The Pittsburgh Penguins finished up their final pre-season game and headed up to the Poconos for some team bonding as they make their final decisions on what to do about the opening night lineup. There were a lot of questions going into this season, and while you can't draw any real conclusions from meaningless exhibition games, it is still comforting to see the underlying message is getting across with the new systems this year.
So we are going to take a look back at the numbers through the past 6 games, eventually breaking it down and looking at the production of the forwards and the D, but for today I just wanted to get the general overview from the total team level.
There were very few goals scored at 5-on-5 from either end, the Penguins as an entire team finished with just 5 Goals For and 4 Goals Against.
That means it would be completely pointless to look at the results of any goal based metrics, the sample size is just far too small to glean any meaningful information. Although while it certainly isn't indicative of any future success, it is nice to note that through 3 games and 120.0 5-on-5 minutes Marc-Andre Fleury played perfectly, allowing no goals on 47 shots. Interestingly enough, the team also scored 4 of their 5 goals while Fleury was in the net.
Shots on Goal
Overall the Penguins outshot their opponents 154 to 95 at 5-on-5. That comes out to 34.0 SF60 and 21.0 SA60, an impressive 61.8 SF%.
Interestingly, the team generated the most shots and had the highest SF% when Thomas Greiss was in net, averaging 39.9 SF60 with just 20.0 SA60. Conversely, they were least likely to generate chances when Jeff Zatkoff was in net, 27.3 SF60, although they did manage a team low 15.7 SA60 when he was on the ice.
When we look at the unblocked shot attempts at 5-on-5 the Pens still had an impressive 200 to 147 advantage of their opponents. That gives them a 44.2 FF60 and 32.5 FA60 for a 57.6 FF%. The only game that they did not manage to out-possess their opponents was Game 3 vs Minnesota, which they wound up winning in OT.
When looking at the on-ice shot attempts the team was at their best when Greiss was in net, managing a team high 52.1 FF60 and team low 30.4 FA60 when he was in net. The least offense was with Zatkoff in net, a mere 36.4 FF60, whereas Fleury faced the most shot attempts with a 33.0 FA60.
Taking into account all shot attempts at 5-on-5 the Pens outchanced their opponents 257 to 201. That works out as 56.7 CF60 and 44.4 CA60, still massively dominant at 56.1 CF%. Once again the only time they were negative possession was during Game 3. So it is interesting that they would up going 1-0 when being outchanced but 2-3 when they were leading possession.
Once more we see the team was on their best behavior during the games that Greiss was in goal, generating a team high 66.0 CF60 and team low 39.9 CA60. The team played their worst when Zatkoff was the man in goal, an even 50.0 CF% with 48.0 CF60 and CA60, the only time the team did not have positive possession.
Normally the trend is that you face more shot attempts and as such allow more goals against when you are stuck in your own end, whereas the more O-zone starts you have the easier it is to generate shots and score goals. But despite coming out massively positive in terms of possession and even managing a slight edge in scoring, the Pens as a team were a mere 48.6 ZS%. However, in looking at the individual games, this is mostly due to that dreaded Game 3, which saw the Pens get just a 27.6 ZS%. Every other game the Pens were 50% or better.
As one would expect from the possession totals, we see that the team was most tilted to cushy O-zone starts when Greiss was on the ice, a decisive 57.1 ZS%. Conversely, when Zatkoff was playing they were hedged into their own end and saw just a 37.5 ZS%.
Now I'm not saying any of this excuses Zatkoff's performance, he needed to basically be perfect and he was at fault for the final goal against when he couldn't get over to cover the post in time to prevent the wraparound. However, it does certainly explain what the eyes were telling us. The team got bombarded during the games that Zatkoff played, and even the coaching staff commented on how many dangerous shots and high quality scoring chances he had to face. So he played much better than the numbers suggest, and that does explain why the team has been having such a hard time making the decision on who should be the backup, but I think the writing is on the wall and that lone goal he was at fault for was just enough to definitively tilt the balance against him.
I am still interested to see how Greiss performs when he is actually tested though, he barely faced any shots during his games and what he did was mostly easy pot shots from low percentage areas, so just like Zatkoff's actual ability isn't as bad as his numbers suggest, I also don't think Greiss is nearly as good as his numbers would lead us to believe. But in the end it is a moot point, because Fleury will be playing 60+ games and it really doesn't make much difference what happens in the handful of games when the backup is in net.