, mostly on his usual role as 3rd line Left Wing, but recently shifting over to the Right Wing, and an important part of the Penalty Kill. However, due to injuries there was a lot of shake-up in the lines, so he also saw time on the 2nd line. Cooke had 1 Goal, 3 Assists, and a +1 Rating. A physically defensive forward, he also racked up 29 hits, more than any other Penguins Forward, and 10 Blocked Shots. In keeping with his defensively minded role, his Advanced Stats are unsurprisingly low, a 5.1 iFenwick and a 7.4 iCorsi, resulting in a 6.3% FSh%. Cooke has excelled at his role on the Check line, living up to expectations, so tops out at the best one can expect from a Bottom 6 Forward with a B+.
Sidney Crosby - A+
Crosby played in all 12 games, playing the top line Center and #1 Power Play unit, as well as limited exposure on the Penalty Kill. Unfortunately, he got injured early in the last game, and it remains to be seen how serious the injury will be. Crosby continues to be the best player in the world, netting 4 Goals and 13 Assists with an amazing +15 Rating. He is the most offensively skilled player by far, but he also has a relatively good defensive acumen, with 8 Hits and 8 Blocked Shots this Quarter. It would be preferable if the Captain and league leading scorer weren't putting his body on the line to block shots, so it is slightly troubling that he was one of the highest amongst Penguins Forwards. Being the leading scorer, it should come as no surprise that he had a decently high iFenwick of 13.3 and iCorsi of 17.5, with a FSh% of 7.5%. The one drawback, however, is that he struggled at the face off circle this Quarter, down to a 49.6%. While his declining FO% is troubling, the massive increase in his offensive output more than makes up for it.
Pascal Dupuis - A+
Dupuis played all 12 games, mostly on the Right Wing of the top line, although for a short time he was shifted down while Malkin was injured to let Neal play with Crosby. However, they found that Kunitz and Crosby do much better with Dupuis that they do without him, so he was moved back up. Dupuis also continued to see limited time of the 2nd Power Play as well as being on the 2nd Penalty Kill. Dupuis managed to put up some really impressive numbers this Quarter, netting 9 Goals, 3 Assist, and a +15 Rating. He even throw more rubber at the net than Crosby, having an iFenwick of 20.7 and an iCorsi of 25.8, the highest on the entire team. Not only does he take a lot of shots, but he managed to capitalize on his scoring chances, with a FSh% of 11.7%. Despite being offensively dominant, he still managed to be one of the best defensive forwards on the team as well, finishing with 24 Hits and 8 Blocked Shots. The way he has been playing, Dupuis should be getting serious consideration for the Selke award this season.
Tanner Glass - B+
Glass, the fans' favorite whipping boy, played in all 12 games this Quarter, primarily as the 4th line Left Wing, although when Kunitz got hurt and left the ice for a short time it was Glass he got the nod to man the wing on Crosby's line. He is also one of the main assets on the Penalty Kill. Glass still has no points on the season, but is up to a +2 Rating, which considering his dearth of offensive talent indicates that he is excelling defensively, which is a welcome turnaround considering how the 4th line had struggled last Quarter. He has an impressive 26 Hits, which is not the highest, but is pretty close. However, having heard the argument that Glass was brought in to hit yet wasn't leading the team in hits, I chose to look at the Hits per 60 minutes of Ice Time, in which case Glass leads the team (by an impressive margin) with 13.71 Hits/60. He only has 6 Blocked Shots, which is not bad, but considering his defensive focus one would expect him to be amongst the highest on the team. Unsurprisingly, his Advanced Stats demonstrate his utter lack of offensive output, with the lowest amongst Penguins Forwards having an iFenwick of 3.2 and iCorsi of 6.9. Despite the flak he takes from the fan community, Glass is doing exactly what is asked of him and excelling at his defensive game. He may not have managed to net any points yet, but defensively and physically he is dominant.
