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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Most Shocking HCMS Stat by @BrianK_PI

When the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Mike Johnston and brought up Wilkes-Barre Coach Mike Sullivan to replace him, it was a breath of fresh air to what looked to be a listless, beaten team. The results of the change could be seen almost immediately, as a boring Penguins team finally opened things back up, started converting on the power play, and became fun to watch again. Though there are plenty of stats and metrics that show that the Pens have been playing better since the coaching change, there's a surprising one that's remained virtually unchanged.

When Johnston was let go, he had led the team to a 15-10-3 record through 28 games, good enough for 33 points in the standings. So far under Sullivan, Pittsburgh is 13-9-5 through 27 games, which equates to 31 points. The Penguins were on pace for a 96.6 point season under Mike Johnston; under Mike Sullivan that's 94.1 points over the course of an 82 game season.

This isn't to bash Sullivan in the least. He's done a great job reinvigorating this team since taking over and hiding the personnel issues that Johnston wasn't capable of dealing with. If you take out the first 4 games of his tenure, all regulation losses, and chalk it up to a transition period, then his record looks much better. It'd likely look much better if he hadn't lost Evgeni Malkin for the past 6 games just when the 2nd line was starting to catch fire, and it'd likely look much better if injuries to Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr, and Beau Bennett weren't resulting in a bottom 6 made up of primarily WBS players.

But that's the point. When you've dug a hole as large as they did under Johnston, there's no room for error. The Pens cannot afford to leave points on the table as they have under both coaches. They're fortunate enough to be tied for the last wild card spot with the Tampa Bay Lightning with a game in hand, and still within striking distance of 2nd place in the Metro 6 points behind the Rangers with 2 games in hand and facing them 3 more times on the year. The Pittsburgh Penguins have 27 more games left in the regular season. The 1st third of the year didn't go so well under Mike Johnston, the 2nd third of the year looked better under Mike Sullivan but didn't translate to more points in the standings. They'll need to get healthy and string together consistently strong performances to make sure the final third of the year is enough to push them into the playoffs.

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