Pens/Flyers, Pens/Red Wings Post-Mortems: Breaking Down Johnston's New Lines by @DXTraeger

On the heels of dual losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins and new head coach Mike Johnston find themselves assessing what has gone right- and what has gone wrong- for the team over the past 72 hours.

As I have done previously, I will break down the production (success and failures) of the various line combinations Mike Johnston has used on the ice during the past two games during 5-on-5 play.  As a reminder, I do not track power-play, penalty kill, 4-on-4 (including overtime) or empty net situations because the context of play is very different (more on that below).

Here is the subjective criteria I use to evaluate play:

Type of plays that a player (and/or his line) earn a plus for:

-successful dump & chase
-successful zone entry with some sustained pressure and/or shot attempt (note: this only applies to entering the zone as a group)
-sustained offensive zone time and/or successful forechecking pressure (shot not necessary)
-winning an offensive zone faceoff with sustained pressure (shot not necessary)
-winning a defensive zone faceoff and a successful defensive zone exit
-executing a successful defensive zone clear with a successful neutral zone transition (for instance, clearing your own zone and dumping the puck for a line change is a positive play)
-executing a set play off of a faceoff win
-scoring a goal or generating a quality scoring chance (plus only goes to players participating in the goal;  for instance, shooting, passing and screening the goalie warrants a plus, simply standing on the near boards does not)
-drawing a penalty

Here are the types of plays that a player (and his line) earned a minus for:

-failed defensive zone breakout (turnover by an Penguins forward in his own end)
-allowing the opposing team to maintain sustained pressure
-failed clearing attempts (again, limited to Penguins forwards)
-offensive players taking an unnecessary penalty (denying a quality scoring chance is sometimes a great play)
-failed dump & chase
-failed zone entry (note: this only applies to entering the zone as a group, and includes offsides calls)
-unnecessary/detrimental icing of the puck
-bad turnover (unnecessary move and/or high risk/low reward passes, subjectively assessed)
-allowing a goal or high quality scoring attempt because an offensive player failed to honor his defensive assignment

-losing a defensive zone faceoff with subsequent opponent offensive zone time/pressure

I willingly use subjective criteria because hockey is a game of context, and attempting to derive statistical relevance from events in a vacuum (without the context of the play in which the event happened) inevitably yields data that fails to represent the actual action on the ice (such as an opponent's harmless 60 foot shot negatively impacting a player's Corsi-For).

Motor City Meldown: Pens Fall to Detroit in OT

It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

The Detroit Red Wings finished fast and furious on Thursday night, scoring thrice - that's THREE times - in the final minutes of their match with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the OT game-winner off of Justin Abdelkader's stick.

Meet the @PensInitiative Team: 10 Questions with @chicksdighockey


Writer, Charity Director, Facebook Manager
Pens Fan Since: 1992
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Favorite Pens Player: Mario and Sid

The purpose of "Meet the +Pens Initiative Team" is to highlight all of the moving gears behind the PensInitiative machine. Some team members you know, and some you may not. This series is to let our reader know who does what, why they do it, and why you should care.

What made you fall in love with hockey and the Penguins?

Haha....what makes you fall in love with anything? I wanted to be a football girl but just like you can't tell your heart who to love, you don't choose your passion. I watched a Penguin game with my older cousin, Jimmy and he took great pains to explain as much as he could. That whet my appetite.  I watched and learned and fell head over heels in love. Now, I can hardly stand to watch football....too slow!

Explain why Mario and Sid are your favorite players.

In all situations, I'm most attracted to men of character. Both of them can be held as examples of benevolence, strong work ethic and grace in the face of adversity. They're both uber skilled forwards who dominate(ed) the sport. Add to that their brilliant hockey minds and poised leadership as captain and you have not only hockey heroes but my ideal man.

What's it like being a female blogging in a male dominated field?

The climate has gotten better but in the beginning it could be brutal. Some men were neanderthals over a woman daring to comment about a sport only a man could understand. I suffered through a lot of accusations of being "just another puck bunny" even though I was discussing real aspects of the game and not how hot the guys were. It was tough!

I started a FB page, 'Chicks Who Dig Hockey' to have a place for myself and other females to talk hockey without fear of judgement. That has evolved into a place where both men and women have intelligent often spirited discussions. Sometimes the women are more brutal than the men.
Now, I feel accepted as part of the hockey community. There are men who ask me questions about hockey and appreciate and respect my answers.

 I feel an obligation to represent women in an intelligent and respectful manor when I blog. While I do admit to having written some pure fluff (see "Hockey Hair"), I try to bring an honest, fresh perspective to what I write. I'm fond of saying, we aren't female hockey fans, we're hockey fans.

What do you do for PensInitiative?

I'm a feature writer and co-manage our Facebook page. One of the ideas I brought to the group was the notion that if we were going to be a presence in the Pittsburgh hockey community that we should involve ourselves in charities that serve the community. I manage our charity endeavors but some of our members are taking a big interest in expanding that presence.

This has been the most rewarding aspect for me. A common misconception is that we are all in the Pittsburgh area. In fact, we're pretty scattered over the country. Geographically, that makes community involvement a challenge.

The first charity we supported was "Hockey Kicks Cancer" and I was so impressed we were able to assemble a kick ball team for one of their events. Since then, we have been involved with Animal Rescue League, PEMF, Defending the Blue Line and JAWPA to name a few. We are currently developing an idea to sponsor a bus trip to a Pens/Blue Jackets game as well as a charity golf scramble. I could not be prouder that we have found a way to give back to the people of Pittsburgh.

