Debunking The Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang Narrative by @ToonsBrian and @MadChad412 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Debunking The Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang Narrative by @ToonsBrian and @MadChad412

The Pittsburgh Penguins own the best record in the eastern conference, over 20 games over .500, and have six of their last nine games. How horrible..... But in today's world of 24/7 social media interaction, we get to see some really irrational opinions about the team whenever they don't play up to their lofty expectations.

Our good friend Josh Yohe, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tweeted out a crazy stat last night that helped certain people push a narrative against two players, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin.

Josh wasn't blaming Malkin and Letang per se, just pointing out that the Pens have been less disciplined overall since they both rejoined the lineup. Of course, some people have taken this stat and have used it to further push their own agendas. 

During the nine game span, the Pens have allowed an average of over three goals per game. That is a lot higher than their season average of 2.5 goals allowed per-game. 

We broke it down player by player, looking at who has been on the ice for goals for and goals against during this nine-game span. The results may disrupt your narrative. Proceed with caution. 

As you can see, Letang and Malkin have hardly been at fault compared to some of their teammates. In fact, Brooks Oprik and Rob Scuderi have been dreadful. Especially when you consider who has been on the ice when there have been goals scored against the Pens.

On Ice For A Goal For 

Reminder: These stats include power-plays and penalty-kills.

The good:

Malkin : Since returning to the lineup, Malkin has been on the ice for 20 goals for and only 7 goals against. But sure, let's blame him every night. Malkin has 10 points in his last 9 games. The opinion of Malkin, by many, is that he's lazy and often plays a lethargic game. The evidence from his game as of late, and for the majority of his career, couldn't be further from that.

Matt Niskanen : Probably the highest rated player overall. Niskanen also has 10 points in his last 9 games and has been on the ice for 16 goals for and only 7 goals against. Niskanen has been incredible and is having the best season of his career.

Olli Maatta : Maatta has been nearly as good as Niskanen, who he is usually paired with. Maatta has been on the ice for 14 goals for and only 6 goals against. Truly a wonderful player that plays a much more mature game than his 19-year old age would suggest.

Chris Kuntiz: Kunitz has also been a positive force during this span, as he was on the ice for 16 goals for and 10 goals against. Kunitz has 7 points during this span.

James Neal: Neal has been very good as well. Neal has eight points in the last nine games, just a point off from one point-per-game. He's also been on the ice for 14 goals for and only five goals against. 

Jussi Jokinen: Very sneaky. Jussi Jokinen, at least as far as the eye test and these raw statistics go has been very good for the Pens. He's been on the ice for 13 goals for and only five goals against and had a hat-trick during the same span. Thanks again, Jim Rutherford.

Middle Ground: 

Sidney Crosby: I was going to put Crosby in the bad section purely based off of his lofty expectations, but it wouldn't make sense to do that. Crosby has been on the ice for the second most goals against on the team with 13, but he's also been on the ice for 14 goals for and has averaged over a point-per-game during this span.
Pts, Turnover and +/- for Defensemen in the $7-7.25M AAV
for the 2014-15 Season

Kris Letang: Ah, if you go by the Internet you would have thought that Letang would have been in the "F*cking sucks" category. Nope. Letang has been decent and has actually looked a lot better as of late. He's been on the ice for more goals for (11) than he's been for more goals against (10). Letang also has seven points since his return, almost a point-per-game. Another encouraging thing about Letang is his improving play on the power-play. He has two goals and two assists on the power-play in the last nine games.

The bad:

Brooks Orpik: Yikes. Seriously what can you really say about Orpik's performance during this span besides that? He leads the team for being on the ice for most goals against and has only been on the ice for five goals for. That's just not good for a d-man making close to $4 million per-year. For as much hate as Letang receives, he can usually match his mistakes by making big plays and producing offense. Orpik does not have that same ability. Oprik has been by far the worst player defenceman on the team during this nine-game span.

Paul Martin: Martin has only played four games, as he returned to the lineup on January 20th. However, in those four games back, he's had a hard time adjusting. He's been on the ice for four goals against. That's twice as many as the amount of goals for he's been on for. He also only has one point and -4 in the four games he's been back. Blame Letang. 

Rob Scuderi: "The Piece" has had an even tougher time adjusting since his return to the lineup, which just happened to be the same game that Letang and Malkin both returned in. Scuderi has been on the ice for 11 goals against and only five goals for. He's looked hesistant at times which could be due simply to having just come back from a pretty significant injury and playing with a new defensive parnter.

Craig Adams: Look. People are going to defend Craig Adams no matter what but the fact is he's been on the ice for 11 goals against and only three goals for. Adams has regressed this season and I seriously think the young and energetic Zach Sill is more than ready to fill his role.

So, there you have it. Sometimes people just push certain points of view even if they're wrong. For some media members, bloggers, and fans it's just easier for them to continue to push the same narrative over and over instead of just admitting that they were wrong.

The biggest problem with this team has nothing to do with Malkin or Letang or any one individual player. The problem is the abysmal play of the third and fourth lines. They haven't tallied a goal in over a month (If you don't count Brandon Sutter's empty-net goal) and have almost all been on the ice for twice as many goals against than goals for. The Pens seriously need to upgrade their bottom-six forwards if they want a chance to win a Stanley Cup this season. 


  1. This is great analysis. Keep up the good work. Loving the site

  2. Stats only tell part of the story - take a look at the number of goals (both ways) based on TOI - some of these players (Letang) have way more ice time per game than some of the others mentioned. I think that statistic would be much more meanigful. Having said that, this article provides some good insight as to which players are producing....

    1. Thanks for the input, Anon.
      Here are the TOI/G figures for the Pens' regular D-men (as of Jan 26, 2014):
      Paul Martin - 24:41
      Kris Letang - 24:17
      Brooks Orpik - 21:13
      Matt Niskanen - 20:20
      Rob Scuderi - 18:41
      Olli Maatta - 17:33

  3. If anything the TOI even bolds in our argument's favor even more since Letang has been on the ice for less goals than both Scuderi and Orpik despite playing over 3 and 5 minutes more per game.


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