by Tony on 11/17/08 at 01:33 PM ET
Let me stress this right off the bat; I am a happy Penguins fan. Or, let me rephrase, I’m a content Penguins fan.
Seventeen games into the season, the Pens are 11-4-2 and off to their best start since the ‘95-‘96 season during the days of Dave Roche, Chris Tamer and Frankie Leroux (oh, and Lemieux’s 161 points, and Jagr’s 149 and Francis’ 119).
But it’s how they’re 11-4-2 that is absolutely perplexing.
First, let’s throw out some stats;
- Their powerplay, once in the top handful in the NHL, is down to 13th.
- Their penalty kill, once in the top handful in the NHL, is down to 10th.
- Their franchise goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, is only ranked 23rd in the NHL with a .907 save percentage and 24th in GAA with 2.86.
- Five blown leads late in games, some leading to losses, but some eventually resulting in overtime/shootout wins.
Simply put, those are not the stats indicative of an 11-4-2 team. A .500 team ?? Sure, but not 11-4-2. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
So how in the hell are they doing it ??
Some theories, in some kind of half-assed order;
1. Talent - Certainly, a “duh” kind of excuse, but it can’t be overlooked as well. Even with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both down on their goal counts so far this season (6 and 7, respectively), it’s a testament to their world-class talent that they’ve been somehow overcoming some of those poor team performances. With Malkin, specifically, he’s been doing his best Crosby imitation by leading the NHL in assists with 23 (Crosby is tied for second with 16, by the way).
2. Secondary scoring - I don’t know if you’d call Miro Satan’s 8 goals secondary, but it’s a little surprising he’s leading the team in goals. However, recent play by the Penguins’ third and fourth lines has really been an asset. Jordan Staal, after a horrendous start to the season, has been en fuego lately, with six goals in his last four games. His linemates, grinders Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, have provided sparks not only related to forechecking and physical play, but specifically towards generating goals. It should also be mentioned that they’ve gotten recent good play from Ruslan Fedotenko.
3. Goaltending - Although Fleury has been inconsistent lately, you can’t overlook the performance of Dany Sabourin. Sabourin is 3-1 with a .942 save pct. and a 1.68 GAA. Included in those wins is his recent relief of Fleury during the recent Flyers game after Fleury gave up four goals after two periods. His only blemish came in a 2-1 loss to the Sharks on Oct. 28th.
4. Defense - The hobbled Penguins’ defensive corps has done a yeoman’s job in keeping their heads above water until such time that Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar can return. The Pens’ are giving up 2.76 goals per game for a respectable tie for 13th in the NHL. Naturally, there have been some mistakes. Mark Eaton has not rebounded as well as hoped, hopefully recent Pens’ addition Philippe Boucher will counteract that. But overall, the Penguins’ defense has been more than adequate.
I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to suggest that the Penguins haven’t played a full 60 minute game yet this year. However, as is often said, good teams find ways to win. Boy oh boy, isn’t that the truth with these Penguins.
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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.
Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes. I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.
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