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Penguins’ Big 3 are dominating points-per-game

Pittsburgh’s superstars are on a superstar pace already this season.

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NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Advanced stats are a beautiful part of the modern day NHL, and when it comes to the star-studded power of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel, it’s always just a matter of time before that three-headed monster starts blowing everybody else out of the water with metrics that just aren’t fair.

Just 10 games in, four Penguins are already either leading the pack or well within the hunt for points-per-game. The performances of Crosby and Malkin are always staggering, but the numbers they’ve produced so far are already turning heads around the league.

Dom Lusczczyszyn of The Athletic brought this notion up in a recent piece of his ($), using a fascinating stat that he piggy-backed from MLB and NBA analysts in 2016. The term is coined “Game Score,” and it basically measures single-game productivity from a box score, individual, and on-ice performance to conclude which player had the best game on a specific night.

There are obvious, human flaws with trying to measure a player’s production in a mere 60-minute clip, and before Dom’s work on this to connect it to the NHL, there really wasn’t a standardized method or consensus for doing so. He alludes to things like points, shot differentials, and the eye test, which are all pertinent to the opinion of the individual watching (i.e., coaches, reporters, fans, etc.). There’s value in different things, and because of that, Game Score remains a rough outline. What he decided to include were stats like goals, primary and secondary assists, shots on goal, blocked shots, penalty differential, and even-strength differential, and then weigh those stats accordingly to how the game is played on an individual level on a nightly basis. The results were telling.

Upon computing the numbers of all NHL forwards over the course of the 2011-2016 seasons, guess who’s name popped up right at the tippy-top of the list?

That’s right. Our ol’ pal Sid.

This stat considered all the high and low periods of Crosby’s per-game performances — including all his scoring droughts, moments of streakiness, and absolute tears where he conjured up 4-5 points a night off a hot hand for five-straight seasons.

Oh, and guess who came in at second? Our boy Geno.

Chart by Dom Luszczyszyn via Hockey Graphs

Don’t forget to wave to Kris Letang underneath at second for all defenseman while you’re at it.

When it comes to this season, Crosby and Malkin are in the top-three in regards to Game Score. Per Corsica, Crosby has put up 14 points in 10 games, has a plus-33 Corsi, tallied 30 total shots on goal, and owns a plus-three penalty differential. The Captain is doing quite well for himself and his teammates.

Chart by Dom Luszczyszyn via The Athletic

Both of these two rising their way to the top comes as no surprise, as they’ve been lighting the lamp or gobbling up primary and secondary assists at a freakish rate — something that’s been documented quite frequently around the media community. This is especially true for Malkin, who leads the league in PPG with 19 through 10 games at just under two points-per-contest and a point rate of 6.31 (!!!) — a full point higher than his runner-up Elias Pettersson. For context, when he also lead in PP/60 last season, he was at a respectable 3.97 in an 82-game slate. With a line that’s double the leading number he garnered last season, it’s hard to comprehend just how hot Malkin is right now.

Oh, also:

Of course we can chalk that up to the always-bloated early season numbers, but this is Geno we’re talking about. Like I said, he did lead the NHL in points-per-60 last year and was a notable candidate for the Hart trophy until, well, Connor McDavid happened.

Kessel being in the top-20 is great too, as he isn’t showing any signs of cooling off from his regular season performance in 2017-18 which set a personal season-high total of assists and points. Overall in total production, though it’s just through 10 games, Kessel is on pace to raise the bar again. Even if he doesn’t get there, it’s been a heck of a start.

And Letang, who is potentially back for tonight’s game in Brooklyn with the Islanders, is on a surge, playing like his old self as well. You don’t often see each of Pittsburgh’s stars clicking together simultaneously. We better cherish it while it lasts.

The Penguins’ best players are off to an unbelievable start, and we as spectators are getting a front row seat to it all. How lucky are we?