What do you like most about Pens Initiative?

I love the team concept. When Paul approached me with the concept he and Damian had of a group of bloggers with varying opinions and points of view all working together to cover the Penguins, I thought it was brilliant. When I found out I would be one of three females in a group of men I was sold. The diversity of the group can be pretty overwhelming at times but in the end, I'm proud of the work we produce.

If you were a Penguin, which current Penguin would you be?

Hmmmm.....Pascal Dupuis. I love his game and admire his work ethic. Have you ever seen him half-ass it? He'll play either wing, any line, PK, PP....he is just the most complete player. Always has a smile on his face.  Also, I've been known to pull a prank or two in my day.

What's in your refrigerator right now?

 Not much....turkey, cheese, pickles, eggs, some milk (but I wouldn't drink it), yogurt and beer. In the freezer, there's always vodka and a pint of ice cream.

You recently wrote a piece about beer and hockey, if I were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

It depends. I enjoy most beers but Yuengling is my go to brew. I'll mix vodka with almost anything
but if it's Grey Goose, I'll have that over ice with some lime. Same goes for whiskey. I'll drink that on the rocks but don't be surprised if I want a cigar with it.

Batman or Superman?

I am such a Batman lover! I have all of 'Batman, the Animated Series' on DVD. I love that he doesn't have any super powers. It's all him and the gadgets. Can't wait for "Dawn of Justice".

How do you feel about fighting in hockey?

I am 100% against the orchestrated stuff but I have no problem with a spontaneous drop of the gloves to defend the team. This is where I feel conflicted....a bit hypocritical. I've read extensively about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and know it to be a very real side effect of repeated blows to the head. Yet, hockey is the only sport that makes allowances for fighting in its rules.

The nature of hockey makes an element of violence inherent. If you eliminate fighting will there be more stick infractions and cheap shots? Fighting is a way of commanding respect. When they find another way of doing that, it will lose it's place.

Morning Drive: 412 Sports Talk featuring @SteelDad

Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: 412 Sports Talk

RECAP: Penguins fall to Flyers on Rivalry Night

After an impressive win against the unbeaten (at the time) New York Islanders that saw the beleaguered Penguins' penalty kill go a perfect 7-7, including killing off a 5-3 power play, the hated Philadelphia Flyers traveled the length of I-76 West for the first of five meetings.  The cross-state rivals, however, were playing their second game in as many nights having been bushwhacked 4-0 by the Chicago Blackhawks the night before.

Crosby in the Penguins' new 3rd jerseys
Sidney Crosby looking good in
Pittsburgh gold.
Donning the new 3rd jerseys for the first time this season, everything was lined up for the Penguins to exorcise some demons against the Flyers.  Philadelphia came into the contest having beaten the Penguins in their previous 4 meetings, and 9 out of the last 11 at Consol Energy Center.  Sporting the league's best power play, playing a team that had gotten shelled the night before, and coming off of three days of rest should have been a recipe for success for Pittsburgh.  Should have been.

A nationally televised game in both the United States and Canada, the night began with Jeff Jimerson singing the Canadian national anthem following the tragic events at the Canada War Memorial and halls of the Parliament in the city of Ottawa.  The game between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs was postponed as the country mourns the loss of a 24 year old Canadian soldier that was murdered in cold blood.  As a tribute, the Canadian national anthem was sang before the Star Spangled Banner, despite no Canadian teams playing.  It was an appropriate tribute to our neighbors to the North during a sorrowful day for Canada.

Video: Pens/Flyers Pregame Tribute To #OttawaStrong Victims

Prior to the start of the Flyers-Penguins game, the Pittsburgh Penguins paid tribute to the victims of today's shootings in Ottawa, ON, Canada. Fans joined in. Here's the video:

Penguins/Islanders Post-Mortem: Evaluating the Line Play by @DXTraeger

Johnston Continues to Keep His Lines Stable through 4 Games
Through the first four games of the Pittsburgh Penguins' campaign, new head coach Mike Johnston has defied expectations and played his four lines both statically and consistently ala the Penguins' former bench boss, Dan Bylsma.

Bylsma's unwillingness to mix up lines and play matchups was often cited by critics as one of the reasons why the Penguins chronically underperformed in the post-season, and was a major contributing reason as to why Lemieux and Burkle canned the Team USA head coach last spring.

By and large, Johnston's contributions to the on-ice trios has focused more on the situational use of certain line combos instead of the jumbling and mishmashings of players and skillsets.

For instance, Johnston has repeatedly called the numbers of Zach Sill, Nick Spaling and Craig Adams (38, 13 and 27 for those of you scoring at home) to handle a number of offensive zone faceoffs after a TV timeout.

Common coaching convention (including basic Coris-For doctrine) dictates that you take advantage of the extended break and put your best offensive players out on the ice to try and generate immediate scoring chances off of the draw in the attacking zone.

This apparent misuse of personnel is tempered by the fact that Sill, Spaling and Adams have played responsible hockey despite their limited minutes, and have consistently graded out under my Production Success metric as positive players.

Claude Giroux's Public Service Announcement

It was an interesting offseason for Philadelphia Flyers Center Claude Giroux. By now, most hockey fans have heard about the incident in Ottawa this summer where Claude Giroux was arrested for repeatedly grabbing the butt of a police officer. The charges were dropped, but what many people don't know is the circumstances that led to him being let go uncharged. With a spate of sexual assaults during Canada Day celebrations, Giroux was quietly approached behind the scenes by Health Canada to appear in a series of public service announcements in an attempt to combat the problem.

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