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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Some Thoughts And Stats Regarding the Pens' Series Win Over Columbus

The Pittsburgh Penguins are moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight season. The Pens eliminated the feisty Columbus Blue Jackets four games to two, in an extremely competitive and entertaining series. The Pens had a 4-0 lead in the third period, only to give up three straight goals in the third period. It was definitely a "Here we go again" moment. However the Pens prevailed and now they will meet the winner of the series between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Some notes from game six and there series:

Game 1 - Pens scored their last goal at 8:38 of the 3rd. From that point, their CORSI rating (shots-missed-blocked) compared to CBJ's was 2-2-2 to 5-2-2 or a -3.

Game 2 - Last scored at 17:52 of the FIRST PERIOD! From then, 27-14-15 to 32-11-18 or a -5.

Game 3 - Last goal at 8:06 of the 3rd. 4-2-0 vs 4-4-5 for a -7.

Game 4 - Last goal at .............11:10 of the first fucking period. 25-9-10 vs 39-8-17 for a MINUS TWENTY.

Game 5 - Last (non-EN) goal at 6:16 of the 3rd. 6-4-5 vs 3-1-4 for a ....wait for it.....positive CORSI rating of +7. Don't get too comfy, that was it for positivity.

Game 6 - Last Pens goal at 15:22 of the 2nd. 5-2-3 vs 13-3-6 for a -12.
TOTAL of 69 shots - 33 misses - 35 blocked shots vs 96 shots - 29 misses - 52 blocked shots after they scored their final goals of games.

Five of the six games ended with a 4-3 final, two of those games went into overtime. If that isn't entertaining about that I have no idea what to tell you. 

Pens points leaders for the series: 

1. Paul Matin 8
2. Matt Niskanen 8
3. Evgeni Malkin 7
4. Sidney Crosby 6
5. Brandon Sutter 5

Pens' corsi leaders for the series: 

Pens' bottom five in corsi:

Pens' fenwick leaders:

Pens' bottom-five in fenwick:

Some thoughts: 

Evgeni Malkin ended his nine-game goalless streak by scoring not one, not two, but three goals, netting a hat-trick in a dominant performance. Malkin now has three goals and seven points this postseason in six games. We talked about Malkin needing to shoot the puck more, and in game six he did just that. Leading up to game six, Malkin just five shots on goal in games two-through-four, in game six Malkin had six shots on goal, ending up with a hat-trick. Sometimes it really is that simple. Malkin finished the series tied with Jussi Jokinen for most even strength points in the series with five. Malkin has also been a beast five-on-five. Malkin trails only Brian Gibbons and Sidney Crosby on the team in corsi, and also had the team's best Fenwick score, as well. Malkin is off to a great start to the postseason that shouldn't be a shock considering that he is a former Conn Smythe winner.

Sidney Crosby has gone ten straight playoff games without a goal, but he is producing, averaging a point-per-game, with six points in six games. Like Malkin, you have to believe that Crosby is going to break out soon. For now, we will probably get continuous debates as to what is actually wrong with Crosby, who isn't playing bad, but definitely not for his standards. Crosby has just two even strength points in the first round and has only two even strength points in his last ten playoff games. Certainly some criticism of the "World's best player" is warranted, but he  is not exactly stinking the joint out either. I have to laugh at the narratives suggesting that Crosby is not a big-game player. Crosby still leads all active players in career points-per-game in the postseason and has won two gold medals as well as a Stanley Cup. I saw quite a few people comparing Crosby to Jonathan Toews, saying that Toews is a better big-game player. Last year Toews scored three goals in 23 games and won a Stanley Cup. If Crosby plays 24 games this postseason and leads his team to a Stanley Cup tallying 24 points, does it really matter if those points are goals or assists? I do not think so. Even if Crosby is not playing up to his level, he  is still better than most players in the league playing his "B game." Crosby had the second best corsi on the team, fifth best fenwick, and faced the toughest competition in the first round of the series. I think Crosby is playing a similar style of hockey that he played during the Olympics, focusing more being a dominant two-way player, but surely if the Pens are going to make a deep run in the postseason, Crosby will eventually need to score some big goals. All I truly know is he certainly does not deserve to be booed by his own fans, that much is for damn sure. 

Paul Martin ends the series with a team-leading nine points in six games. Good enough for second in the entire NHL playoffs. Martin also is a +7.  Martin averaged 27:19 of ice time per game, leading all Pens' defenseman. Martin is also constantly among the top three Pens' defenseman in quality of competition every single night. Remember when everyone wanted Martin traded or even bought-out in 2012? That feels like an eternity ago. Lately, Martin has been paired with with Kris Letang, thanks to Brooks Orpik being out and that paring was very good the last two games. Martin started the series off with four-straight multi-point games, and played very well five-on-five. 

Matt Niskanen can hear the money now. Niskanen has eight points in six games, with six of those points coming on the power play, which is good enough to lead the NHL playoffs in power play points. Niskanen is having one of the greatest seasons a unrestricted free-agent can have. Seriously, Niskanen and his agent have to throw a party after every single game, because that is how good Niskanen has been. I fully expect the Flyers to offer Niskanen eight-years $100 million next season, with a no-trade clause. 

