Another 12 games in and we are now at the halfway point of the season. The Penguins now sit comfortably atop the Atlantic with a 5 point lead over the Devils. They also find themselves #2 in the East (although 1 point behind the #4 Bruins) and #5 in the NHL. They currently lead the league with 86 Goals For and also have the 4th highest Goal Differential at +15. This is due in no small part the their victories this quarter, winning 8 of 12 and scoring 46 goals. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins also just recently entered the home stretch, making a push for the AHL playoffs. If you would like to keep track of the other goings on in the Penguins organization, give the Chirps from Center Ice blog a read:
This quarter, I decided to delve into some of the "Advanced Statistics," so I have individual Goals/60, Fenwick/60, and Corsi/60. Fenwick, and Corsi are usually viewed as a differential, our teams shots minus the opponents shots. But since I am looking at individual performance, this seemed less useful (and harder to research). Knowing the drawbacks of the stats, I also decided to include a Score %, wherein I divide iG/60 by iFenwick to determine the % of unblocked shots that would go into the net if a shooter had an open lane to the net. The numbers I list for Corsi stats can all be assume to be per 60 minutes of play. Also, the real stats only look at 5-on-5 stats, while I just used the overall numbers from the score sheets.
I also learned, via an interesting research paper, that there is a bias in the recording of the NHL's real-time stats, where some venues record more favorable results for home teams vs visiting teams. The most likely to be skewed by observer bias are turnovers. Giveaways are viewed with a negative connotation, though some schools of thought, particularly those that hold Corsi in high regard, because to have given the puck away indicates that you had control of the puck, and in the "The Best Defense is a Good Offense" philosophy puck possession is key. Conversely, Hits, Blocked Shots, and Takeaways are active defensive measures taken when not in possession of the puck. They are highly prized skills in a "The Best Offense is a Good Defense" philosophy, but are vilified by those that espouse Corsi. This scorekeeper bias makes the turnover stats unfortunately mostly meaningless. Hits and blocked/missed shots, however, are more reliably reported.
You can see the previous 1st Quarter Grades here:
Craig Adams - B-
Adams normally mans the right wing on the 4th line, although he does get a respectable amount of time on the PK as well. He is not looked to for goal scoring, he is out there in tough situations when they need to keep the opponent from getting it into the net. However, the 4th line, and the team in general, has been having trouble keeping the puck out of the net lately. Because of that, he is now down to a -4 rating for the quarter. Amazingly, he actually ended up scoring this quarter, posting 2 goals in one night, his only points for the quarter. He has 21 hits, one of the higher numbers on the team, which is even more impressive considering the limited amount of minutes he sees. His Score % comes out to 13.3%, but I suspect this is much higher than it should be because of the limited amount of data. His goals are not likely to happen nearly as often in the future. For those that prefer Corsi, he has a 9.1.
Beau Bennett - C+
Bennett was called up this quarter after a string of options failed to make an impact on the 2nd line and has played in 9 of the past 10 games. He has been a right winger for pretty much his entire career, and is naturally right handed, so the transition to left wing is taking some adjustment. He was brought in to play on the 2nd line, but got very sheltered minutes and was quickly relegated to the 3rd line. He has yet to make an impact, whether this is due to his inexperience or simply a factor of playing on the 3rd line has yet to be seen. But it is worth noting that while overall he has been less than sensational, he is improving, playing especially well when Malkin was out, and now find himself getting minutes on the 2nd PP. He currently has 1 goal and 3 assists with a +2 rating. His Advanced Stats are actually more on par with those of the 4th line than what is found in a 2nd line winger, with a Score % of 6.6% and a Corsi of 10.3. He has started playing more physical recently though, with 8 hits, 4 takeaways, and 4 blocked shots.
