Penguins Notes: Crosby’s Point Drought, Fleury’s Shootout Woes, Rutherford’s Decision

By John Toperzer

GM Jim Rutherford specifically brought in goalie Thomas Greiss on a one-year, $1 million deal to back up Marc-Andre Fleury. It was preordained since before training camp that Greiss would take the reigns from Jeff Zatkoff, pretty much regardless of preseason performance, There’s little doubt the German is Rutherford’s baby, signed and sealed by the GM. The results have gotten progressively worse, however, after Greiss played fairly well in his first five starts (all on the road).

Greiss holds a 2.88 GAA and .906 save percentage. He’s allowed three or more goals in 10 of his 12 starts. Would you trust him in the playoffs? If not, would you trust Zatkoff? Twenty-year-old netminder, Matt Murray, has played well for the Baby Penguins but he’s not ready for the NHL. Tristan Jarry, 19, is in the midst of his third and statistically-worst season for the Edmonton Oil Kings (18-21-5, 2.70 GAA, .908 save percentage).

If the Pens don’t trust Greiss or Zatkoff – Fleury has started the same 78 percent of contests he did in 2013-14 – then a deadline deal for a goalie should be in order. Will Rutherford admit he made a mistake, or least admit things haven’t worked out the way he’d hoped?

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After a six-goal, 27-game stretch for Sidney Crosby, he’s scored two goals twice in the last four contests. From his play, it looks like he’s back. From a historical perspective, how does Crosby’s 2014-15 stack up against his other nine NHL seasons? Let’s take a look.

Below is a list showing the seasonal percentages Crosby has picked up at least one point in games played.

Season ** Games Played ** Gms Scoring Point ** % of Gms With Point

2005-06 — 81 — 59 — 73 percent
2006-07 — 79 — 60 — 76 percent
2007-08 — 53 — 43 — 81 percent
2008-09 — 77 — 55 — 71 percent
2009-10 — 81 — 56 — 69 percent
2010-11 — 41 — 35 — 85 percent
2011-12 — 22 — 15 — 68 percent
2012-13 — 36 — 28 — 78 percent
2013-14 — 80 — 60 — 75 percent
2014-15 — 51 — 30 — 59 percent

As you can see, Crosby has scored at least one point in only 59 percent of games played in 2014-15. That’s the lowest output of his 10-year career — from a percentage basis. His best season occurred in 2010-11, when he pointed in 85 percent of games played.

What does this mean? It probably means he hasn’t played consistently well, thus far, which isn’t shocking. Of course, the mumps have something to do with his numbers. So does the continual shifting of linemates due to injury. Fortunately for the Penguins and Crosby there are still 27 games remaining to get on a roll heading into the playoffs.

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A check of eBay showed two “Sindey Crosby” mistake programs sold for $125 apiece.

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Kris Letang has had picked up a point in over half of the Pens’ goals during the last 14 games. He’s got 19 points (2G, 17A) while Pittsburgh has totaled 37 goals.

In the preseason, new coach Mike Johnston’s system was supposed to help Letang as much or more than any other player. Mission accomplished.

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Hockey Buzz’s Ryan Wilson recently penned an article showing his love for Mario Lemieux entitled Valentine’s Love For My Personal Favorite.

In my opinion, “Le Magnifique” was the greatest. It’s funny, though. He did have more than his fair share of detractors. A lot of folks equated Lemieux with Michael Jordan as “individual” players who had great stats but no championships. That was circa 1988. We all know what happened in both cases after that. It had to be frustrating for Lemieux to play on a team with Warren Young while the Great One skated with so many Hall of Famers, especially since Lemieux was compared to the older Gretzky every step of the way. Gretzky “won” the head-to-head competition more times than not, but the sample size was so small and teammate skillsets differed so greatly between Edmonton’s and Pittsburgh’s rosters.

Here are three of my favorite Lemieux mentions.

