Never ending road trip ends + Sidney Crosby's power play goal scoring slump
March 16, 2017, 10:37 AM ET [37 Comments]
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSS • Archive • CONTACT
The Penguins five game road trip, which spanned over eight days is finally over. The team was very successful earning seven out of a possible ten points. Given the circumstances surrounding the team and the difficulty of traveling out to Western Canada even the most critical people would consider the road trip a positive.
During the trip the team played in four different time zones with each game played in a different time zone than the one before it. There was also a daylight savings change during this to make things even more interesting.
That isn’t easy. The team certainly won’t be using that as an excuse for the Philadelphia game and that’s fine. I’m not willing to gloss over those details and pretend that it wasn’t a difficult road trip. It would be a challenge even for a team that was fully healthy.
The health factor is what finally caught up to Pittsburgh against the Flyers last night more so than the time zone stuff. They are missing a lot of players from their normal lineup. The team has done a great job navigating through these various injuries. Pittsburgh on multiple occasions during this road trip had to play an extended period of time with five defenseman. This is with a defense corp. who is already missing Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, and Trevor Daley. It is a lot to ask of Ian Cole and Chad Ruhwedel to be put into roles that are above where they should be appropriately slotted.
On the forward front the bottom six just isn’t capable of providing secondary scoring right now. In the absence of Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, and Bryan Rust the likes of Carter Rowney, Oskar Sundqvist, and Tom Kuhnhackl aren’t getting it done. When injuries hit the “next man up” mantra is rarely good enough and it isn’t in this case. The good news is that Patric Hornqvist was on the ice at practice yesterday and hopefully he will be making his return soon. If he can take contact at practice today the door should be open for a return on Friday night.
Sidney Crosby has been passed in the Rocket Richard race by his World Cup linemate. Brad Marchand now has 36 goals. He has eight in the month of March. He is on the kind of hot streak Crosby started the year with. Crosby has been in a goal scoring slump recently even though his on-ice play has been solid.
One explanation is that his shooting percentage has regressed from earlier in the year when it was above 20%. Shooting above 20% is not the most realistic thing to do in this day in age for a full season. Here is Crosby’s rolling average at 5v5
I do expect his shooting percentage at 5v5 to rebound a little bit. His line is generating way too much pressure for things to stay like they are.
My biggest concern for Crosby’s goal scoring ability is the fact that things have absolutely dried up on the power play for him. Here is a game by game look. Any blue line indicates a power play goal was scored by Crosby in that game.
The lines are closer together earlier in the season. My hypothesis for why the goals have dried up for Crosby on the power play has to do with where he is located on the power play. Earlier in the year he was consistently down low near the goal line and the goal crease. Over time I have noticed him back at that half wall position more and more. Malkin is the better option for the half wall. Sid will score more goals as the low guy. The frequency of that setup happening has gone down and so have the power play goals for 87. Crosby’s shooting percentage during 5v4 action has a similar trajectory as his 5v5 one. Let’s get back to #SidDownLow.
Kris Letang’s mysterious ailment remains a mystery. Jim Rutherford continues to be consistent with his message that Letang is progressing. Progressing from what? Who the heck knows. At least it isn’t concussion or heart related.
Some people think that Justin Schultz has been an improvement on the power play over Kris Letang in his absence. I don’t subscribe to that theory. Zone entries aren’t nearly as good with Schultz as they were with Letang. The drop pass mechanism that the Penguins employ while coming up the ice is way more effective with 58. The opposition might know that Letang is going to drop the puck, but his skating ability is too good and needs to be honored. This is what creates the flat-footed environment in the neutral zone for Crosby and/or Malkin.
Here are the team numbers
There were some small samples throughout the year when both Letang and Schultz were healthy and Schultz played over Letang on the power play, but that wasn't commonplace.
When Letang has been healthy the power play has more shot attempts and the expected goals are higher. Schultz has had a great year and he certainly hasn't been a liability on the power play, but he isn't better than Letang.
Pittsburgh will host the Devils tomorrow night.