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Penguins Advanced Stats: zone entries, exit data presents interesting picture

A new look at a fancy stat that’s tracking individual players in zone entries, zone exits and shot contributions. See how players are stacking up and if this data makes sense compared to the “eye test”

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins

An interesting tool to track more player stats is out, it’s fun to play around with but here are a few that stuck out to us. Keep in mind this program is in its infancy and sample sizes are very low. Still, you can probably see some good trends.

First I took a look at the Penguins defensemen, since these types of metrics (zone entries and especially exits) are interesting but have little substance in the way of actual stats to go along with the traditional eye test of watching a game.

Kris Letang hasn’t been at the top of his game in 2017-18 (to put it nicely) but he still is the top defenseman on the team in zone entries and 2nd in zone exits. It’s perhaps been a little quieter but his normal partner Brian Dumoulin has been very dreadful in zone exits of his own. Put them together and it’s not a pretty picture.

Interesting to note both are killing it in their shot contributions, but remember they often play shifts with Sidney Crosby, who has the vision and propensity to utilize his point-men probably more than anyone else in the game right now. Seriously, the next Pens game watch how many times 87 will have the puck down low, get free and make a pass to the blueline. It’s very frequent and has to be a key driver of this stat here.

Rleated: Dumoulin and Letang only have 3 combined even strength goals this season. (2 are Dumoulin’s). Yeah, that’s how the season has been going.

Olli Maatta has had an impressive season, and this metric backs that up as well, he is the top defenseman in Pittsburgh (in this small sample) in terms of frequency of zone exits and the percentage of maintaining possession. Maatta is the man you want with the puck on his stick in the Pens d-zone.

Justin Schultz, however, is not. I’ve thought he’s had a pretty bad season, all things considered and his aspect agrees. However, once the puck is getting advanced he is the best defenseman on the team at entering the zone and keeping possession, as you would expect with his skillset.

Could this be a reason that Mike Sullivan isn’t in love with Ian Cole? Cole’s entries are almost non-existent, which makes sense being as he’s probably the last guy on the roster to step up and lead a rush. However the zone exists with possession (bottom line) by Matt Hunwick are really ugly and part of the reason many grumble about his play in the debate/battle for playing time that Cole and Hunwick are locked in.

The depth guys. Jamie Oleksiak’s 4 game sample is almost nothing but some of those numbers aren’t very encouraging. It’s surprising his shot contribution is so low being as he has a couple of goals already.

Chad Ruhwedel in this metric is a lot like Chad Ruhwedel; not a standout but fairly serviceable in a pinch.

If you like to yell shoot when Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have the puck, you may not be wrong, their shots/60 are low, but perhaps bound to be low since they log a lot of minutes. This metric suggests Malkin is doing quite a bit of heavy lifting defensively and may be worth watching in the future, do you notice him skating the puck more and earlier? I can remember some where it looks like he is supporting the defense more and carrying the puck all the way up the ice, or finding Phil Kessel with a pass to have him carry it.

Patric Hornqvist is what he is. A beast in and around the net, a goalie’s nightmare. But not a guy who is going to be effective carrying the puck all around the ice. Which, isn’t the end of the world- teams need all sorts of players with different skill sets. Especially when they have awesome support players like Jake Guentzel around who excels in such an area.

Carl Hagelin is good at entering the zone (which makes logical sense, he’s fast and speed backs away a defense) but does little else except shoot the puck and not score.

For comparison of a support player, and out of curiosity, I ran ex-Penguin Chris Kunitz down in Tampa to see how he’s doing. And he’s about the opposite of Hagelin, good at zone exits but poor at entries. Which also makes sense for where he’s at in his career as a sturdy two-way winger but one with little speed. Kunitz’s shots are sad (though with 5 goals so far, he’s on pace to match his total of 9 last season), he is obviously a very long way from being the player who scored 35 goals just four seasons ago.

Bryan Rust might be the star of the show on this metric. He looks great in all regards, speaking to the all-around skill set he has and how on any given game he can pretty much play RW on any line and fit in. Luckily for the Penguins though, Rust goes to arbitration this summer and doesn’t consider fancy stats like this. They consider boxcars and Rust is stuck on 4 goals and will miss (another) good chunk of the season to injury, so Pittsburgh will likely be able to re-sign a very useful player for a very reasonable rate this summer. Ideally, they will try to get him for more than 1 or 2 year term.

Conor Sheary on this list, much like his season so far is just meh. Some good, some bad but not as good as last season.

Admit it, you wanted to see what Ryan Reaves chart looked like. Well, we never disappoint. Carter Rowney’s (not included) actually looked pretty good so feel free to check that out and explore and let us know some other players you feel