Should Penguins Fans Be Worried?

Before I start: yes, I’m aware that the Penguins have just won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and yes I’m aware Penguin fans shouldn’t be allowed to complain about anything for the next 10 years.

That being said, there are many Pens fans, myself included, that have been worried with the Penguins performance throughout this season, thus I have decided to look into what has been causing this horrific season.

Loss of talent 

It is not a huge surprise that the Penguins are’t playing like the back-to-back champions they are (and yes, I am going to say that as much as I can) considering the players that moved on following their last cup win back in July.

Not to mention some extra depth players, the Penguins lost Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and long time starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

 

 

Charts from Ziggy. Read more here

 

 

These are major losses, especially when your only ready prospects that could fill in right away are Daniel Sprong and Tristian Jarry, who are solid prospects, but by no means project to be franchise shifting pieces.

Of course management did go out and try to patch this wholes in the lineup, but with the limited cap space they had, they couldn’t find replacements of the same caliber as the ones they lost. That is unless you believe Ryan Reaves, Greg McKegg, Riley Sheahan and Matt Hunwick are equal to the aforementioned players,

This massive loss in talent, especially when you consider the number of players that moved on, would have a huge effect on any lineup. This is why coming into the season it would have been unrealistic to expect the team to play like the powerhouse they were (I’m using the word powerhouse very loosely, because ultimately the Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup run was extremely lucky given how they played).

On top of all this player movement, Pittsburgh also lost assistant coach Rick Tocchet to Arizona, where he has taken over as head coach. For most teams changing coaches, even assistants, isn’t great, but this is a team that has won a cup 2 out of the last 3 times they’ve made a head coaching change, so while Tocchets departure isn’t a good thing, it’s not something that should be raised as a serious reason for the Penguins difficult season.

Finally, we have Jason Botterill leaving town to become general manager for the Buffalo Sabres. Many people would be quick to throw this to the side like Tocchet leaving, however I’m not completely ready to do that.

It was toward the end of the 2017 playoffs when it was announced that Botterill would be joining the Sabres organization. Since then, Penguins general manger Jim Rutherford has been less than stellar.

Starting with the trade that seen Ryan Reaves, a guy known for his fighting in a league where fighting is rapidly decreasing, move to Pittsburgh. The full deal was a 2017 31st overall pick (which turned into prospect Klim Kostin, who just finished up a solid World junior championships with team Russia) and young center Oskar Sundqvist for Ryan Reaves and a 2017 51st overall pick (defenseman Zachary Lauzon.)

No matter your opinion on Ryan Reaves, it’s difficult to defend that trade.

Rutherford followed this up by signing 32 year old depth defenseman Matt Hunwick to a 3 year contract with a cap hit of 2.25 million. Hunwick has arguably been the Penguins’ worst defenseman in his first year of his deal.

Rutherford then signed Greg McKegg to be a bottom 6 center on the team. McKegg didn’t do so well, and has since been sent to the minors.

While is seems ill advised to think an assistant GM could have such an impact on a team, given Rutherford’s performance since Boterill left, maybe it’s possible he had a huge say on transactions in Pittsburgh and now with him gone we are seeing the true Jim Rutherford.

Goaltending

Disappointing.

That’s the easiest way to describe Matt Murray’s performance this season. It hasn’t been abysmal, but this was supposed to be the year Matt Murray proved himself as a top goaltender in the NHL, and all he’s done is created doubt about his abilities.

After having two great seasons where he lead the Penguins to a Stanley cup championships, technically as a rookie both times, this was supposed to be Murrays year to shine. Instead hes gotten worse, with his 93.43 5v5 sv% dropping to a 90.36%. To make it even worse, his xSVP% is surprisingly risen, from a 91.8% to 92.05%.

With Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas now, Murray has the starting job, but he still has to be careful. The Penguins have yet another up-and-coming goalie. This time it’s 2nd round draft pick Tristian Jarry.

In the last two years Jarry has been killing the competition in the AHL, so the Penguins have rewarded him by giving him the backup role. In 15 games Jarry has a 5v5 svp% of 91.89%.

While Jarry has been pleasing thus far, it seems unlikely that he is ready to take over the starting job. To Murrays credit, he has been playing better lately, but overall he still needs to step up for the Penguins to be at their best.

Struggling stars

The Penguins defense is having a terrible season. You know what’ll fix it? Trading Kris Letang, their best defenseman.

This rumor is hilarious to me. Assuming the Letang trade, which was first rumored by Nick Kypreos live on hockey night in Canada, actually happens the Penguins best defenseman would be either Bryan Dumoulin or Olli Maatta, and while I like these guys as second pairing defensemen, I’d much rather they stay on the second pairing (this being said one of them normally has to play on the top pairing because of the Penguins lack of defensive depth).

