The Pittsburgh Penguins have hit a rough patch in the last 10 games, to put it mildly. They have just a 2-8-0 record. Their shooting has gone dry. Their defense has failed to prevent chances. Their goalies haven’t been stopping pucks. It’s been a perfect storm of bad factors adding up, with this chart through @penguins_bot.
Taking data from Natural Stat Trick, here’s some breakdown of individual performances in the last ten games:
This is the most promising chart, the Penguins haven’t been that bad at controlling shots and pushing the puck to the right side of the ice more often than not.
Evan Rodrigues has been pretty seamless in joining the Pens. The Sidney Crosby + Jason Zucker pairing has been very, very good.
John Marino returned from injury and has been tremendous. Brian Dumoulin’s jumped back into a top pairing role missing three months and has done an admirable job. Nick Bjugstad has only had a handful of games but hasn’t been so quick to jump back into a mid-season grind.
On the lower end, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang aren’t as strong here as they have been/could been and controlling play.
The continued decision to not even consider playing Juuso Riikola and sitting Jack Johnson remains the most frustrating and confounding one by the Pens’ coaching staff. Riikola has excelled in a third pairing role throughout the season. Alas, he remains seemingly buried deep on the depth chart.
Beyond just shots, let’s dig into the chances:
Here we can see more trends emerging. The Crosby line has probably been the most unlucky line to generate more scoring chances then they give up, yet they haven’t ended up scoring enough and have watched many of the chances that they have given up go into their own net. This is likely luck, bad bounces, poor defense (Jack Johnson was their primary partner for 60% of this sample), so some of this should sort out.
The Evgeni Malkin + Bryan Rust pairing is a bit troubling though, since they’re playing even. That’s probably a line the Pens need to win and generate more chances then they give up. It’s also fair to say Kris Letang is likely a part of the issues too in conceding too much high danger against and needs to perform at a higher level.
If only Rodrigues had the hands to finish more. If so, he would be a lock to play. Sam Lafferty really shouldn’t be playing over him anyways, and this snapshot shows a big reason why that is.
Patric Hornqvist has probably been the best 5v5 player as of late, or at least the one to get the best results. Otherwise the lower line players just aren’t generating any sort of dangerous goals.
Shots and chances are great, but how about what is ending up in the net?
It gets ugly quickly here with only one player who wasn’t mostly hurt (Hornqvist) being on the ice for more 5v5 goals for than against for actual. But on the xGF side of the equation for expected goals, it’s at least a prettier picture with a lot of the team above 50%.
This is perhaps one reason to have a little confidence that whatever factors are going against the Pens the last 10 games should normalize at some point, and what is going downhill now will reverse and trend upwards.
Some standout thoughts:
- Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev on ice for no goals for at 5v5 in the last 10 games. They’re missing Zach Aston-Reese, big time.
- Jared McCann’s offensive slump (no goals himself in 20 games) is also weighing down the bottom six.
- Crosby is having some bad fortune right now with the difference in his expected results (good!) and actual results (bad!)
- Malkin has been too wide-open an on ice for too many goals. Letang having a low xGF is also concerning, he needs to turn things around.
- Jack Johnson has been brutal, but Justin Schultz hasn’t had much better results. His xGF% is a lot better than I figured it would be.
- It would be nice if Rodrigues can convert and carve a niche. He probably won’t without producing points and it’s a shame since he’s putting himself in position to get there.
A big story has been how the Pens’ goalies have faceplanted in the last 10. The team in front hasn’t always been helpful, but the netminders certainly have not been helping bail them out. Here’s how they’re looking at 5v5:
Matt Murray has been moderately better than Tristan Jarry, but they’re still at 31 out of 31 overall in league rankings. Jarry’s big fall-off in Goals Saved Against Average (GSAA) may be the most concerning since he was so above average in it to begin the season.
Overall, it’s been a rough stretch. The team has been frustrated and utilized a closed door, player’s only meeting to clear the air. We’ll see how they bounce back and can move forward.