Penguins/Stars Post-Mortem: Evaluating the Lines by @DXTraeger - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Penguins/Stars Post-Mortem: Evaluating the Lines by @DXTraeger

The Pittsburgh Penguins, well rested after a 5-2 demolition of the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday night, started strong but faded fast against Dallas and allowed the talented Stars to score two late goals and win by a final score of 3-2.

Thursday night's game against the Stars was a reversal of trends in several regards: the Crosby/Hornqvist/Kunitz line, which had been the best line on the ice in the season opener against the Anaheim Ducks, struggled for the first time this season, and the Penguins third line of Comeau/Goc/Downie looked downright pedestrian as they recorded the worst line success metric of the evening.

In case you've missed the Penguins/Ducks analysis or my recent breakdown of the Penguins' lines in their win against the Maple Leafs, the metric I have been using to assess the Penguins' players and their respective lines is based on the successful completion of basic hockey assignments and plays (such as clearing the puck after a defensive faceoff or successfully entering into the offensive zone as a unit) during 5-on-5 play.

Under this system, offensive zone pressure is valued as much as generating a top-notch scoring chance, which is in seen as equal as failing to mark a man defensively.

This is what my charts look like when tracking the game:

For example: in line 38, Pittsburgh has an offensive zone faceoff at even-strength.  Dupuis, Sutter and Malkin make up the Penguins' forwards on the ice, and Sutter is able to win the draw and the Pens are able to generate a shot on goal.  During the same shift, they were able to enter the offensive zone as a unit and possess the puck.

Conversely, in line 39, Crosby single-handedly short circuited the Penguins' play in the attacking zone, so he (and he alone) was given a minus for the shift.

Here are how the Penguins graded out over the course of all three periods:

Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review singled out Malkin as one of the best players on the ice for the Penguins, and my analysis agrees:  Malkin played at a +3, +6, -3 clip and finished as a very strong +6 despite a third period hamstrung by a bad penalty and a careless icing.

Brandon Sutter went +3, +6, +2 for the night and his +11 is one of the highest rankings this season.

Pascal Dupuis's second period injury came with him enjoying a bounce back performance following a so-so showing against the Maple Leafs.  In all, the Dupuis/Sutter/Malkin line was the best 5-on-5 line the Penguins rolled onto the ice.

Steve Downie and the rest of the third line had trouble entering the attacking zone and generating their cycle game, and their grades of -5 (Downie), Comeau (+1) and Goc (-3) reflect that.

Hornqvist also had his worst game in a Penguins jersey (-4), finishing just behind Chris Kunitz (-3).

If Dupuis is forced to miss any time, it will be interesting to see how Johnston mixes up lines and how the new line combinations work against the upstart New York Islanders.

Feel free to ask questions and/or offer criticism on this developing metric in the comments section below!

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