Jarome Iginla - C
Iginla is the newest addition to the Penguins roster, having only played in 1 game, starting on the Left Wing on the 2nd line. With Crosby's injury early in the game, he was called upon to pick up extra ice time and saw time on the top Power Play unit. Whether he sees time there in a healthy roster remains to be seen. He has no points and a +1 Rating, which we can overlook because it is just 1 game and he is still adapting to playing in a new system. With such a low total ice time, his Advanced Stats are artificially inflated, but he seems to have thrown an impressive amount of pucks towards the net, with an iFenwick and an iCorsi of 13.7. He also had 2 Hits in his first game with the team. Having seen him for such a limited amount of time, it is hard to determine what we will expect out of him, so his ranking will most likely be much better next Quarter.
Dustin Jeffrey - B
Jeffrey capitalized on the opportunity presented to him by Malkin's injury, playing 10 games mostly as 2nd line Center, although him and Sutter swapped places a bit. Jeffrey had 2 Assists and a +1 Rating, as well as 2 Hits and 2 Blocked Shots. He played even better than the number indicate, showing excellent hands, winning the battle along the boards, and an impressive skating ability. As I keep saying, on almost any other team Jeffrey would be a Top 6 scoring forward, but on the Penguins is a casualty of extreme roster depth. His Advanced Stats are fairly low, as he is more of a playmaker than a sniper, resulting in a 6.5 iFenwick and a 8.5 iCorsi. Being moved up to Top 6 Center, he saw a lot more face offs this Quarter, and actually did much better, finishing with a 47.1%. It's not the greatest, but much better than it was, and now better than Malkin. He could be more physical, and play better defensively considering the Penguins tendency to give him Bottom 6 minutes, but he still had an impressive offensive performance.
Tyler Kennedy - C+
Kennedy played in 11 games, missing one due to illness, mostly on the 3rd line Right Wing, however just recently got bumped to the 4th line due to recent acquisitions. Playing most of the season as one of the fans' favorite trade bait options, he stepped up his game this quarter to come away with 2 Goals and 2 Assists, although he still had a -1 Rating. Only Dupuis throws more rubber at the net, with Kennedy's iFenwick of 13.8 and iCorsi of 17.5. However, while he shoots quite often, he is not necessarily the most reliable at finding twine, with a FSh% of only 6.1%. He has stepped up his physical and defensive game, with 5 Hits and 2 Blocked Shots, but he is still not particularly well suited for the Bottom 6 roles he is assigned. He could be a decent Top 6 scorer on most other teams, but struggles with the defensive role assigned to him on the Penguins. Despite how much he has improved, he is still the most likely to be dealt at the trade deadline, and one of the weakest links on the roster.
Chris Kunitz - A+
Kunitz played in all 12 games on the Left Wing of the top line and the top Power Play unit. He is one of the best players in the NHL this season, and his chemistry with Crosby is unparalleled. He has 6 Goals, 7 Assists, and a +12 Rating. Despite being one of the leading goal scorers in the NHL, he doesn't take an awful lot of shots, having an iFenwick of 9.8 and an iCorsi of 12.2. But despite the lesser number of shots, he does manage to capitalize on his scoring opportunities, with a FSh% of 16.7%. Yet being an offensive juggernaut has not dulled his physical game, as he has 24 Hits this Quarter as well, though only 4 Blocked Shots. While Dupuis makes a more ideal choice for the Selke, Kunitz could be given some consideration, although the way he has been playing he is in the running for the more prestigious awards such as the Rocket, Hart, and Art Ross, although he is not the favorite to win any of those.
Evgeni Malkin - B-
Malkin was injured for most of the Quarter, playing in only 3 games. Although when he was here he continued his usual duties as the 2nd line Center and on the top Power Play unit. In his 3 games he managed to get 1 Goal, 2 Assists, and a +4 Rating. He is one of the most prolific shooters, with an iFenwick of 11.8 and an iCorsi of 18.2, resulting in a 9.1% FSh%. Despite his tendency to play physically in front of the net or along the boards in battles for the puck, he only has 2 Hits and 2 Blocked Shots. Though considering his general lack of defensive ability it is not surprising. He has managed to control his temper and is no longer taking as many stupid penalties, although it was only 3 games. His face offs are still not stellar, only winning 44.7%. Had he played in more games, his rating may have improved, but as it stands we've got to keep him where he was.
