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200 feet for 16

The Penguins are talking about a shift to a more defensive game but do the numbers support long-term success?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

For all the justified hand wringing due to the Penguins 0-3 start, brutal power play, and impotent offense, maybe Mike Johnston should get some credit for the team's 7-1 record since those three losses to start the season.

The Penguins were expected to start the season as an offensive juggernaut, that hasn't happened to date.

Instead, we're witnessing a Penguins team going all-in with their defensive game.

If you think about it, Johnston might have felt he had no choice as he stared at the lineup on defense that had more questions than answers.

Kris Letang was coming back from a season ending concussion.

Olli Maatta was coming back from every ailment known to man... cancer, mumps and a second shoulder surgery.

Ian Cole was coming back from an okay start to his Penguins career but who was he really after disappointing in St. Louis.

Rob Scuderi was burnt toast.

Ben Lovejoy was slightly toasted last year after being acquired for Simon Despres and struggled playing more minutes than he could handle.

Brian Dumoulin was improving in the AHL, did okay in the playoffs but still an unknown commodity.

The Penguins defensive numbers this season are unreal for this Crosby and Evgeni Malkin era considering this group of defensemen are probably the worst since Crosby's rookie season that featured Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, Josef Melichar, Ryan Whitney, Dick Tarnstrom, Lyle Odelein, Eric Cairns, Ric Jackman and Scuderi.

This season in 11 games, Penguins have given up 20 goals (1.82 goals against per game) and in the last eight, 12 goals against (1.50 goals against per game).

While Sidney Crosby has struggled to look anything like the center we've become accustomed to watching, maybe his dedication on the 200 foot game is what the team needs from their captain in order to win 16 games in the playoffs.

After the game against Buffalo, Lovejoy spoke to NHL Network saying, "We're doing it a different way than normal. Often times in the past, we tried to win games high scoring and right now, we're really focused on our defense."

The early season attention to detail could pay dividends later in the season as far too often the "flip the switch" attitude towards playoff hockey has contributed to a few disappointing playoffs.

How Are they Doing It

When I looked at the numbers at War On Ice, they don't make sense for a team that appears to be stressing more defense and giving up less goals.

Corsi For Percentage has dropped from 52.8% to 46.8%.

On-Ice High Danger Scoring Chances Against per 60 has increased from 10.3 to 12.1

Scoring Chances Against per 60 has increased from 24.4 to 29.7

Shots Against per 60 has increased from 27.3 to 30

While the team is attempting to play a more defensive game and the goals against per game are down to 1.30 during 5on5, the metrics don't support long-term success without Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff playing the best hockey of their careers.

Shortage of Fleury Flakes

This season, Fleury and 12 other goalies have been in net for at least 400 minutes at 5on5.

Adjusted Save % - Fleury is 2nd at 94.9% (Henrik Lundqvist 95.44%)

High Danger Save % - Fleury is 2nd at 89.13% (Lundqvist 90.91%)

A Fehr Debut

Eric Fehr's debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins started on a good note as he scored a short handed goal against the Maple Leafs. His return from the elbow injury was another added boost for a team already trying to figure out ways to insert a talented winger like Daniel Sprong into the lineup.