Tanner Glass' contribution to the series: 

Dan Bylsma actually mixed things up a lot this series. For one, he called his entire team out after the game four loss. Two, he used a ton of different line combinations, moving Letang with Martin at the end of the series, Sutter to the second line, and putting Crosby and Malkin together. I'm sure his critics will refute all of that though.

Brandon Sutter was arguably the best player in the entire series. During the regular season, I debated with a ton of people regarding Sutter and just how good he truly is. Most people, consider Sutter nothing special, and a bottom-end NHL third-line center. I disagreed, as I thought that Sutter's play was brought down by a lack of consistently decent line-mates, and so far that seems to have been the case. Sutter has been a line with Beau Bennett, Lee Stempniak, Jussi Jokinen, and James Neal this postseason, and he has flourished. Sutter, who starts most of in the defensive zone more than any other Pens' player, scored three goals and had five points this series.n comparison, Sutter only had three points in 15 games last postseason. Sutter scored the game-winning goal in game one, and was a 6 for the series. Sutter was phenomenal on both sides of the ice, but left the game with an injury. The Pens will miss Sutter badly if he is injured long-term, so hopefully that isn't the case. I really think whatever the Pens' chances are with Sutter in the next wrong, diminish greatly if he isn't able to go. 

Kris Letang continued to look better as the series went on. LOne surprising thing is Letang only had one point, so hopefully he can regain some offense for the future rounds. But overall Letang went from really bad to pretty good from beginning to end. Letang started the series off in a bad way, turning the puck over, making bad pinches, and just looked lost. Letang was playing bad enough that his own teammate, Rob Scuderi, called him out. Letang has settled in lately though, having a corsi of 65% and 75% the last two games. The Pens are still going to need to get more production out of Letang, considering that he only had one point in the six-game series. 

Joe Vitale had a brutal knee-on-knee collision and left the game with a injury. Vitale was called for a penalty and to be honest it looks really dirty. The Pens won't miss Vitale that much, assuming that Sutter and Gibbons can both play. 

SAVE US BRIAN GIBBONS. This is supposed to be funny, but in all seriousness Gibbons has to have a place in this lineup. Gibbons draws penalties, has killer speed, and really was having the coming out party of a lifetime before getting injured in game two. 

Marcel Goc was missed. Goc returned to the game for the final two games of the series and definitely upgraded the bottom-two lines. Goc has been playing center on the third line, center Lee Stempniak and Beau Bennett. Goc's presence has also allowed Sutter to move up to the second line, and for Malkin to move up on the top line playing alongside Crosby. Goc is definitely an underrated player and another good pickup by Ray Shero at the trade deadline. 

Robert Scuderi is probably the most disappointing Penguin for 2013-2014. The Pens signed the veteran defender because "They should have never let him go in the first place" said Ray Shero. Scuderi is a Penguin legend, for his famed defensive efforts in 2008-2009 when he helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. However, Scuderi is now 35-years old and has been playing like he is 40. Scuderi had the worst numbers out of all of the Pens' defenseman across the board and was constantly getting beat down the ice. Scuderi did play a lot better in games five and six, but in all honesty, if Brooks Orpik can return to the lineup, I would not mind Robert Bortuzzo playing in favor of Scuderi. 

Lastly, Marc-Andre Fleury redeemed himself, both from recent postseasons over the past four seasons, and from his gaffe in game four of this series. After game four, everyone that didn't already want Fleury benched before, were now on the "Bench Fleury" bandwagon, with a few exceptions. On the surface, Fleury's numbers do not look that great. Fleury finished the series with a save percentage of .908% with a G.A.A. of 2.81. Those numbers won't win you a Conn Smythe, but the Pens do not need Fleury to be a Conn Smythe winner in order to win the Stanley Cup. They need him to do exactly what he did in this series, which is the first series that Fleury has won as a starting goaltender since 2010. Of course, Fleury gets blamed for every goal scored against the Penguins, but if you paid attention during the series you would see that his defense did not do him many favors. In fact, Fleury's save percentage in five-on-five situations is the fifth best in the playoffs right now, but the Pens' penalty-kill is absolutely pathetic, currently the fourth worst in the entire playoffs. You cannot just blame Fleury for that.  I donot consider Fleury an elite goaltender, but I do believe if he is a really good goaltender, and obviously based on talent and the fact that he was been to two Stanley Cup finals, I obviously think he  is good enough to help the team get there again. In the end, I think you have to feel good about Fleury and hopefully most of his demons have been exercised by winning this series.

For  Columbus, I really appreciate the way the Blue Jackets played during the series. They were the underdogs and played with a chip on their shoulder, bringing it every single game. For as much flack as Fleury gets, Sergei Bobrovsky really hasn't shown himself to very good in the postseason. Bobrovsky is 2-6 in the playoffs for his career, with a save percentage of .890%. Jack Johnson was marvelous, and if he can build on that series he can really start to live up to the huge expectations that he came into the league with. Boone Jenner is one of those guys that you don't want to have to play against ever. James Wisniewski is awful, and I think by just saying his name the Pens get another power play. Matt Calvert is really underrated and to be honest so is Ryan Johansson. Brandon Dubinsky got owned for the most part but played with an admirable effort. The "CBJ" chants made Consol look even weaker than usual.

Three things that concern me going on:

1. The penalty-kill.
2. Sutter's injury
3. Effort when they have a lead.

The Penguins are a better team than the Flyers but they matchup better with the New York Rangers so I would rather play the Rangers.

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