Brenden Morrow - C
Morrow was the other recent acquisition up front, only playing in 3 games this quarter, first on the 2nd line Left Wing, but now down on the 3rd line. He has no points and a +1 Rating, which isn't encouraging, but also isn't particularly troubling considering he has only played in 3 games. Despite being grabbed to added a Top 6 power forward to add to the scoring touch of the 2nd line, he has fairly low Advanced Stats, with an iFenwick of 8.6 and an iCorsi of 10.1. Of course, with only 3 games it remains to be seen how he will adjust to the Penguins system. Defensively/physically, he only has 3 Hits and 2 Blocked Shots. Not sure he is particularly well suited to the defensively minded 3rd line, but he may shift around a bit for the remainder of the season, it will be interesting to see how the lines shape up with everybody healthy.
James Neal - B
Neal played in all 12 games, playing Right Wing on the 2nd line and one of the main assets on the Power Play. He struggled a bit without Malkin this Quarter, hitting a bit of a scoring slump, but a slump for him is still above average in the NHL... he had 3 Goals and 6 Assists with a +8 Rating. He is one of the more prominent shooters, with an iFenwick of 13.3 and an iCorsi of 21.0. His accuracy, or more likely luck, was down a bit though, having dropped down to a 6.7% FSh%. Physically he is actually one of the more daunting presences on the ice, racking up 12 Hits and 5 Blocked Shots. Despite being one of the better players in the league, his personal performance dropped dramatically, although hopefully it will be getting better again now that Malkin is back and they have Iginla on their wing.
Trevor Smith - C
Smith only played 1 game, serving as an emergency call-up when Kennedy fell ill, taking over his spot on the 3rd line Right Wing. His stat sheet is a big goose egg, except for a single blocked shot. But being that he played in 1 game and saw a grand total of 10 minutes on the ice, its hard to fault him for his lack of performance. He still remains one of the top scorers in WBS, and if he is resigned over the summer we could see him again come training camp in the fall.
Brandon Sutter - B
Sutter played in all 12 games, Centering the 3rd line, and occasionally swapping with Jeffrey onto the 2nd. He sees time on both the 2nd Ppower Play and 2nd Penalty Kill units. He is statistically the most defensive forward on the Penguins roster, and as the backbone of the Check line matches up against the top offensive threats the opponents can throw his way. He managed to net 3 Goals but only a -1 Rating. However, being primarily defensively focused he has amongst the lowest number of shots, with his Advanced Stats giving him an iFenwick of 7.6 and iCorsi of 10.7. Such a low number of shots makes his goals that much more impressive, capitalizing on his scoring chances and finishing with a FSh% of 11.1%. He is far less physical than the other defensive forwards, with only 4 Hits, although an impressive 8 Blocked Shots. While he isn't perfect, Sutter has increased his offensive threat and performed admirably in face of such strong offensive pressure. He also got much better at the face off circle, winning an impressive 55.3% this Quarter.
Joe Vitale - B
Vitale had fallen to the realm of healthy scratch until Malkin got injured, then he stepped up and got to play in 9 games, before being pushed back down upon Malkin's return. He seems to have had quite a period of ups and downs, with one amazing game followed by one that is mediocre at best. Previously, his primary draw was his ability in the face off circle. This Quarter, he still managed to pull off an impressive 59.6%, but while that is good for most players it is actually slightly low for him. The problem is while he had a few games in which his numbers were amazing, it was followed by a few games in which they were just terrible. Offensively, he scored 2 Goals and walked away with a +2 Rating, which is a big improvement over the 4th line's previous performance. He is the most offensive asset on the 4th line, but still primarily defensively minded, which is reflected in his 8.7 iFenwick and 11.1 iCorsi. His low amount of shots and low time on ice result in him having the best FSh% on the team at 18.2%. And physically he is no slouch, stepping up for 13 Hits and 2 Blocked Shots.