While I disagree with the rumor entirely, I understand the premise. Letang isn’t having a great season, which can be shown with his 5v5 GF% of just 31.67%, but I can’t image the Penguins going deep into the playoffs without at least one solid defenseman (and yes, I know they did it last year, but good luck getting out-shot and out-chanced every night and winning the cup again).

While all the above reasons for the Penguins losing definitely have not helped, I believe none have had a greater impact than the struggles of the “two headed monster”. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the foundation this Penguins team is built on, and are the biggest reasons for the years of the success Pittsburgh has had. So when both of them have a struggling start to their season, is it a surprise the team is struggling too?

Both Malkin and Crosby have had their points production slashed heavily this year, Malkin going from a 2.55 P1/60 last season to a 1.35 this year, and Crosby has struggled even more, going from a 2.31 to a 0.82.

While this is definitely alarming, this isn’t the first time. Just two seasons ago the media was asking if Crosby was washed up, saying his best years were behind him, a coaching change, and lots of wins later and he hoists the Stanley Cup over his head for the second time in his career.

Crosby is aging, but when you’re one of the best in the World, you don’t often fall off a cliff like this. With all the rumors surrounding Pittsburgh and trades, it’s very likely a wake-up call is coming soon, and Crosby has shown in the past that he responds to wake up calls.

If there has been one pleasant surprise on the team this year it has to be the play of Phil Kessel. Kessel is a guy who normally shows up when it matters most, specifically the playoffs, but this season it looks like playoff Kessel has come out to play early.

In the regular season last year Kessel had a 5v5 P1/60 of 1.01. Solid, but this year on a team struggling to score, Kessel is at 1.47. Hopefully Phil is able to stay this good all year, because if Pittsburgh can have this Phil Kessel on a team with Malkin and Crosby playing at their best, they’ll be in good shape.

Overall struggle

If you have ever seen the Penguins defensive pairings on paper then it comes as no surprise to you that Pittsburgh is dead last in 5v5 GA/60, averaging to give up 2.92 goals against in 60 minutes of 5 on 5 play.

So that would mean defense is the issue? Well, not entirely, Pittsburgh is also second last in 5v5 GF/60, with 1.84.

Although being on the bad end of a few blowouts at the start of the season definitely skews those numbers, it still is alarming.

Im much more worried about the GA/60, because as stated above, Pittsburghs two biggest offensive threats are struggling, if they start rolling again, there is no doubt the GF/60 will go up.

But Pittsburgh doesn’t have that same luxury on defense. I know Letang is struggling, but he is not going to single handily turn the Penguins defense around, that’s where a new face could come in handy.

If I was Jim Rutherford I’d be looking into the defenders market for a shakeup move, which is scary because if all the reports are true, that’s the opposite of what he’s doing.

Should fans be worried?

Well, no.

if you are worried about this team here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9QmzB6bSD0&t=233s

 

The NHL standings using a three point system

The NHL point system is broken.

The NHL has focused on fixing things that don’t need to be fixed (the divisions) and breaking things that definitely didn’t need to be fixed (Olympic participation). At the same time they have completely ignored what could be the biggest problem with the league: the point system.

Currently, a team who gets a win, whether it’s in regulation, overtime, or the shootout, gets two points. When a team loses in overtime or the shootout they are awarded one point, and if a team loses in regulation they do not get a point.

At first this sounds like a good points system, but if you look into it you quickly find the flaws.

First of all, simple math. A game that ends in regulation awards two points. But when the game is tied after regulation three points are awarded. So, if a game goes past regulation it is now mathematically 50% more important to the NHL. Should a skills competition be worth that much?

So, knowing now that overtime and shootout games are 50% more important, and knowing that hockey is a team game, why is it that a game becomes more important when we get to a time where only a handful of players matter?

So if we can’t use the current point system, what can we use? Well, why not use the IIHF’s point system? It’s used in many different leagues, and is better suited for a league who would rather avoid ties.

Under the IIHF system, a regulation win nets a team three points, an overtime or shootout win gets two points, and an overtime or shootout loss gets one point. A regulation loss is still worth zero points. This way no game is any more valuable than another game, and a team is rewarded for winning the game in the first sixty minutes.

So, the first question that comes to mind when you talk about this system is, what would the NHL look like if they had this system? Well, the standings would’t change much. No team outside the playoffs would sneak in. There would be a little small change in playoff seeding, as well a few changes for the teams outside of the playoffs.

The playoff match ups in the Eastern conference would be the same except Boston would have home ice advantage over Ottawa.

