2017 is over. It was an up and down start to the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. They enter 2018 ranked 22nd in the NHL with 41 points. After two consecutive Stanley Cup victories, it’s safe to say this isn’t the trajectory the team had in mind. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where things went wrong, but some stats stand out. Here’s a look back at “the bad” from 2017.
Giving Up Goals…and Lot of Them
The Pens have been mired in some blowouts resulting from poor goal-tending and defensive play this season (they’ve lost seven games by three goals or more). At the end of 2017, they’ve allowed 127 goals. That is 29th in the league. Bad. It’s not like the penalty kill is getting reamed out either, the Pens have given up 91 goals at even strength so far this season.
Matt Murray has not played like the two time Cup winner fans have grown accustomed to. The defense has not been stellar in front of him, but he also hasn’t been stealing games. Murray has also encountered multiple bouts of injury already this season. Luckily Tristan Jarry has answered the call of duty when Murray is unable to go. The young goalie boasts a decent .921 SV% and a 2.40 GAA.
It’s a lot easier to win games when your opponent scores less goals than you. That’s just a fact. Hopefully when Kris Letang and Justin Schultz return from injury, a rejuvenated backend can help stop the bleeding.
Even Strength Scoring Woes
It’s not a secret that scoring at even strength has been an issue since October for this team. While the powerplay is among the league’s best, the Penguin’s offensive efforts at even strength have been lackluster.
In fact, only 53 of the Pen’s 109 goals have come at 5on5 this season. That means less than 50% of their tallies come at normal playing conditions. Their 53 even strength goals rank 30th in the NHL.
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If fatigue is the main issue for the Pen’s struggles, then they have to be able to roll four lines night in and night out. You aren’t looking for your depth guys to lead the way offensively, but they have to chip in every now and again.
Here is a goal count for forwards that usually play in the bottom six:
Rust – 4
Sheahan – 3
Rowney – 2
Hagelin – 2
Reaves – 1
Kuhnhackl – 1
If the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to have more success at even strength in 2018, then they need added offense from the guys above.
In 2016-2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins were first in the NHL with 20 wins when their opponent scored first.
This season, The Pens rank as one of the worst teams when trailing by the first goal, and own a .210 win percentage in that scenario. The Penguins lack of resiliency might be a combination of fatigue and frustration.
It’s clear that the first goal is ever so important, especially when they are hard to come by. Let’s hope the Pens use January 1st as a much needed day of rest, and attack 2018 with a renewed sense of vigor.