by Tony on 01/12/09 at 05:23 PM ET
Statistics are always convenient when a team is going poorly, just as it is when it’s going good.
In reference to the Penguins’ downward spiral, a lot of the scrutiny has been focused on the poor performance of the powerplay, once considered a staple of the Penguins’ offense. In addition, the influx of injuries, simply cannot be overlooked, despite attempts to downplay them (which I’m guilty of).
But there are some other statistics that are sometimes brought up, but not nearly as much as they should, in my view anyway.
So let’s take a look….
- Last season, the hockey world basically wrote the Penguins’ season off after the December ‘07 high-ankle injury to Marc-Andre Fleury. However, the sensational play of Ty Conklin was a major factor in effectively saving the Penguins’ collective hides. This season, once again Fleury sustained a “lower-body injury”, suspected to be a groin, and for a short time, Dany Sabourin did a yeoman’s job in relieving Fleury. It didn’t last very long, though, as his stats slowly but surely went south. In addition, even after Fleury came back, he hasn’t regained his top form of a year ago. So far this season, Fleury (.904 Sv. Pct/2.97 GAA) is performing well below last season’s levels (.921 Sv. Pct./2.33 GAA). In addition, Sabourin’s totals to date (.898 Sv. Pct./2.85 GAA) are much lower than Conklin’s (.923 Sv. Pct/2.51 GAA). So while it wouldn’t hurt to see the Penguins put the puck in net more, it’s not going to matter much if the goaltending doesn’t improve at the same time.
- Of course, good goaltending is greatly assisted by good defense. A good defense stops many pucks from not even getting on goal, much less in the net. Well, the Penguins’ defense, for much of last year receiving praise “the most underrated” and similar comments, To date, the Pens are giving up 3.07 goals per game, good (bad) enough for 25th in the NHL. That percentage was 2.58 last season, good for 10th. Individually, there hasn’t arguably been one defenseman that it could be said is having a “good year”. Maybe Rob Scuderi, particularly dealing with blocked shots. But the stalwarts on the back end, namely Brooks Orpik and recently activated Ryan Whitney, have had numerous defensive lapses. Whitney has only been back for 10 games, and he’s already a -9, Orpik having a -5. Actually, the only defensemen to be in the plus category are Scuderi’s +8 and Alex Goligoski, who in the infinite wisdom of HCMT has been a healthy scratch the last few games, with a +6. A common sight recently has been offensive rushes by the opposition where there were forwards given free reign around the net, as well as very little physical play along the boards, outside of Orpik and forward Matt Cooke.
- Until this year, the Penguins of recent years have never been good in the faceoff circle. But this season, specifically with the addition of specialist Mike Zigomanis, they were among the top handful of teams in the NHL. However, Zigomanis, with his NHL-leading 62.9 faceoff percentage, suffered an undisclosed injury on December 3rd, and that has sent the Penguins back down the NHL faceoff ladder. The Pens’ leader now in faceoffs is Sidney Crosby, whose 49.2 faceoff average is only good enough for 60th in the NHL. Jordan Staal is 71st with a 46.8. Overall, it has to be noted that the Pens actually have a higher faceoff percentage as a team compared to last year (49.0% versus 46.1%), but the majority of that has to be attributed to Zigomanis.
In other news, Tim Wallace has been sent back down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Hopefully that means Pascal Dupuis will be back in the lineup tomorrow night vs. Philly.
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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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