Now that we’re a little more than 1⁄4 a way through the 2017-18 season, let’s take a look at some of the stats and underlying numbers and see how the Pittsburgh Penguins stack up compared to the rest of the league.
Big stick tap to Corsica.Hockey and Natural Stat Trick. All stats are 5-on-5 and as of games completed on Sunday 11/19.
Corsi For/60: 60.17 (8th)
Corsi Against/60: 58.02 (22nd)
—As usual, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a very high-event hockey team, and on any given game you’re bound to see a well-above average amount of pucks flying at both ends of the ice. The Pens take a ton of shots, but they’re not very good at (or interested in) preventing attempts. On a somewhat bright-side, the Pens are 1st in the league to-date with 335 blocked shots, so they’re at least paying a price and trying to clog shooting lanes for their goalies to prevent some of those shot attempts from turning into shots on goal.
Corsi For %: 50.91% (11th in the league)
—This number has been trending up for the last couple of weeks and is now over the 50% mark for the Pens now having more shot attempts than their opponents. With the blocked shots note from above, accordingly the Pens figure for Fenwick (Corsi, minus blocked shots) is a notch better at 8th in the league and 52.29%.
Goals For (5v5): 30
—This is probably the most concerning stat of this whole post. Last year the Pens were tied for tops in the league with 186 5v5 goals (2.27 goals per game). This year it breaks out to 1.36 5v5 goals/game so far. That’s atrociously poor for a team boasting the skill Pittsburgh has. Some of that may be bad luck and poor shooting- Sidney Crosby had 30 even strength goals in 2016-17. 22 games into 2017-18 and Crosby has scored just 2 ES goals so far. Similarly Evgeni Malkin has gone cold too, Malkin scored 22 ES goals last year (in just 62 games) but this season only has 3 ESG in 22 games to this point.
Obviously you figure key stars won’t stay off the sheet for long, both are generating a ton of shots and scoring chances, but it does go to show that a lack of offense at 5v5 has been a major struggle and perhaps the most surprising storyline for the beginning of the Pens season. A lot has been made about changes to the bottom-6 forwards and their struggles, but the main drivers of the offense are #87 and #71 and both are on very cold even-strength starts to the season and that is the main reason for the scoring struggles.
5v5 Goals Against: 50
--A case could be made that this is the second biggest and most concerning stat in this post. Last year the Pens weren’t exactly defensive dynamos but were middle of the pack at 17th in the league in 5v5 goals against with 151 (1.84 per game). This year is 2.27, 30th in the league behind only last place Arizona.
The main issue has been a low save percentage and the goalies haven’t exactly been put in flattering positions with a high quantity and quality of chances against (more on this below). Also if you could throw out blowout tired October losses of 10-1, 7-1 and 7-1, obviously the goals against numbers start to look a lot better for the Pens. Then again, one can’t exactly just dismiss those “efforts” completely though, but it’s worth remembering that the total goals against are definitely being skewed by 3 really bad games.
High Danger Chances For: 188 (6th)
High Danger Chance Goals: 14 (t-28th)
—This stat would almost be comical if it weren’t so unfortunate. The Pens are doing well to generate a high quantity of scoring chances, but completely terrible at scoring them so far. Hopefully luck turns soon if the process of working to create so many chances continues.
High Danger Chances Against: 189 (27th)
High Danger Chance Goals Against: 23 (22nd)
—Much has been made of Matt Murray’s drop in save percentage. A lot can be traced to this stat- the Pens are giving up far too much in the way of dangerous chances. Murray’s even doing better than most goalies to keep them out of the net, but he’s not going to stop ‘em all. Want Murray to have a better ES save %? It starts with the team defense preventing some of these chances in the first place.
Shooting %: 5.19 (31st)
Save %: 90.19% (30th)
PDO: 953 (31st)
--In some ways this is a function of the high-danger chances above; the Pens aren’t scoring much on them, and unsurprisingly have the worst shooting percentage in the league so far. Makes sense, if you don’t score the good chances, goalies and defenses make it almost impossible to score otherwise.
Defensively, as seen above they give up far too many chances against and the opponents aren’t missing (plus add in some Antti Niemi stink) and the picture is terrible there too.
In all, the Penguins are pretty lucky to have even an 11-8-3 record to start the season. They’ve been giving up a ton of shots, quality chances and goals at 5v5. They’re getting even more shots and scoring chances of their own but converting at a much lower rate.
Fortunately, the Pens can lean on a tied-3rd best power play in the league that’s clicking at a 22.9% rate to start this season. Then again, throw in one of the worst PK’s in the league and the 2nd most times short-handed and the special teams is basically treading water too.
Which after 22 games, the team is treading water. 11 wins. 11 losses (3 in OT/SO). Above all else, there’s good reason to hope the team shoots better and scores more and that lifts them to more victories in the second quarter of the season.
The process of how they’re playing actually looks decent overall, especially for a 2-time champ in the early months of a grinding season and challenging schedule. Sure, they’re not exactly playing playoff caliber hockey, but (knock on wood) the key players have stayed healthy and now hopefully will start scoring a tick more.