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the Underlying Numbers: Penguins vs. Capitals

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Monday night at Consol Energy Center, the Penguins hosted their division rival Washington Capitals, taking the ice under new head coach Mike Sullivan for the first time. The Capitals won the game 4-1, but it didn't matter.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lines and Pairings

Not too strange to see Sullivan sticking with all the same lines and pairings for his first game

Huh? Well, that's interesting. Maybe Rob Scuderi is sick or something.

Amen. Let's just be honest first and foremost and get things clear that after the Penguins announced the Scuderi trade, in what I believe was the third period, the rest of the game legitimately did not matter to me. Recap anyways.


The Penguins honored Pascal Dupuis with his family at the game last night. It got dusty in the room quickly.


Daniel Sprong played more than four minutes of ice time. He even saw some time with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. After Beau Bennett left the game with an injury, Sullivan shuffled the Penguins lines, moving Hornqvist up, moving Matt Cullen up, and rotating Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin double-shifting the 4th line with wingers Sergei Plotnikov and Daniel Sprong. I'm a big fan of this. It gets the young wingers a better look with a better play-making center, without pushing them up into higher brackets of ice time and facing better defensive matchups. Sprong finished the game with just around 9 minutes of ice time. I can live with 9 minutes a night for him.

The Penguins weren't boring. Not even a little bit. At this point, after the Mike Johnston era having felt very....meh? I just want t see the Penguins play a little bit more exciting brand of hockey. The pace in last night's game was fun and they heavily out shot-attempted the Capitals, something we can all agree on being a good thing.


Beau Bennett is hurt. T.J. Oshie caught him in a little bit of a precarious position, but Bennett's shooting the puck in forced his body to turn in a way that exposed him to crashing into the boards the way he did.

Definitely not a dirty hit. Sullivan's quote after the game was that Bennett 'would be out a little while' with no details to what the injury was or how long he would be out, but that they would know more in a couple days.

Oh, the Penguins lost. Backstrom's opening goal was a beautiful one because of bad defensive coverage, they quickly made it 2-0. The Penguins got back in the game, but after the Scuderi trade, it's all a blur to me. No recollection of watching the 3rd or 4th Capitals goals.


Capitals Penguins
Goals 4 (Backstrom, Carlson, Oshie x2) 1 (Malkin)
Shots on Goal 34 45
5v5 Corsi For Percentage 35.9% 64.1%


Despite the third period goals from Washington, it's nice to see how the Penguins ramped it back up late in the 2nd and the entire 3rd period. Score effects, sure. But the Penguins put 45 pucks on net against a good Capitals team. No way to spin that into a negative.

Even Strength Shot Attempts

Really good stuff at 5v5. Lots and lots of shots and shot attempts from right inside the high-danger scoring chance areas. Braden Holtby was excellent last night.

Power Play Shot Attempts

The four blocked shots in the home-plate area stick out, but otherwise, nothing doing for the Penguins power play. Getting Kris Letang back from injury hopefully can help the power play, but even more than that, I think Trevor Daley should be the #1 PP defenseman to QB the unit. He has the puck-moving skills and his track record of scoring goals on the PP speaks for itself.

Shot attempt charts provided by War on Ice.

Expected Goals

Expected Goals map provided by Don't Tell Me About Heart.

A refresher of the key for these charts (except the diamonds are now circles)

More information and description/analysis of Expected Goals can be found here on Hockey Graphs.

In the previous post here using these charts for the first time, I mentioned how it factors in things like shot quality. A more detailed list of what factors into that shot quality is below:

Head-to-Head Shot Attempts

Save for a handful of the Capitals staying in a positive differential, the Penguins did work against the Capitals, just didn't get the goals to show for it. Carlson and Schmidt were absolutely peppered by the Crosby line.

A basic description on how to read these charts: Cross reference a player from each team, and that box shows how many shot attempts each team had while those two players shared ice time. The + and - are from the home team's perspective.

For a refresher on how to read these charts, a write-up with descriptions of what colors mean, which lines to read, and more: H2H Corsi Chart Primer

H2H Chart via Muneeb Alam from Japers' Rink

Individual Shot Attempts

Who are the Penguins and what did they do with the Penguins?

Individual Shot Attempts Charts via War on Ice

Line-by-Line Shot Attempts

I am ditching the usual line charts and just going to do each player individually. After the Bennett injury, all the lines were scrambled and jumbled, as were the pairings, as it seems that Sullivan was tinkering, and that's a good thing.

Individual Player Corsi Data via Hockey Stats

Up next: the Boston Bruins, a home-and-home, starting in Boston tomorrow evening. Let's hope the Penguins can continue playing this way. But even if they don't, we'll be going up against the Bruins without Rob Scuderi as a part of the team.