Zach Boychuk - F
Boychuk played the first 2 games of the 2nd Quarter before being relegated to healthy scratch. He was just recently placed on waivers to make room for the returning Malkin and was lost to waivers, so he is no longer with the team. In his short term here he racked up 0 points and a -2 rating, with Corsi well below the 4th liners (5.3) and only 1 hit and 1 blocked shot on the stat sheet. He may have a bright future, but he is a project, and the Pens didn't have roster space to accommodate him, so he had to go.
Matt Cooke - B+
Cooke split his time this quarter between the 2nd and 3rd line left wing. He had shown some promise with Malkin, but ultimately was returned to the 3rd line and his usual PK duties. He is less physical than he was in past years, but he still managed to put up 18 hits and 12 blocked shots. On the physical side of the puck, he put up an impressive 3 goals and 5 assists, and a +0 rating. His Score % is 9.7%, which is on par with the other 3rd liners, and his Corsi is 10.9. Like most of the roster, he traded in what was once a solid defensive play for an increase in scoring. Though being on the 2nd line may have influenced that, so his return to the 3rd line may see a return to defense form in the 3rd quarter.
Sidney Crosby - A+
Crosby is still the best player in the league, the 1st line center and on the top PP unit, with limited time on the PK as well. Currently #1 in both points and assists, he racked up 6 goals and 16 assists with a +4 rating this quarter. He also managed to improve upon his face off ability, winning 58.5% of them this quarter. He isn't an overly physical presence, but is credited with 4 hits, 5 takeaways, and 3 blocked shots. His Score % is 10.7% and his Corsi is 15.3.
Pascal Dupuis - A
Dupuis primarily plays on the top line right wing, and sees time on PP and PK. For a short period while Malkin was out, he was shifted to the 2nd line. However, while he may not put up as impressive numbers as Crosby and Kunitz, it does turn out that they do better with him than without him. He has 4 goals and 2 assists with a +2 rating this quarter. He is also a physical presence on the ice, racking up 26 hits, 6 takeaways, and 10 blocked shots. He is one of the best defensive forwards and PK on the team. He only has a 9.3% Score %, putting him at about 3rd line ability, but has a Corsi of 15.8.
Tanner Glass - C
Glass is currently one of the scapegoats to explain the team's poor Goals Against. The 4th line left wing and a staple of the PK, he was previously viewed as a defensive juggernaut. He is still just as physical as ever, leading the team with 33 hits this quarter (and at roughly 10min a night that's a lot). Unfortunately, he brings absolutely nothing to the offense, with 0 points on the entire season, and a dismal -5 rating. He still has no recorded giveaways on the season, I know, it's an unreliably recorded statistic, but at least there is some positive to his game. His Corsi ranks in the middle of the 4th line at 8.0.
Dustin Jeffrey - C
Jeffrey has gotten more time this quarter, playing in 8 games, particularly when Malkin was out and he stepped in to take over at 3rd line center. Most games he finds himself at 4th line center, although he does get a few looks at left wing. He also got some opportunity to play on both PP and PK. He has 2 goals and a -2 rating this quarter, resulting in an impressive 11.7% Score % and a 13.7 Corsi. However, he primarily get slotted in at center, and his faceoffs are an awful 34.4%. He also lacks the physicality associated with the Bottom 6, only racking up 2 hits, 1 takeaway, and 1 blocked shot this quarter. If he saw more time as a winger, or with a scoring line, I would rate him higher, but as a grinding center he is less than exemplary.
Tyler Kennedy - C
Kennedy is an anomaly. He spent most of the season looking useless, but the last few games has been playing like he actually plans to have a job next year. He's been playing on the 3rd line right wing, although most of his PP and PK duties seem to have mostly been handed off to younger players. He managed to get 2 goals and 1 assist with a +2 rating this quarter, which is not substantial, but compared to his previous performance is exemplary. He has also stepped up his physical play, with 12 hits, 2 takeaways, and 2 blocked shots. Still not really what one would expect out of a check line, but better than he had been. He has the 3rd highest Corsi on the team (16.7) but a horrible 7.3% Score %. This is right in line with the criticism that he makes a ton of shots dead center in the goalie's chest but very few find twine.
