Let’s talk about some stunning numbers for the 2023-24 Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Lack Of Goal-Scoring
The Pittsburgh Penguins have almost always been known for one thing pretty consistently throughout their franchise existence, even going back to the pre-Mario Lemieux days — offense.
A lot of offense,
That has not been the case this season where the Penguins rank 20th in the NHL in goals per game.
The power play is at the top of the list for reasons with its 14.1 (30th in the NHL) success rate.
It is also the second year in a row the Penguins have ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of their ability to convert chances into actual goals.
No team in the NHL has been worse at it than the Penguins in each of the past two years.
During the 2022-23 season the Penguins averaged 2.92 goals per 60 minutes while posting a 3.48 expected goals mark. That -0.56 difference was the worst in hockey.
Through 47 games this season the Penguins are averaging 3.15 goals per 60 minutes in all situations despite averaging 3.60 expected goals. That -0.45 difference is, again, the worst in hockey.
In smaller sample sizes it would be easy to write this off as bad shooting luck or something that you just have to be patient on. But this is a season-and-a-half of the same thing. At some point you have to just start pointing to the roster and the way they play.
Outside of the top five-or-six players the Penguins roster just doesn’t have finishers. The bottom-six is made up almost primarily of defensive-minded players that are never going to be a scoring threat, while the roster as a whole is badly lacking in players that cause havoc in front of the net. They are desperately lacking a Patric Hornqvist or Chris Kunitz presence. It is a big problem on the power play, and it is a big problem during 5-on-5 play.
Evgeni Malkin And Erik Karlsson Impacted The Most By This
On an individual level the Penguins have three players that have at least -0.80 difference between their on-ice goals scores and on-ice expected goals for: Lars Eller (-0.92), Erik Karlsson (-0.91) and Evgeni Malkin (-0.85).
Jake Guentzel (-0.74) and Sidney Crosby (-0.70) are also both at -0.70 or lower.
Eller’s number relates to the bottom-six issue. He has been a fine addition in terms of defensive play and driving possession, but neither he or his most primary linemates have the ability to score goals.
Karlsson, Malkin, Guentzel and Crosby have their biggest issues on the power play. And that is especially true with Crosby and Guentzel whose on-ice goal numbers almost perfectly match their expected goal numbers (Crosby only has a -0.11 difference while Guentzel only has a -0.15 difference. Still under performing their expected goal numbers a little, but significantly closer).
Karlsson is the one really being impacted at 5-on-5.
For all of the criticism he has received this season, the Penguins are generating big chance numbers when he is on the ice, averaging 3.15 expected goals per 60 minutes (30th in the NHL among players with at least 500 minutes of ice-time). But they are scoring just 2.83 actual goals.
Bottom line the Penguins need more finishers and more people that cause havoc in front of the net.
Tristan Jarry Remains The Biggest Positive Surprise
You could say goaltending as a whole is the biggest positive surprise when you add in what Alex Nedeljkovic has done, but let’s focus on Jarry for now because he is the most important of the two players. Not only given his role as the starter, but also given the Penguins’ investment in him.
He recorded his league-leading sixth shutout of the season on Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets and has already set a new career high. Nearly 44 percent of his wins this season have come by way of shutout, and he has seen his save percentage climb up to the .916 mark in all situations for the entire season.
He has been one of the league’s most productive goalies, and that goaltending has been a big part of why the Penguins are fifth in the NHL in terms of fewest goals allowed per game.
It also creates an interesting discussion with international tournaments being back on the horizon,
Jarry might be Canada’s best option in goal for the Four Nations and Olympic tournaments.
Goaltending is easily the one big question mark Canada will have in those games, and let me show you Canada’s top-six goalies in save percentage this season (minimum 15 games played):
Adin Hill: .938
Tristan Jarry: .916
Connor Ingram: .916
Cam Talbot: .911
Martin Jones: .911
Stuart Skinner: .910
That is not exactly a lot of competition. Hill is probably in the mix given his Stanley Cup ring, but is there anybody else from Canada right now that looks like a lock to make the roster over Jarry?
It is also not like this is the first time Jarry has ever played at this level. He has been to the All-Star Game two different times and received Vezina Trophy votes in two different seasons (and he might again for a third season this season). When he has been healthy he has shown the ability to be a very productive, above league average goalie. He has simply struggled to stay healthy and find consistency, especially in his limited postseason usage. Even with all of that you have to imagine his play has put him at the top of the list for the team Canada discussion.