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Penguins Make Chum Out of Sharks But Still Lose And That's OK

March 10, 2015, 10:42 AM ET [234 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Penguins and Sharks is just the latest example that scoring chances > goal totals in games. Great saves are just as exciting as the actual goals that are scored.

When you strip away legitimate scoring chances from hockey that is when it gets boring. Last night’s game was highly entertaining with lots of skill on display.

The script was flipped on the Penguins from Saturday night. Monday night against the Sharks they were the better team but were unable to find the back of the net as Antti Niemi had one of his better games of the year.

Anything can happen in a single game, but if you play the way the Penguins did last night over a seven game series the outcomes will correct themselves. Trust the process, which has been excellent for Pittsburgh recently. The Penguins are now the #1 Score-Adjusted Fenwick team in the past 20 games at 55.1%.

The Penguins taking five out of six points from the California teams is what I consider very successful. It helps when you only give up three goals in three games.

Since the beginning of February (17 games) the Penguins have only given up 22 even strength goals which is terrific. Only the Devils have given up less (20). Owning even strength play is the easiest path to sustainable winning.

Here is how last night's game looked:

Evgeni Malkin is unreal. He continues to play at an extremely high level. Everything he does out on the ice is at a high level whether it is curling back with the puck to create more time and space on the breakout, making dekes in tight spaces to keep plays alive, or back checking like a demon and stripping the puck away from unsuspecting opponents. The guy is playing inspired pond hockey against NHL players and he makes it look just as fun.

It has been eight games since Chris Kunitz has joined up with Evgeni Malkin in those eight games Geno has a Score-Adjusted Fenwick of 61.0%. Total domination. Kunitz is actually a tick higher at 63.5%. While Kunitz isn’t hitting pay dirt in the goal department he is doing something right as Evgeni Malkin is as strong as he has ever been. The scoring chances are being generated and this will result in tangible rewards for Kunitz. He is part of the solution, not a problem.

Last night I stumbled across some tweets that I found interesting from
Sportsnet’s Steve Burtch. It highlights what reasonable/realistic expectations should be placed on top six forwards. Here is the transcript of his multi-tweet point he was making:

So yeah 0.63 pts/gp in an 82 game season is 51.66 points. If a guy can score 50 points in a full 82 games in the NHL he's a 1st line F. So can we stop the talk of 55 point players being 2nd liners? 0.63 pts/gp is where the 90th ranked forward in the NHL is at offensively right now.

Which if you think about it is a 25 goal 25 assist player... that isn't easy to do in the NHL. 55 points is sort of a minimum for a 1st liner - 66 points is an average 1st liner... 70 points puts him in the top 30

If your response to my statements around what constitutes a top line scorer are "that's not high enough" - then you need to adjust. Cuz guess what - the numbers aren't going to suddenly move for you. There are only about 10 point per game players in the NHL right now. 70 points is elite in today's NHL - that is a very hard number to hit.

4 of the top 5 scorers in the NHL play for 2 teams. (Malkin/Crosby Ovechkin/Backstrom)... Tavares is the other.

I think having realistic expectations of the top six forward group is extremely important when evaluating the team as whole. The Penguins actually have a really good group right now and Kunitz is a part of that. He is currently at .67 points per game which makes him an average first line player. Great value for 3.875M. Also:

Here are the stats for the Kunitz-Malkin-Comeau line courtesy of Puckalytics

Eye test is lying to a lot of people this year as it pertains to Kunitz.

Daniel Winnik has been a quality addition to the Penguins so far:

Derrick Pouliot continues to play great hockey and the coaching staff has noticed.

The next step is to give him big time power play minutes on the #1 power play unit to unleash that raw ability further.

So far the partnership between Ben Lovejoy and Derrick Pouliot has been a solid one. Extremely small sample size but Ben Lovejoy has a dCorsi/60 of 9.98 since returning to Pittsburgh which means he is doing a terrific job in the role that Mike Johnston has given him.

Not to be outdone Ian Cole is at 7.06 which is also really good. Again, these are only four game sample sizes but I’d much rather they be good samples than bad samples.

Who sits when the defense is fully healthy?

The bottom six forward grouping went through some line shuffling last night to mixed results. Early in the game the Winnik-Lapierre-Bennett line saw some sustained offensive zone time but as the game went on neither the third or fourth line could generate much.

Steve Downie is a better player than Craig Adams but one has to wonder if his multiple penalties against the Sharks will cost him his roster spot when the Penguins take on the Oilers next.

Last but certainly not least Sidney Crosby scored his first career goal against the San Jose Sharks. Only the St. Louis Blues have been able to prevent Crosby from scoring a goal.

Crosby has been finding that extra gear in the neutral zone the last few games and we all know what the means for the opposition. Crosby is at his absolute best when he is attacking with speed. If he continues to rev it up he will start to improve upon his goal total.

The Penguins are traveling today and have off.

Thanks for reading!

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