Chris Kunitz - A+
Kunitz has been on an amazing streak this season, playing left wing on the top line and being an integral part of the top PP unit. He was previously thought of as extra muscle to clear a path to the net for Malkin and Neal to score, but paired up with Crosby he has evolved into a legitimate sniper. He is currently #3 in points and #4 in goals in the entire NHL, gathering an addition 8 goals and 9 assists and an impressive +10 rating this quarter. He is not only a legitimate threat with the puck (17.0% Score % and 15.9 Corsi), but he is a physical force on the ice as well. He has added 31 hits and 4 blocked shots to his total.
Evgeni Malkin - B-
Malkin, the 2nd line center and point man on the top PP unit, got injured with a minor concussion and only played 8 games this quarter. He still has the skill to be one of the best players in the league, but he is struggling to perform consistently. He has had some impressive plays recently, but it seems like for every beautiful play he makes 2 turnovers. Actually, looking at Malkin is a great example of how unreliably the turnover stats are recorded, as he only has 2 listed giveaways this season, despite giving it away every other time he touches the puck (that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but compared to 2 it is much closer to the truth). He did manage to put up 2 goals and 6 assists but with a -2 rating, a respectable point per game pace, and has looked a lot less lazy this quarter. However, as a center his faceoff numbers are important too, and a 43.9% is not really what you want to see. He also lacks physicality, despite his size, with only 2 hits, but 4 takeaways and 3 blocked shots. He has managed to take far less penalties this quarter too. His shooting though, is terrible... for a guy that put up 50 goals last season, his Corsi of 23.2 is the highest on the team while his Score % is the lowest (of non-0 players) at 4.1%. He finds the twine even less often than Kennedy does. He has looked better the past couple games, so hopefully he can return to form, but at the moment he isn't looking good. Despite this slide, he is still in the Top 20 in points (tied with Neal and others at #18).
James Neal - A-
Neal plays right wing on the 2nd line, is an important part of the top PP unit, and for a short time played on Crosby's wing while Malkin was injured. He currently leads the league in Power Play Goals, and is right above Kunitz for #3 in goals. 8 of those goals, plus 6 assists and a +1 rating were accrued this quarter. Amazingly, he finally gets a postive rating after being separated from Malkin. He is a decent physical presence on the ice, with 18 hits, 2 takeaways, and 5 blocked shots, but he does still have the unfortunate habit of taking some unnecessary penalties. And if there is anybody you don't want to see in the box, it is your top goal scorer. He has a Corsi of 21.0, 2nd behind Malkin, and a Score % of 15.7%, 2nd behind Kunitz. If Malkin can return to form, it should help bolster both of their stat sheets, as long as they manage to stay out of the penalty box.
Brandon Sutter - A-
Sutter plays 3rd line center, and stepped up to fill the hole at 2nd line center when Malkin was injured. He also gets to see time on both the PK and the PP. He had once been referred to as the best 3rd line center in the NHL, primarily due to his past QoC being the top amongst forwards, and he hasn't shied far away from that mark this season. He is easily the Pens best defensive asset this year, and while he doesn't have Staal's knack for finding the back of the net, has managed to put up some offensive contributions. He has 3 goals and 2 assists with a +7 rating this quarter, and on the defensive end has 11 hits, 5 takeaways, and 12 blocked shots. His faceoffs leave something to be desired at 49.5%, but he is still far superior to Malkin and Jeffrey. However, despite his time on the 2nd line, his Corsi (11.0) and Score % (10.8%) are much more in line with Bottom 6 performance. Despite the negative connotations of playing the Bottom 6, he is one of the best in the league at what he does.
