Here’s some food for thought on a Sunday:
JFresh would continue:
They were very impressive defensively overall, top 10 at preventing expected goals but let down by their awful goaltending. Even still they were above-average in terms of goals against, and 11th in the league on the penalty kill. #LetsGoPens— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 23, 2020
And further said in a series of tweets:
Their skaters were better this season than in any since the back-to-back, but the team was worse than last year thanks to the whole “goaltending” thing. Still, this trend is pretty encouraging considering that theoretically they should be on the downswing....The Pens’ overall play-driving numbers are strong but maybe misleading. Up until Feb 1st, the team was 3rd in terms of xGF%. In the month of February, they were 28th. So while they overall score out as around the 10-12 range, they were never really that kind of team...The forwards ranked 4th offensively and 9th defensively. Their biggest offensive contributors were Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, and Jared McCann, with the brilliant line of Aston-Reese, Tanev, and Blueger leading defensively. The group’s weak link was Dominik Simon....The blueliners were average offensively but 6th defensively. Letang drove the bus on offence, followed by Pettersson and Marino, while Marino was by far the best defensively followed by frequent healthy scratch Riikola. Jack Johnson was by far the worst at both ends...When the team was crushed by injuries, Mike Sullivan was a huge reason they thrived. Isolates rate his system as 2nd best offensively and 7th best defensively, a big driver of the team’s success. I guess that makes up for playing Johnson with Letang in February....Finally, this team obviously spends a lot of money on their skaters, but they got the 5th most surplus value out of them of anyone in the league. Rust, Guentzel, Marino, Letang, etc. are worth a lot more than they make.
I found it very interesting the Pens had an xSalary cap hit north of $110 million, which is obviously way north of the upper limit of the cap. That really speaks to how much value players like Bryan Rust, John Marino, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel and even probably Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are providing compared to their cap hits.
These marks are impressive too considering that Pittsburgh was the most injured team in the NHL this year too. A big weakness and negative has been the goaltending. At 5v5 it just hasn’t been good enough and Tristan Jarry has even helped prop things up a bit, but it’s still overall a net negative for the team.
It’s also pretty interesting that the Pens’ defenders grade out pretty well, especially at defending. Marcus Pettersson gets dinged a little on style points and the eye test, but has graded out well. Brian Dumouin is stout. John Marino is just a superstar, and Kris Letang has been one of the league’s best defenders for a decade — and plays almost half the game to shoulder a lot of the burden. If only the team would scratch Jack Johnson and play the vastly superior (by the numbers in a sheltered role, anyways) Juuso Riikola and the sky could be the limit.