Two week roundup is a season long look at the Penguins performance over the previous two week period. It will highlight what the team is doing right and what they are doing wrong. It will track individual and team performance for that period and for the season to that point.
- Overview -
Okay, okay, so this is going to be a three week round-up again, but it was Christmas Mr. Scrooge. It’s only once a year and we were making quite merry. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Penguins over the last nine games. It would seem they decided to take a vacation for the holidays as well. They were shut out twice, both times by Martin Brodeur, and scored one goal twice. That is a total of two goals in four of the nine games. Yikes! The Pens were only able to win three of the nine games and one of those was a shoot out victory. It was probably the worst stretch of hockey the Pens have played all year.
Of course, it is only January and losing streaks in January are always preferable to ones in April, and I guarantee that the Penguins will recover. They are still handily in second place in the division and fourth place in the conference so take a deep breath and relax, the best part of the season is still in front of us.
Just when it looked like the power play was on the comeback, it flat lined again over the last three weeks. The Pens scored only five goals in 35 PP chances over the last nine games for a 14.3% success rate. Maybe the worst part, though, is that three of those five goals were in one game. For the season, the Pens PP dropped to 14.7% which lands them dead last in the NHL. Ouch!
On the flip side, the penalty kill continues to be one of the best in the league. The Penguins killed off a staggering 33 of 36 penalties for a 91.7% success rate. That moves them up to 84.3% for the season, and 7th in the NHL. The PK is almost single handedly keeping this team in contention right now. With such an impotent power play, an average PK would make the Pens an average team. There are still a lot of good things about this team, but the penalty kill is easily the best.
Everyone has been complaining the Pens are not shooting enough, but the actual problem seems to be that they are giving up more shots. Over these nine games, the Penguins are averaging 33.3 shots/game and the opponents averaged 33.1 shots/game. The basic dead heat is a big change from the previous seven games when the Pens were out shooting the opponents by 10 shots per game. For the season, they are still 4th in the league in shots, but have dropped three spots to 6th in shots against. Still really good, but trending in the wrong direction.
One of the keys to the Penguins success so far has been their shot blocking. But these numbers are slowly going down and the Pens need to get back to blocking shots. The Pens averaged 14.3 blocked shots per game over the last nine games and are currently 6th in the NHL with 672 for the season. Again, these numbers are still good, but they have been going down over the last two months.
The Penguins are getting back to winning face-offs again, which is always good news. They won 50.6% of the face-offs over the last nine games and overall, they are back up to 18th in the league at 49.2%. And Sidney Crosby continues to be an animal at the dot. Sid took nearly 40% of all the face-offs over the last nine games and won 61.6% of them. He is currently 7th at the league in winning face-offs.
One of the more underappreciated aspects of the Penguins games is how much hitting they do. They are a tam known more for their talent then their checking, but currently the Pens are tied for 3rd in the NHL in hits. And leading the way in the physical attack is Brooks Orpik who is currently 5th in the league in hits. That should be interesting in the Olympics.
* Jordan Staal– What ever has gotten into Jordan Staal lately, the Penguins need to bottle it and feed it to the rest of the team. He has been the best player on the ice recently and he has the numbers to back it up. Eight points in the last nine games was the best on the team, and he is always a threat when the Pens are shorthanded. Staal is currently tied with Guerin for 3rd on the team with 29 points and leads the team in +/- with a +11.
* The Penalty Kill – This seems to be getting repetitive, but the Pen’s PK has been the best part of the team’s play all season. But over the last nine games, it has been extraordinary. The Penguins had to kill 36 penalties over the last three weeks, and the succeeded 33 times. That is a 91.7% success rate. Even more impressive, the Pens PK went 8 for 8 in the 12/19 game against Buffalo, and 6 for 6 in the 12/23 game against Florida. They had to kill at least four penalties in six of the nine games and also successfully killed all penalties in six of the nine games. Not bad at all.
* Sid’s face-offs – Sid’s scoring settled down somewhat over the last nine games, but his success at the face-off circle has been nothing short of amazing. Nearly half of all the Penguin’s face-off wins were won by Sid. He won 61.6% of his face-offs over the last three weeks. That included 73% against New Jersey on 12/21, 72% against Florida on 12/2, and 76% against Florida on 1/3. It doesn’t matter what else he does on the ice, if he keeps winning nearly 2/3 of his face-offs, then he is making the team better.
* Penalties – One side effect of having such a good PK is that the Penguins are taking way too many penalties. They had 94 PIMS over the last nine games for an average of 10.4 per game. That also breaks down to five power play opportunities for opponents every game. And what’s worse, that is up from the season average. For the season, the Pens are averaging 13.8 PIMS per game, or just short of seven PP opportunities per game. The PK has been amazing, but it will be extremely difficult to keep this up as the playoffs approach. Also, spending all of this time shorthanded means fewer chances to attack and score.
* Everyone else’s Face-offs – The Penguins overall face-off success has gone up recently, but that is all due to Crosby stepping up at the dot. The rest of the team seems to be barely trying. Without Sid in the equation, the Pens are only at 43% at the face-off circle which would leave them in the basement in the NHL. There are three other primary face-off guys. Staal is winning 47% of the time, Adams is at 43%, and Malkin is only at 37% for the season. Staal’s is the only one that is respectable and Geno really needs to put in some extra time here.
*Power Play – It looked like the PP was on the road to recovery after a 3 for 8 performance against the Florida Panthers, but then the bottom fell out. The Pens scored only two goals over the next 17 power play opportunities. The Penguins power play woes are well documented above, but if they want any chance of getting back to the Stanley Cup finals this spring, they will need to figure pout what is wrong with the PP and fix it.
#3 – Sidney Crosby – 2G, one of them a PPG, and 5 A in the last nine games. Sid has dominated face-offs, he is shooting more, and has even been racking up some hits. He is leading this team on the ice.
#2 – Bill Guerin – 4G, 2 of them PPG, and 3A in his last nine games and he should have had more. Whenever there is a loose puck or rebound, you can bet Guerin will be there to try and bury it.
#1 – Jordan Staal– 3G and 5A over the last nine games and getting better. Staal is hitting his stride at just the right time.
* Luca Caputi looked food in his first game this season and even netted a goal.
* Brent Johnson got an assist in the Thrashers game and gave up only three goals in three appearances. Just the best back up goalie in the NHL.
* Geno hasn’t taken a penalty in five games. Yeah!
It’s a new year and another long road trip coming up.
• 1/7 – vs. Philadelphia Flyers
• 1/9 – @ Toronto Maple Leafs
• 1/11 - @ Minnesota Wild
• 1/13 – @ Calgary Flames
• 1/14 – @. Edmonton Oilers
• 1/16 – @ Vancouver Canucks