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Fun With Fenwick: Johnston vs Bylsma

November 13, 2014, 9:31 AM ET [94 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Since we are on another off day waiting for the Penguins next game I thought I would take a look back at last year’s Bylsma led Penguins and compare them to this year’s Johnston version of the Penguins.

I took a look at some of the possession metrics based on different game states (tied, up 1, up 2+, down 1, down 2+). I wanted to see if there were any differences to take notice of so far between the coaching staffs.

This exercise will have to be revisited towards the end of the year when we have a full Mike Johnston season to pull data from. For now we can see if there are different trends and if they will indeed continue on during the 2014-15 season.

Here is this year’s Johnston led Penguins team:

This year’s Penguins team wanted to focus on possession and they have done just that. They are above league average in mostly all game states. Strangely enough the only game state they seem to struggle with is when it is a tie game. Normally you will see quality possession teams do well in this area. If I was a betting man I would say that this area will improve as the year goes on.

A pet peeve of mine is when teams change the way they are playing while they have a lead. If you recall I have used the “safe is death” moniker in the past. This year the Penguins are way above average when playing with a lead. This is encouraging.

When teams are trailing you can expect them to out-possess the other team (score effects) but the Penguins are once again above league average in this regard. Another good sign that when the chips are down the Penguins pick it up.

The Penguins are currently 3rd overall in the NHL with a Score Adjusted Fenwick of 55.75%. Since Score-Adjusted Fenwick takes data from all game states you can feel more confident with smaller sample sizes. This is very promising and shows that the Penguins have the potential to do some damage this year, even as currently constructed.

Let’s take a look at last year’s team

Things to keep in mind here, Dan Bylsma did not have a bottom six forward grouping that was even close to what this year’s team does (some of it his fault, some of it Shero’s). Last year also saw Letang and Martin injured throughout the season. Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi were both anchors as well.

The biggest difference however is the style that Bylsma played when compared to Johnston. Bylsma wanted the puck moved north at all costs and wanted the puck deep. Sometimes this led to the Penguins ceding possession before they needed to.

You can see this approach reflected in the stats while the Penguins are leading. With Johnston the Penguins value the puck more and keep it longer, this had led to better possession. With Bylsma the Penguins played it “safe” and got more pucks deep. A lot of times this led to voluntary turnovers and an opportunity for the other team to turn the puck up back the other way.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin tried their best to prop up the bottom six last year and were pretty successful. The 2013-14 Penguins Score Adjusted Fenwick was over 50% (50.03) but it was only good for 16th overall in the league.

Why is Score Adjusted Fenwick important? Stanley Cup Champions do a really nice job in this area.

You can see a trend there. Boston looks out of place at 15th overall but when you get a goalie to go on a run like Tim Thomas did that playoffs you can go a lot further than otherwise possible.

I took the Penguins data in 2008-09 from when Therrien was fired and Bylsma took over. If you took the entire season’s data the Penguins ranked only 17th overall at 49.21%. Clearly they were a different team after Bylsma took over and would not have won the Cup had they not improved in that area.

Can Johnston’s Penguins continue to do a great job with possession? We’ll find out, but the early returns are positive and line up with previous Stanley Cup Champions.


Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune put together a very nice article about Mike Johnston and shot volume that can tie into what I wrote about today. You can find that here

Thanks for reading!

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