In the NBA, great players win championships. In the NHL, great teams win championships; having great players makes it more likely that you'll have a great team, but doesn't guarantee it. The Pens are a long way from being a great team, but they're getting offensive production from guys they haven't been able to count on during the season -- Paul Martin has 6 assists, Sutter has 2 goals, Bennett has 4 points, Gibbons has 2 goals, and even Brooks Orpik pulled off a sick toe drag and buried one. You can win a lot of playoff games with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Kunitz scoring power play goals, and the Pens are going to need that sooner rather than later. But if you want the Pens to win multiple playoff series and maybe even the Cup, it's critical that they win games even when those four aren't scoring. The Pens are up 2-1 in this series and their four best players have no goals yet. If you actually root for the Pens to win games (rather than being one of those "Pens fans" who openly root against Crosby and Malkin), this should make you happy.
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- A pretty perfect description of the game from misterjamo in the comments section of our latest podcast:
It's taken me a long time to come around on the advanced statistics, but last night's game is a pretty strong case study in their usefulness. The Pens attempted 73 shots to Columbus's 42, and from the (admittedly) little I was able to see Pittsburgh was the better team by many miles. And when you consider that CBJ's third goal and the Penguins' fourth goal came on arguably fluke redirections on shots that weren't on goal when they left the original shooter's stick, it's a pretty strong argument that firing the puck in the general vicinity of the 6'x4' is a good strategy.
The problem with Sid is that he's the best player in the world, and four assists in three games for the best player in the world will get your "hunger" questioned. Consider that Sid attempted 8 shots (second only to Neal's 9), started a whopping 80% of his shifts in the defensive zone and still managed a relative corsi-for of +22% (best on the team last night) while his QoC was a rather insane 30.9%.- A few other interesting tidbits from the shot charts.
Yeah, Sid is paid $8.7 million to score and when he doesn't questions are going to be asked. But the way he was deployed last night made that awfully difficult.
If you'd have told me that through three games the Pens PP was 3 for 17 (and 0 for their last 12) with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Kunitz with zero goals between them and Fleury sporting a.899 save percentage I'd have told you the Pens were down 3-0 and probably outscored 12-2. But the Pens have turned into a really respectable possession team (with some obvious lapses) playing their best even strength hockey of the year. If they eliminate the asinine penalties and make better decisions on the power play, this series is a laugher.
- Total domination at even strength by Malkin-Jokinen-Neal. The combined 5-on-5 shot differential for those three was 42-6. Jokinen was not on the ice for an even strength shot against (12-0).
- Crosby was on the ice for one even strength shot against. It went in.
- It has ceased being fun for me to slam Sutter, and I'm not doing this to slam him again, but I have to point out that the even strength shot differential when Sutter was on the ice was 13-2 in favor of Columbus. If you factor in special teams, Sutter was on the ice for 17 of Columbus' 20 shots on goal. And he only had 13:35 of ice time. In other words, Columbus had 17 shots in the 13:35 that Sutter was on the ice. They had 3 shots in the other 46:25. 3!!!Sutter did score a huge goal, though. For what the Pens have needed against Columbus, he's been adequate. But if the Pens advance and go on the road against teams who can match lines with more skill than Columbus, a Sutter-Megna-Bennett line is going to be highly exploitable defensively. Bennett, especially, has a long way to go to clean up his play in his own end.
- Pens were 0-for-6 on the power play last night and didn't revert back to four forwards until late in the game. The concern with giving up shorthanded goals is real, but it's overblown. CBJ's shorty in Game 1 was purely Letang's fault and had nothing to do with having four forwards. The shorty in Game 2 happens sometimes. Big deal. The Pens had the number one power play in the league and Columbus had the 14th ranked penalty kill unit. Letting the BJs dictate who you use on your PP is a big mistake. Crosby and Malkin are already playing too far away from the net; putting PMPM out there instead of James Neal just spreads everything out even more. Put Kunitz in front, Neal in the high slot, get everyone closer to the net, and tell them not to give up shorthanded goals. This strategy will work.
|This glove thing got pretty annoying pretty quickly, didn't it?|
|"Let's go boys, come on boys, pick it up boys."|
- The Pens won a tight Game 3 against the Islanders last year, but allowed the Isles to get back in the series with a pretty brutal Game 4 loss. The Pens can't do that this year because there's no Tyler Kennedy to come to the rescue in Game 5.