Robert Bortuzzo - C-
Bortuzzo was scratched for every single game this Quarter. Not only that, but they added even more defenseman, so he now finds himself 9th on the depth chart with it very unlikely to see ice time. However, with the recent injuries to Martin and Letang, he could sneak into the lineup while they are out. Because it had been so long since he had gotten to play, the Penguins put him on a 3-game Conditioning assignment in WBS, though now that it is over he may return to the NHL lineup.
Simon Despres - C
Despres played in 9 games this Quarter, usually finding himself on the 3rd Pair, but recently bumped up to the 2nd because of injuries. He has been miles above his early season performance, but has yet to reach the heights he had reached when he got to play with Letang. He still sees mostly limited minutes, although he is getting progressively more exposure as the season moves along. He had 1 Assist and a +2 Rating this Quarter, with a middle of the road 6.4 iFenwick and 8.6 iCorsi. He is getting much better at throwing his weight around though, racking up 14 Hits and 11 Blocked Shots. He's not the best, he's not the worst... he could stand to use some more time in WBS to finish developing, but with the injuries he is going to see a lot more ice time in the NHL, so it will be sink or swim for him.
Mark Eaton - C
Eaton played in 10 games this Quarter, mostly paired up with Letang on the 2nd Pair. Despite the fact that a lot of people are giving him credit for the current win streak, since they have yet to lose a game since he joined the roster, he hasn't been overly impressive. He hasn't been bad, far from it, he just hasn't done anything spectacular either. He remains one of the few players on the roster that has yet to put up any points, which considering he is usually placed on the 2nd Pair is a tad troubling. However, he did manage to finish with a +6 Rating. But his Advanced Stats are amongst the lowest on the team, with an iFenwick of 3.4 and iCorsi of 6.4. He is also the least physical D on the team, only having 2 Hits this entire Quarter, but he has started remembering how to block, with 15 Blocked Shots. I realize he is a stay at home D, so he isn't expected to put up points, and I would be a lot more forgiving if he were on the 3rd Pair. But on the 2nd Pair, skating with Letang, it becomes a lot harder to forgive his offensive shortcomings.
Deryk Engelland - B-
Having once been a mainstay of the 3rd Pair, with the multitude of D on the roster he only managed to play in 9 games, and most of those were due to injuries leaving openings on the roster. He is one of the fan favorite scapegoats, but despite all the hate he gets he actually performs really well doing exactly what is asked of him. He has 2 Assists and a +1 Rating, racking up an amazing 20 Hits and 16 Blocked Shots. Surprisingly, his Advanced Stats indicate that he is also relatively effecient at puck moving, with an iFenwick of 5.7 and iCorsi of 8.5. He is certainly not the best D, and will never be anything more than a 3rd Pair guy, but he is nowhere near as bad as people make him out to be.
Kris Letang - A
Letang got injured, came back before he was 100% and managed to get an unrelated injury the same game he came back, resulting in him only playing 7 games this Quarter. However, in that short time he got 6 Assists and a +5 Rating. He is one of the best puck moving defenseman, and is always slinging pucks towards the net, resulting in a 9.7 iFenwick and 14.8 iCorsi, the highest amongst Penguins D. He also stepped up his defensive game, after last Quarter when the entire team was struggling defensively, and managed 14 Hits and 12 Blocked Shots. Those are all pretty impressive numbers considering how much time he missed due to his injuries. Assuming he come back soon and is able to return to the level of play he has managed thus far, he is one of the most likely candidates to take home the Norris trophy this year.