In the Western conference there is a bit more shuffling around with the wild card teams and the central division. The playoff match ups would look like this:

1st in central Minnesota versus 2nd wild card Calgary

2nd in central Chicago versus 3rd in central St.Louis

1st in pacific Anaheim versus 1st wild card Nashville

2nd in pacific Edmonton versus 3rd in pacific San Jose

Take a look at what the standings would look like for yourself:

(info from: https://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/stats/team-win-loss-record-by-type-regulation-overtime-and-shootout/2016/)

Metropolitan Division
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (Current) Position change
Washington 45 10 8 19 163 118 NC
Pittsburgh 40 10 11 21 151 111 NC
Columbus 39 11 8 24 147 108 NC
Atlantic
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Montreal 33 14 9 26 136 103 NC
Boston 38 6 7 31 133 95 1
Ottawa 34 10 10 28 132 98 -1
Eastern Conference Wild Card
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
New York R 40 8 6 28 142 102 NC
Toronto 33 7 15 27 128 95 NC
New York I 33 8 12 29 127 94 NC
Tampa Bay 32 10 10 30 126 94 NC
Carolina 28 8 15 31 115 87 1
Philadelphia 25 14 10 33 113 88 -1
Florida 23 12 11 36 104 81 NC
Buffalo 25 8 12 37 103 78 1
Detroit 17 16 13 36 96 79 -1
New Jersey 18 10 14 40 88 70 NC
Pacific
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Anaheim 40 6 13 23 145 105 NC
Edmonton 37 10 9 26 140 103 NC
San Jose 38 8 7 29 134 99 NC
Central
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Minnesota 42 7 8 25 148 106 1
Chicago 37 13 9 23 146 109 -1
St. Louis 38 8 7 29 137 99 NC
Western Conference Wild Card
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Nashville 35 6 12 29 129 94 NC
Calgary 32 13 4 33 126 94 NC
Winnipeg 33 7 7 35 120 87 NC
Los Angeles 25 14 8 35 111 86 NC
Dallas 28 6 11 37 107 79 NC
Arizona 20 10 10 42 90 70 NC
Vancouver 19 11 9 43 88 69 NC
Colorado 14 8 4 56 62 48
W: Regulation wins
OTW: Overtime/shootout wins
OTL: Overtime/shootout loses
PTS: Points using 3 point system
PTS (current): Points using NHL’s current point system
Position change: Changes in a team position within their respective division

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Guide To Making Your Bracket

The NHL playoffs are just around the corner. People around the hockey world have already jumped to making their own brackets, trying to predict who will win Lord Stanley this year. So, before the games start this Wednesday, April 12th, and before you go and enter your buddies playoff bracket challenge, you need to take a look at this guide to making your bracket.

Many people wonder what to look for when choosing their bracket, and there are so many stats that it’s hard to narrow it down. My personal favorite is a team’s points percentage since the trade deadline. It shows how hot a team has been before the playoffs start, which I believe is a very important predictor of a team’s success in the playoffs. Anecdotally, last year’s Pittsburgh Penguins, who weren’t in a playoff spot at one point in the 2015-16 season, got hot at the right time and went on to win the Cup.

My first round picks:

Washington v Toronto

Winner: Washington

This Capitals team won the presidents trophy for a reason. They are arguably the league’s best team. A young Maple Leafs team even winning a game should be something to be proud of. The Capitals score more and give up fewer goals. The Capitals also had an incredible +81 goal differential in the regular season.

 

Pittsburgh v Columbus:

Winner: Pittsburgh

An underrated story line in the second half of the regular season is that the Blue Jackets didn’t play great. They had just a 56.8 point percentage, which isn’t terrible, but heading into the post season you would want to play a little better. A big knock on the Penguins going into the playoffs is they are banged up pretty bad, but they have been dealing with a number of injuries for a while and that didn’t stop them from winning games.

 

Montreal v New York Rangers:

Winner: Montreal

Assuming both teams go into this series playing their best hockey, this will be a close one that could easily go either way. However, the Rangers haven’t been playing their best hockey lately. They have just a 50 point percentage since the trade deadline. Montreal, on the other hand, hold a 71.1 point percentage since the trade deadline. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins started to challenge Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic division and Montreal responded by playing their best hockey all year after picking up Claude Julien.

 

Ottawa v Boston:

Winner: Boston

This one sounds tight, but looking at the stats it appears otherwise. The Bruins have the edge on Ottawa on almost any stat you look at, from GF%, to SF% and the shot differentials are completely in Boston’s favor. The Bruins are not a great team by any means, but they have the edge on Ottawa in every category necessary.