Joe Vitale - C+
Vitale is the 4th line center, but has been a healthy scratch a few time so has only played 9 games this quarter. He surprisingly doesn't see much time on PP and PK despite his extraordinarily high face off % of 65.6%. I don't understand why they put Crosby on the PK just to take face offs and then get off the ice, when they could do the same thing with a better face off man and keep him on the cie to kill penalties. Vitale really is one of the best in the league at face offs. However, he doesn't have much else to offer... he only has 1 assist on the quarter, and an abysmal -6 rating, which is odd for the usually stalwart 4th line defensive forwards. He only has 8 hits, but does have 2 takeaways and 9 blocked shots. Lastly, his Corsi is the lowest amongst current forwards at 7.2.
Robert Bortuzzo - C-
Bortuzzo hardly ever gets the opportunity to play, only playing in 5 games this quarter, despite an impressive 1st quarter. And with 8 D on the roster and no injuries, he is even less likely to see a significant amount of playing time. When he does play, he gets very limited 3rd pair minutes, although he stepped in to play with Orpik during the game that Martin was injured in and they almost looked like a legitimate shutdown pair together. He is surprisingly not a physical player, with only 2 hits this quarter. He does happen to have the highest Corsi amongst defensemen, although it is likely skewed by his limited playing time. But this is at least an indication that he is pretty good at establishing puck possession, though with no points and a -3 rating this quarter it would seem that sometimes just controlling the puck isn't enough. Maybe he would improve if he got more ice time, or got paired with a more complementary partner than Martin. But as it stands, his performance has fallen this quarter.
Simon Despres - C
Despres got a slightly increased role in the defense when Letang and Niskanen were injured, but he sees primarily 3rd pair duties, and has only played 7 games this quarter. However, when he does play he usually finds himself getting minimal time on the PP and PK. Yet like Bortuzzo, with 8 D on the roster he is getting scratched more often than not, and he would probably be better off returning to WBS until a call-up is needed. He only has 1 assist, but did manage a +4 rating this quarter. He is inconsistent, but when he does remember he is bigger than half the guys on the ice he can throw his body around, only getting 8 hits and 5 blocked shots this quarter. He is a bit more offensively focused that he is defensively, so he does have a decent 8.9 Corsi. He did much better when he was paired with Letang, but he just hasn't clicked playing on the 3rd pair with Engelland... although, much better than he did at the start of the season.
Mark Eaton - C
Eaton is a recent acquisition who spent a little over a month this year under a try-out contract with WBS. They signed him to the Pens roster and he got his 1st chance to play when Martin was hurt. He filled in playing on the 2nd pair with Niskanen and has gone down to the 3rd pair now that Martin is back, as well as joining the PK. He's only played in 3 games so far. He has 0 points so far, actually has almost straight 0s across the board, his only stats being a 2.5 Corsi and 5 blocked shots. It remains to be seen if he will remain on the D full time, or if Bortuzzo and Despres will get more opportunities, but for now his signing puts them back at 8 D.
Deryk Engelland - C+
Engelland has been playing on the 3rd pair all season, and sees limited time on the PK. He is another player people love to hate because his normally exemplary defensive play has fallen off in the past few games. He actually managed to net 2 assists this quarter, but with a -1 rating. His physical presence can be felt, however, as he's got the 2nd highest hits on our D (14) and 3rd highest blocked shots (16) on the team. His Corsi is extremely low, 4.9. Hopefully the entire defense will bounce back, because up until the recent games they had been performing fairly well.
Kris Letang - A
Letang is the #1 D on the depth chart, but plays 2nd pair because he doesn't have a steady top tier partner. While Martin was injured, he did get to play with Orpik, and they did well together, but normally he plays with Niskanen. He missed 1 game, playing in 11 this quarter. Letang is also one of the primary assets on the top PP and PK units. He has an amazing 13 assists and a +2 rating this quarter and currently leads the league's defensemen in scoring. He also plays impressively on the defensive end of the puck, with 12 hits, 4 takeaways, and 19 blocked shots. His Corsi is 10.3. He may currently be the front runner for the Norris Trophy, although it is still early.