Paul Martin - A+
Martin was in the midst of quite an impressive performance, but got injured at the very end of the Quarter, resulting in him playing in 11 games, all of which were on the top D Pair, as well as being on the top Power Play and top Penalty Kill units. He broke a bone in his wrist and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, being out for 6 weeks or so. Before getting hurt, he was one of the highest scoring D, in addition to being an excellent shut-down D. He had 2 Goals and 4 Assists with an amazing +12 Rating. Considering he was matched up against the opponents' top offensive weapons, those numbers are even more impressive. He is not the most physical D, only racking up 8 Hits, but did have the 2nd highest Blocked Shots at 19. Offensively, he doesn't throw a lot of pucks at the net, with an iFenwick of 5.3 and iCorsi of 9.1, but that means the goals are that much more impressive. He doesn't have the offensive upside of Letang, but he manages to be even more dominant defensively. The team is going to have a tough time filling his void.
Douglas Murray - C
Murray is the team's newest asset on the blue line, playing in just the 2 most recent games. He is one of the slowest guys on the ice, but he makes up for that with his massive hits. He still needs to adjust to the Penguins system, as he looked quite lost at times on the ice. But he still managed to net an Assist and a +2 Rating, partly due to his proclivity for slinging pucks wildly about, with an iFenwick of 9.0 and iCorsi of 10.5. That would be great if he was an offensive asset with likelihood to score, but as it is he manages a lot of wasted effort. He only has 7 Hits, but considering he only played 2 games, and the limited minutes, it is quite impressive. He only has 3 Blocked Shots though, which seems very low for a stay at home D. We will see how well he adjusts to the new system.
Matt Niskanen - A-
Niskanen played in all 12 games, playing with almost every other D and on all 3 D pairs. As unimpressed as I was with his mediocre performance last Quarter, he has really stepped up to be an impressive defensive force this Quarter. He had 19 Hits and 12 Blocked Shots. Offensively he was even more impressive, with 1 Goal, 3 Assists, and a +6 Rating. He also managed to sling a good bit of rubber, with an iFenwick of 9.0 and iCorsi of 12.2. He is clearly behind Letang and Martin, but he has cemented his place as a Top 4 D. And with the injuries to Martin and Letang he will be called upon to play an even bigger role, lets hope he is up to the challenge.
Brooks Orpik - A+
Orpik, another one of the scapegoats that the fans like to blame for all the team's defensive troubles, played in all 12 games on the top defensive pair and the top Penalty Kill unit. Orpik, while not the most offensively minded player on the ice, as evidenced by his team low 2.0 iFenwick and 4.7 iCorsi, still managed to net 2 Assists. Not only that, but a massive +12 Rating. He also started to show shades of his former self, with a massive 43 Hits, far more than anybody else on the team. He also continues to lead the team with 25 Blocked Shots. He has been one of the most important factors in the recent streak that has seen the Pens give up only 9 Goals in the past 10 games. And with the injuries to Martin and Letang, they will look to Orpik even more to keep the opponents off the board.
Marc-Andre Fleury - A+
The current win streak, especially the tail end of it that has seen an emphasis on total team defense, has greatly benefited the goalies. Fleury started in 7 games, netting Wins in all 7, with 1 Shutout, and a 2nd near shutout that was ruined by him getting injured and missing the 3rd period. He let in 9 goals on 176 shots, resulting in a 1.32 GAA and a .949 Save %. Those numbers are good enough to be amongst the best in the entire league. If he returns from injury and can manage to keep up the same level of performance, he could finish the season as a legitimate contender for the Vezina. Although Anderson probably has it all but locked up.
Tomas Vokoun - A+
As impressive as Fleury has been, Vokoun has been that much better, especially considering how terrible he was last Quarter. He is easily the most improved player this Quarter, having started 5 games, winning all 5, with 2 of them being shutouts. His GAA is a mere 0.75 with a .975 Save %. I still wouldn't want to rely on Vokoun in a clutch situation, but he has certainly showed that he has what it takes to step in if Fleury is unable to perform. He is probably the best backup goaltender in the league. Presumably, he will play another 4 times in the final Quarter, but they may deviate from their original plan because of Fleury's injury.