 

Chicago v Nashville

Winner: Chicago

These teams are very close when looking at stats. Chicago has the slight edge in goal scoring while Nashville has an even slighter edge in shooting and shot differential. They have both been playing pretty successfully, with Chicago playing a little better. The thing that makes me pick Chicago is their playoff experience. While all these fancy stats are nice, I think something can be said about a team who has had success in the playoffs before.

 

Minnesota v St. Louis

Winner: Minnesota

I’ve said a lot about a teams points percentage since the trade deadline in this article, and given that you would think I picked the Blues to win this series. They have a strong 76.2% since the deadline. However, while Minnesota did struggle for a long period of time, I believe they’ve gotten over it in the last couple weeks of the season after winning four straight to end the year. And given that, I think the Minnesota Wild are a better team than the Blues all around. Minnesota has a much better GF%.

 

Anaheim v Calgary:

Winner: Anaheim

The Ducks have had a 81.6% points percentage since the trade deadline, and they finished the season with a four game winning streak. The Ducks have a 53.1% GF%. Both better than the Flames. Calgary should be proud to be back in the playoffs after missing out last season, but much like the Maple Leafs I don’t think they have much of a chance against the Ducks in the first round. I believe Anaheim is a real cup contender this year and no one seems to notice them.

 

Edmonton v San Jose:

Winner: Edmonton

If the season only started at the trade deadline the Sharks wouldn’t be in the playoffs. They have a 47.6 points percentage since the trade deadline. If they didn’t start the season strong they would have been in big trouble this year. Overall the numbers between these teams are close, but I don’t think San Jose can turn their game around in time to make a serious run in the playoffs.

GF60, GA60, GF%, SF60, SA60, SF%, FF%, CF% all in 5v5 only

stats from: http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/teamstats.php?db=201617&sit=5v5&disp=1&sortdir=DESC&sort=GFPCT

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Team GF60 GA60 GF% SF60 SA60 SF% FF% CF% DIFF PP% PK% Special teams points % since trade deadline streak Points
EAST
Washington 2.73 1.72 61.40% 29.8 27.4 52.10% 51.40% 51.80% 81 23.1 83.8 106.9 69% 1L 118
VS
Toronto 2.54 2.43 51.10% 30.6 31.6 49.20% 49.70% 50.40% 9 24.2 82.3 106.5 61.90% 1L 95
Pittsburgh 2.81 2.28 55.20% 32.8 31 51.40% 51.20% 50.10% 48 23.1 79.8 102.9 61.40% 2L 111
VS
Columbus 2.51 1.98 55.90% 30.9 29.4 51.20% 50.40% 50.30% 54 19.9 82.5 102.4 56.80% 1W 108
Montreal 2.29 1.92 54.30% 30.4 28.5 51.60% 52.40% 52.50% 26 19.6 81.1 100.7 71.10% 1W 103
VS
New York R 2.51 2.3 52.20% 28.3 29.9 48.70% 48.80% 47.90% 36 20.2 79.8 100 50% 1W 102
Ottawa 2.07 2.16 48.90% 29.4 29.3 50.10% 48.80% 48.50% -2 17 79.7 96.7 61.90% 1L 98
VS
Boston 2.2 2.28 49.10% 32.3 26.2 55.20% 55.30% 54.70% 22 21.7 85.7 107.4 62.50% 1L 95
WEST
Chicago 2.43 2.01 54.70% 29.7 30.1 49.70% 50% 50.40% 31 18 77.7 95.7 65% 1OTL 109
VS
Nashville 2.42 2.15 53% 30.9 29.2 51.40% 51% 51.40% 16 18.9 80.9 99.8 57.50% 1L 94
Minnesota 2.73 2.19 55.50% 29.9 29.4 50.50% 49.90% 49.40% 58 21 82.9 103.9 45.50% 4W 106
VS
St.Louis 2.43 2.08 52.90% 27.9 27.4 50.50% 50.50% 50.20% 17 21.3 84.8 106.1 76.20% 3W 99
Ahnaheim 2.25 1.98 53.10% 28.9 28.3 50.60% 50.10% 49.70% 23 18.7 84.7 103.4 81.60% 4W 105
VS
Calgary 2.16 2.22 49.30% 28.5 27.8 50.60% 50.10% 50.60% 5 20.2 81.6 101.8 63.20% 1L 94
Edmonton 2.48 2.09 54.30% 29.9 28.7 51% 50.90% 49.90% 35 22.9 80.7 103.6 76.30% 3W 103
VS
San Jose 2.28 2.03 53% 28.9 26.8 51.80% 52% 51.10% 20 16.7 80.7 97.4 47.60% 1W 99

Continue reading “Guide To Making Your Bracket”