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The Penguins results are still great, but there are some recent concerns

Their underlying numbers are trending in the wrong direction

Pittsburgh Penguins v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

There has been a real 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff vibe to the Pittsburgh Penguins over the past couple of weeks.

The results are great. Even with some significant injuries they keep winning games and finding ways to win games. That is important, especially in a Metropolitan Division where everybody else keeps winning, too.

The process behind the results, however, has not always been ideal.

For about six or seven games now the Penguins have been badly losing in the the shot attempt and scoring chance areas, indicating that they are not consistently carrying the play in games. They have had to rely on great goaltending, they have had to have third period comebacks, they have had to hang on just to win.

Big picture for the season, they are still on the positive side of all of these areas (shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, expected goals, actual goal differential), and even near the top of the league. So it is not like the overall numbers are glaringly bad. It is just that they have really started to trend in the opposite direction over the past couple of weeks.

Let us take a look!

Here we see a cumulative look at the Penguins’ share in shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and goal differential.

You can see where things spiked after a slow start, and they remained there pretty consistently for about two months.

But since the start of January things have started to trend in the other direction a little.

Here is a closer look, just focussing on that stretch since January 1 and the start of the new calendar year.

Just a steady downward trend going on there. Not a huge one. Not an overly concerning one. But definitely going in a certain direction here.

The initial reaction to this sort of thing is probably a little bit of concern, because if you are giving up more chances and shots, it is inevitable that you are going to start giving up more goals, too. Start giving up more goals, you start winning fewer games.

On one hand, it is not uncommon for a team to hit cold streaks over the course of a season. Over 82 games you are not going to consistently carry the play every night. It is possible this is simply one of those stretches where they have struggled a bit.

But it is also really not that hard to see what has happened here — it is more injuries. Specifically, two significant injuries to two very important forwards, leaving the Penguins with a shorthanded lineup that is basically down to just three lines at the moment.

The Penguins have dealt with injuries all season and managed to keep carrying play, but eventually that has to start taking its toll.

Starting on January 1 they were without Jake Guentzel, their best overall winger.

A few games later, Dominik Kahun went down and he has not played since.

Add in the fact the fourth line has become borderline unplayable and they are essentially rolling three lines every game. It is an extremely heavy workload for the top of the lineup without two of their four or five best wingers.

Then you get to the defense where, with John Marino now sidelined, they are without two of their best defensive players (Marino and Brian Dumoulin).

Again, the Penguins’ overall performance is fine for the season, especially given the injuries. But they really need to start getting some players back in the lineup to balance out the lineup again and maybe get a few more reinforcements at the trade deadline to help round everything out.