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The Underlying Numbers: Penguins vs. Wild

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The Penguins traveled to Minnesota to take on the Wild and came away with their second win under Mike Sullivan, and this one came in impressive fashion.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Penguins under Mike Sullivan are playing...fun again. It feels that way to me at least. They're suppressing shots, something the team seemed to struggle with under Mike Johnston. They're generating shots of their own, while still suppressing shots, which is a certain recipe for success.

Through the six games the Penguins have played since firing Mike Johnston, Mike Sullivan's Penguins have put up a 61.5% Corsi For at 5v5. Same sample sizes be damned, that's fantastic.

This is borderline hilarious. The Penguins were bleeding shot attempts at times under Johnston, and since his firing, the Penguins have skyrocketed upwards in their differential, and are back into positive numbers, somewhere the Penguins hadn't been since the sixth game of the season, where they were barely above zero.

Each marking here being a six-game sample, so the last spot on the graph is the current six-games the Penguins have played under Mike Sullivan. (via War on Ice)

Lines and Pairings

Not sure what Plotnikov did to get a scratch, maybe he's a little banged up from the Dalton Prout assault still? Either way, I don't get too jammed up over line changes and deployment, so long as it is a regular occurrence and fair to all players. Example: Kessel being put on the 3rd line and making his way back up. Players held to the same standards feels like something this team has been lacking.

Highlights

Positives

Matt Murray is good. There's no reason, in my opinion, for Jeff Zatkoff to play any more games for the Penguins. They have found their new backup, but if Murray is sent down, I won't be mad. One of my favorite things about Murray was his post-game interview on Root Sports with Dan Potash. He mentioned how the break was good for the Penguins and how it has been a good team effort playing well defensively when they didn't have the puck. But the best part was when he essentially advocated for more playing time for himself, saying that the best thing for development is more playing time, and that the more playing time he has had, the more comfortable he has felt. You gotta be your best promoter yourself, right?

Slick goal from Crosby. Vintage looking goal for him.

Nice to see Hornqvist get rewarded for his work. He's always in the paint, causing mayhem and creating havoc and has been coming up empty-handed, so it was nice to see him get one there.

Negatives

Another headshot for Kris Letang. Let's hope he is okay. Jarret Stoll is a pissbaby, and so are the Minnesota fans who thought Letang embellished. Letang missed about eight minutes of game time, approximately sixteen minutes of real time. He seemed to be feeling out his jaw on the ice when he was down, but sixteen minutes seems like a quick turnaround for concussion protocol, especially for someone with a history such as his.

Devan Dubnyk is still bad sometimes. Beaten clean by Crosby on the opening goal, and whatever the hell he was thinking on the second Penguins goal, choosing not to play the puck, and then staying deep in the net with a two-on-one coming down. NOTE: This is a negative for Minnesota, but a lovely positive for Pittsburgh.

Stats

Wild Penguins
Goals 1 (Zucker) 3 (Crosby, Fehr, Hornqvist)
Shots on Goal 26 32
5v5 Corsi For Percentage 34.1% 65.9%

Always fun when the Penguins lead all 3 categories.

Analytics

The Penguins stole the Wild's lunch money in the second period and never looked back. That stretch of the third period where Minnesota really needed to start getting back in the game, the Penguins kept them flat-lined. Those are the things I love to see. Instead of predictably letting them back in the game with an onslaught in the 3rd period, they shut things down. Makes me wonder how much of that input is coming from the defensive trap-master and rope-a-dope king, Jacques Martin.

Even Strength Shot Attempts

Like I had noted in the introduction, nice to see the Penguins simultaneously generating shot attempts in volume, while suppressing opponent shots as well.

Power Play Shot Attempts

Power play goal for the Penguins again, Happy holidays and Merry Christmas indeed. ALSO: Amazing how the Penguins can keep a team with 17 power play shot attempts from scoring when there isn't a 36-year old immobile defenseman anchoring the penalty kill unit. Thank you so much, Stan Bowman, for all you do.

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

Fantastic stuff. Maatta and Letang a -1 differential for TWO players on the ice against for a full game. Every other player they faced, they had positive differentials against. Penguins top six forwards put in work.

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

Great stuff again.

Individual Shot Attempts Charts via War on Ice

Line-by-Line Shot Attempts

Felt like Hornqvist needed a bit of a jumpstart, and maybe this a spring board type game for him. What's hilarious here is that the 77% and 80% from Malkin and Hornqvist make the great numbers from Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, and David Perron look weaker when the scale is reflected and centered around 50%.

Olli Maatta and Kris Letang, you guys. Those two together are such a key for this team moving forward. And perhaps the Penguins can make Ian Cole and Trevor Daley a thing, and Cole's game can rebound back to where it was post-deadline and in the playoffs last year. Ian Cole, Top 4 defenseman instead of Ian Cole, healthy scratch can make a gigantic difference for this team too.

Individual Player Corsi Data via Hockey Stats

Back at it tonight, against the Winnipeg Jets.