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How do the Penguins fare analytically with their currently constructed lineup?

Analyzing the Penguins structure from forward lines and defensive pairing perspectives

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

When analyzing a team using new WAR (Wins above replacement) metrics that are being utilized by people all across the statistics community in hockey, you often wonder what a team could be doing differently to maximize their opportunities for goal scoring, defense, shooting — all things that lead to....winning.

Using Sean Tierney’s WAR Lineup Creator, you can create a roster either using a current NHL team, or a custom team (something that will be a lot of fun to use when Seattle expansion comes) to see how the team should be producing given their data metrics. Sean has tweeted out a bunch of other teams, but thanks to our partnership with him he saved the Penguins to show to us, so we can show to you.

In the case of the Penguins, a breakdown from forward lines, defensive pairings, and goaltending:


Guentzel — Crosby — Rust: 9.15 WAR (elite)

Simon — Malkin — Hornqvist: 6.8 WAR (elite)

Pearson — Brassard — Kessel: -5.04 WAR (the worst in the NHL)

Aston-Reese — Cullen — Sheahan : -0.4 WAR (basically replacement level)

From a forward perspective, I think the data here matches the eye test. We know the Penguins have two top lines when Crosby and Malkin are doing what they do. The Derick Brassard Saga sums up well that from a data analysis level, the Penguins 3rd line isn’t doing what gave the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup success.


Dumoulin — Letang - 5.38 WAR (elite)

Maatta — Riikola — 0.74 WAR (replacement)

Johnson — Petterson - -0.58 WAR (just a little below replacement)

You mean to tell me that Jack Johnson is just below replacement level? No way! The one thing I would take with consideration here, is simply the levels of rotation that we see on the Penguins D corps aside from the top elite pairing. We see a lot of shuffling in and out of the lineup and around pairings. I’d be curious to see how this looks when a healthy Justin Schultz is back in the fold.


Matt Murray - 1.3 WAR (average)

Casey DeSmith - 1.9 WAR (very good)

This sums things up well, too. DeSmith was the better goaltender this season up until the recent win streak where Matt Murray seems to have found his form again. Getting new and recent data added to this would say that the Penguins have two good goaltenders.