Paul Martin - B-
Martin got injured in the middle of a recent game and had to sit out a couple, but has since returned and has played in 10 games this quarter. He is on the top D pair, and sees a good amount of time on the PK and PP. He had been on the top PP unit before he got injured, but has since returned to the 2nd PP. He managed to gather 3 goals and 6 assists with a +3 rating this quarter. Physically he is less impressive, with only 5 hits and 9 blocked shots. His Corsi is actually one of the lower numbers amongst defensemen (7.2) but he has an amazing 17.6% Score %. He is easily the most improved D-man from last year, but he still has a tendency to make stupid mistakes, such as turning over the puck behind Vokoun's net leading to an open net goal. The biggest problem is that he is billed as a shut-down defensive D, but he tends to focus more on scoring.
Matt Niskanen - C-
Niskanen plays on the 2nd pair, usually with Letang, and gets time on the 2nd PP and PK units. He played in 11 games this quarter. During that time, he got 2 goals and 1 assist, but posted a -1 rating. He is more physical than Martin, with 12 hits and 13 blocked shots, but he also has a habit of being overly focused on offense at the expense of defense. He has a Corsi of 7.7 and a Score % of 9.1. He had looked better before his injury, and has struggled since returning, especially in recent games.
Brooks Orpik - B+
Orpik certainly isn't as good as he was in previous seasons, he is getting older and has lost a step, but despite being everybody's favorite scapegoat he isn't all that terrible. It has also been suggested that he has been playing with an injury, which certainly would affect his level of play, and there was a game just a few days ago where he was obviously wincing in pain but kept playing. He plays on the top pair and is one of the most important factors of the PK. He actually managed to get 5 assists and a +2 rating this quarter, and defensively has the 2nd highest blocked shots total in the NHL. 36 of those blocked shots, and 23 hits, the highest amongst Penguins D, came from this quarter. He has an incredibly low Corsi of 4.5. He is pretty much pure defense, although in recent games the defense has struggled and he has been seen more active in the opponents zone, shooting and passing.
Dylan Reese - C
Reese was a temporary call-up while Niskanen and Letang were injured and only played in 1 game this quarter. He was used as a veteran presence paired with Despres. In his 1 game, he had no points, almost no stats... just 1 takeaway and 2 blocked shots. He did put the puck to the net quite often, putting up a Corsi of 9.9. He is back in WBS, getting top D minutes there, and with 8 D on the roster it seems less likely that we will see him return anytie soon.
Fleury was actually playing fairly well this quarter, with 6 wins and 2 losses on 8 starts. However, the most recent game really messed with his stats sheet, so he dropped down to a 2.81GAA with a .904 Save %. Fleury is a better netminder than his recent play would suggest, and there has been a lot of talk of defensive breakdown, so that would contribute somewhat. Considering the Pens let up 3 or more goals 9 games this quarter, the defensive breakdown seems to be a team effort. If Fleury and the D can return to top form, the Pens have a legitimate shot at a Cup run this year.
Tomas Vokoun - D
Vokoun only managed 2 wins and 2 losses in his 4 starts, with an abominable 4.61GAA and .849 Save %. As much blame as can be placed on the defensive breakdown, there were quite a number of recent goals that were directly a result of Vokoun's own mistakes. He has been struggling with rebound control, often dropping it directly in front of an opposing player who has a wide open shot at the goal. He has also had a couple recent time where he went to play the puck behind the net and turned it over directly to an opposing players, leaving the net wide open. He also has a tendency to keep overextending himself, leading a few feet out of the crease and leaving the net wide open. He did play better in his most recent endeavor, replacing Fleury in the 2nd period and holding the Flyer scoreless the remainder of the game. But there were a couple of the same situations in which he turned the puck over and left the net wide open, but this time the D was there to get the puck out.