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Penguins offense could be on the verge of a breakout

They really do just need to stick with this process.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It is easy to be a little frustrated with the Pittsburgh Penguins offense right now.

We know all about the power play struggles this season, but even with the recent winning streak and strong play the offense has not always been consistent despite a surge of shots and prime chances.

They have been “goalie’d” or nearly “goalie’d” quite a bit over the past few weeks, and the season as a whole. It nearly happened in Toronto and New York, it happened against Buffalo before the winning streak began, and that is pretty much what happened on Saturday night against Montreal.

A lot of shots. A lot of chances. Great chances. While not getting much to show for it. When this happens to a team over an extended period of time there is always some sort of criticism for the team’s offense. Why are they not getting more traffic in front of the net? Why are they gripping their sticks too tight? Why can they not just bear down and finish? But sometimes you can do everything right and the puck just does not go in the net, whether it be due to some bad luck or opposing goaltending being great.

Goaltending in the NHL is better today than it has ever been, and it is not uncommon for even second-and third-tier goalies to stand on their heads and steal games against even the very best teams.

But I am a big fan of process and believe that eventually the results will arrive to reward a strong process.

Right now, the Penguins have the process in place and every objective piece of information we have points to that.

When you look at the Penguins numbers for the season they are one of the league’s best teams at generating chances and shots.

Their current ranks are as follows:

  • Total shot attempts per 60 minutes: 60.0 (fifth best in NHL)
  • Total shots on goal per 60 minutes: 35.3 (second best in NHL)
  • Scoring chances per 60 minutes: 31.6 (fourth best in NHL)
  • High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 minutes: 12.6 (fourth best in NHL)
  • Expected Goals per 60 minutes: 3.01 (fifth best in NHL)

Across the board they are a top-five team.

The result for all of that? 2.85 goals per 60 minutes, which is 17th in the NHL.

Pretty significant difference.

The same thing holds true over the past 10 games, where the Penguins have the following numbers in the same situations.

  • Total shot attempts per 60 minutes: 60. 1 (fifth best in NHL)
  • Total shots on goal per 60 minutes: 35.7 (second best in NHL)
  • Scoring chances per 60 minutes: 32.1 (fifth best in NHL)
  • High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 minutes: 12.5 (eighth best in NHL)
  • Expected Goals per 60 minutes: 3.02 (seventh best in NHL)

Very similar to their full season numbers. But their goals for per 60 minutes drops down to 2.58, which is 22nd in the NHL during that stretch.

It is important to keep in mind that over the past few years the Penguins have consistently outperformed their expected goals numbers over the course of full seasons and been one of the highest scoring teams in the league. The process eventually leads to results. This team did not just suddenly forget how to finish and put the puck in the net and score goals.

There really is not a single player on the team right now that is outperforming their typical career shooting percentage levels. Not even Evan Rodrigues with his hot start is riding a wave of percentages. But there are quite a few top-line players that are shooting well below their normal marks.

I just can not get by the fact Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Kris Letang, and Jeff Carter are scoring on just 6.1 percent of their shots so far this season.

That is about half of what they normally do over their careers, where that quarter scores on nearly 11 percent of their shots. That group scores on their career average percentages that is an additional 8-10 goals this season on the same number of shots. An extra 8-10 goals makes the Penguins won of the highest scoring teams in the league and probably adds another win or two to the record.

That is to say nothing of the impact Evgeni Malkin’s absence has had on the offense, or even the fact that Jason Zucker is also shooting at about half of his current rate (6.6 this season compared to 12 percent for his career). Even if you are not convinced that Zucker is the player the Penguins hoped he would be when they acquired him, he is not a 6.6 percent shooter. Even a year ago he scored on more than 12 percent of his shots.

It gets tiring to keep hearing it, but the Penguins are doing the right things offensively. If they are able to maintain that the results will eventually follow. There is enough of a track record here (and still more help on the way in the form of Evgeni Malkin) to support that.

Trust the process. Stick with the process. The results will be there.

[Data In This Post Via Natural Stat Trick]