The Penguins are 2nd in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the Rangers. They are 3rd in the Eastern Conference and 4th in the NHL. But really ... how ARE they doing so far?
The Penguins - despite having the 4th best record in the NHL - are considered to be under achievers. They are now embroiled in a "goalie controversy" they are "inconsistent" and their defense is "deplorable". Are all these manufactured narratives true or are we just spoiled sons and daughters of champions?
Matt Murray came back from an early season injury as we expected.
Out of the 6 games he's played he's won 5 of them. 1.68 goals-against-average with a 94.5 save percentage with one shut-out. What else can you ask of the young champion? He's been stellar, stalwart, and spectacular.
Then there's Marc Andre-Fleury ... usually the seasoned Penguins fan spends more time defending the rabbit-toothed tender than watching actual hockey but this season thus far has been tricky.
Marc has been in 14 contests (started 13) and has only managed to win 6 of them. His 3.19 GAA and 90.4 save percentage is one of the worst in his career. Conspirists will tell you that the Penguins play differently in front of MAF "leaving him out to dry" in some master plan to run him out of town ... blah blah blah.
As Jesse Marshal from The Pensblog already debunked simply and intelligently it's bullshit. The Penguins have their deficiencies, but they are not sabotaging Marc during games. However, what exactly is the reasoning behind MAF's deplorable numbers is something for another post because honestly, I don't know.
It can be argued that the Penguins have the best goal-tending tandem in the NHL when both players perform to the level that we know that they can. We all know that Fleury cannot/will not keep up this mysterious slump and Murray will continue to carry the team as far as it can go. No team can win the Cup without competent goal tending and the Pens absolutely have that.
The Penguins defense has been the glaring weakness for this team. Let me take you on a ride on the stat train:
- 2.84 - The Penguins goals-against per game. The 8th WORST in the league.
- 33.4 - The Penguins shots-against per game. The 2nd WORST in the league.
- 56.7% - The Penguins 5 v 5 Corsi-Against. The 9th WORST in the league.
- 81.4% - The Penguins PK%. Only good for 18th in the league. They have given up 13 PPG which is 8th highest in the league.
The Penguins are playing a high risk, high reward style of fast hockey right now. With the Penguins younger defenseman, the risk management has been subject to exposure. Olli Mattaa has been particularly porous with a 49.2% Fenwick-Against 5 v 5. Matta has had a bad start this season but is capaable to turning it around. Trevor Daley also has not been doing anyone any favors with his 48.4 5v5 Fenwick-Against (worst on the team) or the fact that no other Penguins defenseman has watched more shots towards his own goal this season.
The Penguins defensive line-up is not hopeless. When you employ Kris Letang you're incapable of being totally terrible but shot-suppression should be at the top of your to-do list. If the Penguins tighten up the PK and work on getting the shots-against per game under 30 the Penguins will slowly climb to the ladder to an absolute dominant team.
On the other end of the negativity rainbow is the Penguins offense which is - without a doubt - the gold at the end. Here are some quick hits:
- 4th ranked PP
- 9th ranked 2.79 goals-per-game
- 10th ranked 53 goals scored this year
- 1st ranked 32.8 shots-per-game
- 1st ranked CF events with 639 (1st shots for 351)
The Penguins offense is doing exactly what it should be doing. The stars are being stars with Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel in the NHL top 30 in scoring. They are shooting the puck more than any other team right now and for the most part putting it in the net. The Pen's 52.33% 5v5 Corsi Close is Top 5 in the NHL and scoring is balanced punctuated with a lethal Powerplay. The Penguins are fast, they are shooting, and the are scoring there isn't much to dissect here.
Overall: TL;DR - B
As good as the Penguins are at creating chances they give up an equal amount. Literally (-.05 goal differential per game.). In that case you have to use the goalies as an equalizer but in this case you have an unusually hot and unusually cold goalie. This also can lead to the question ... "dude your team is 4th in the NHL overall; why complain?" and to that - my hypothetical and theoretical friend - I will shrug and say I don't know ... to ... get