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Who were the best Penguins playing 5 on 5 last season?

First of all, huge ups to JP, who unknowingly let me boost a post he did today about this.  Here's how he describes what you're about to see, edited for Penguins content.


That the Pittsburgh Penguins are a better team with Evgeni Malkin on the ice at five-on-five than with him on the bench would probably be the least controversial assertion made since JP referred to Dane Cook as "unfunny. [Ed. note: True dat!] " But how do we quantify how much better the Pens were during Geno's shifts?

It's rather simple, really - take a look at the team's plus-minus while he was on the ice and compare it to the plus-minus rate when he was off the ice (thanks, BtN!). Needless to say, a positive differential here (i.e. a better +/-ON than +/-OFF) indicates that the team was better off with him than without him.

With that introduction out of the way, let's take a look at the numbers for the skaters who played at least twenty games for the Pens, with quality of competition and teammates thrown in for context (remember, this is all five-on-five):

Thanks again JP!  After the jump we'll look at the results!


Player Name QualComp QualTeam +/- ON/60 +/- OFF/60 Difference
Ruslan Fedotenko 0.035 0.161 1.52 .009 1.43
Evgeni Malkin 0.061 0.059 1.22 .007 1.15
Rob Scuderi 0.052 -0.002 1.06 0.10 0.96
Tyler Kennedy -0.006 -0.139 1.34 .41 0.93
Alex Goligoski -0.021 0.029 0.78 0.00 0.78

Miroslav Satan

.0035 -.0043 0.74 0.00 0.74
Sergei Gonchar -0.008 0.066 1.25 0.75 0.50
Sidney Crosby 0.049 0.028 0.58 0.16 0.42
Philippe Boucher -0.075 0.124 0.48 .020 0.28
Petr Sykora 0.020 0.263 0.70 0.44 0.26
Bill Guerin 0.004 0.090 -0.43 -0.59 0.16
Chris Kunitz -0.008 0.279 0.72 0.58 0.14
Chris Minard 0.051 -0.140 0.34 0.24 0.10
Hal Gill 0.032 0.204 0.54 0.54 0.00
Jordan Staal 0.012 0.059 0.33 0.51 -0.18
Brooks Orpik 0.036 0.034 0.23 0.51 -0.28
Mark Eaton -0.014 -0.057 -0.13 0.58 -0.59
Matt Cooke 0.009 0.026 -0.13 0.58 -0.71
Kris Letang 0.021 0.001 -0.11 0.77 -0.88
Pascal Dupuis 0.034 0.010 -0.15 0.78 -0.93
Mike Zigomanis 0.004 -0.140 -0.35 0.73 -1.08
Eric Godard -0.150 -0.388 -0.97 0.68 -1.13
Maxime Talbot -0.001 -0.027 -0.97 0.68 -1.65
Craig Adams -0.132 -0.215 -0.35 1.40 -1.75


So what does this mean?  Well, on the simplest of levels the Penguins did better when guys towards the top of the list were on the ice, as opposed to when they're on the bench.  But this can be slightly distorted, so take the quality of competition into accounts.  Like rookie Alex Goligoski, for instance: the Penguins protected him a lot and he had more talented players playing with him 5 on 5 (QualT eam) than he has to defend against (Qual Comp).  So that goes a long way to explaining why his number here is a little high.  On the other hand, Pascal Dupuis was frequently playing tough minutes (high Qual Comp) so that stiff competition is probably a reason he's near the bottom, so he's probably deserving of getting a little slack.  Got the idea?

  • See why coaches love Ruslan Fedotenko and harp on all their players to play like him?
  • This chart also graphs some of Rob Scuderi's hard to define value.  There's a quantifiable disadvantage in terms of opponents and teammates yet Scuderi reflects very well.  These new age high tech metrics often end up making Scuderi look good, such as James Mirtle's "Rod Langway award" in which Bobby Scuds was a top contender all season long.
  • Scuderi's old regular partner Hal Gill broke exactly even at 5 on 5 over the course of the full season.  Meaning the Pens did just as well with him out there as they did with him on the bench.
  • Suprised to see whipping boys Miroslav Satan and Petr Sykora towards the top for 5 on 5 play?  I was.
  • Sidney Crosby, predictably, had a tough competition matchup and doesn't rank near the top.  I bet with a full year of having Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin as linemates that will nudge Sid up in next year's rankings.  That Crosby took a lot of defensive zone draws and eats up a lot of ES icetime probably opens himself up to more opportunities for pucks going in when he's out there.
  • These numbers don't put Matt Cooke in a flattering light: the team was notably better when his butt was on the bench, despite Cooke getting in favorable situations in terms of having good teammates and not playing against good opposition.
  • Max Talbot did have a brutal regular season, especially in terms of his plus/minus ranking.  Seemed like a lot of rubber early in the year was ending up in the net for one reason or another when Talbot happened to be out there, no thanks to the fact he was often on the 4th line playing with teammates not very likely to create a lot of offense.
  • Craig Adams' toilet bowl worthy numbers can probably be attributed to a very small sample size.  He only played 9 games and given that he doesn't play much at even strength, it doesn't take too much to make him look very bad (or conversely very good if things went the other way).
  • The Capitals had 13 players in negative digits and the Penguins had a similiar number with 10.  The Caps had a better even strength numbers (+37 compared to +24) which leads one to believe the Caps top players carried the mail while Pittsburgh got a more even effort.  Given how much line shuffling and trades and injuries go on I probably wouldn't put too much stock in that at face value though.
  • Tyler Kennedy really made things happen, the puck ended up in the correct net a lot when he was out there and he did well to see that it didn't...Could he be a sleeper pick to move up on Evgeni Malkin's wing?  (More on this later in the week) 

So there you have it, some fancy stats to backup what you probably knew:  The Penguins are better when Malkin and/or Crosby is out there and that Eric Godard must on the roster because he is a snazzy dresser.  Oh yeah, punching people in the face too.