3. In a two-season span from 1988 to 1990, Lemieux scored a total of 23 short-handed goals. That’s goals, not points.
2. When Lemieux retired from the “Garage League” in 1997, he led the NHL in career goals-scored per game (0.82). When he returned three and a half seasons, later, those numbers dipped to (0.45) for the rest of his career (which was still impressive considering the dead puck).
1. The most decorated coach in NHL history, Scottie Bowman, often said that Lemieux was the best penalty killer he saw.

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Rick Tocchet and Jaromir Jagr seemed to get along really well when the two played together. Tocchet called him “Jages” — rhymes with “Begs” — rather than “Jags” rhyming with Boggs.

Twitter celebrated Jagr’s 43rd birthday the moment the clock struck 12, reminding me of another time the clock struck 12 with Jagr. The Pittsburgh Sports Garden was a popular nightclub in Station Square. I happened to be hanging out there with my buddies and Jagr walked in. At midnight, someone got on the PA system and wished Jagr a happy 20th birthday. Yes, he was in a bar and underaged. He was also in the bar while serving a 10-game NHL suspension as I remember.

A quick Google search turned up a Lemieux-Stevens-Jagr suspension article.

Apparently Jagr invaded the personal space of a referee.

“I haven`t seen three guys get thrown out of a game like that since the Hansen brothers in ‘Slapshot,'” Penguins center Ron Francis noted.

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TSN’s Scott Cullen recently wrote and article entitled Change the Names, It’s the Stats that Matter.”

Here are some hockey stats I’d like to see published.

Odd-man rushes, for and against: List forwards on the ice as well as defensemen.

Posts hit: Use this number not only for goalies, but also for shooters.

Disallowed goals: Chris Kunitz likely led the league in this category several seasons.

Specific penalties called by individual referees: Almost like in baseball with what is the strike zone.

What statistics would you like to see listed?

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Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury leads the NHL with eight shutouts and has arguably been the Pens’ MVP in 2014-15. One area in which he typical excels in but has just been so-so is the shootout.

Season ** Shots Attempted ** Goals Allowed ** Save Percentage

2005-06 — 05 — 04 — .200
2006-07 — 39 — 09 — .769
2007-08 — 03 — 00 — 1.000
2008-09 — 22 — 06 — .727
2009-10 — 23 — 06 — .739
2010-11 — 38 — 06 — .842
2011-12 — 39 — 09 — .769
2012-13 — 08 — 02 — .750
2013-14 — 28 — 05 — .821
2014-15 — 19 — 07 — .632

The Flower’s shootout save percentage of .632 is the lowest since his rookie year.

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Pens Audio

Mike Johnston:

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Treasure Life!
JT

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The Impact Of Hybrid Icing: Faceoffs And Crosby And Wins, Oh My

Much has been made of the institution of hybrid icing into NHL hockey.

It’s thought that the flow of the game is suffering, with faceoffs on the rise. Pittsburgh is a team which benefits heavily from flow. Even on a 5-on-3 power play Friday night, the Pens’ best chance might have come when Sidney Crosby hit an on-rushing Brandon Sutter right in front of the crease.

If, in face, faceoffs become an even more important aspect of hockey, how does that impact Pittsburgh, and in particular, Sidney Crosby?

Through a small four-game sample size, the Penguins have the second-highest faceoff win rate (59.3 percent) behind Minnesota (60.6). Of course, playing three times at Consol Energy Center hasn’t hurt those numbers. Friday night in Florida, Pittsburgh won 37 of 58 draws, good for a 64 percent win rate.

If anything, the Pens have benefited from hybrid icing — at least in the circle. That said, the domination is likely unsustainable.

The Boston Bruins led the NHL in 2012-13 with a 56.4 faceoff win rate, and that was significantly better than second place San Jose (53.4). The Penguins won 51.5 percent of draws, good for seventh in the league.

Breaking down the numbers from a team basis to a player-by-play basis, it’s apparent the Pens rely on Crosby in a big way.

The captain has won 58.6 percent of draws, compiling a 61-43 mark thus far. Moreover, Crosby’s taken 104 of the team’s total of 258 faceoffs (40.3 percent).

In 2013-14, the center is averaging 26 draws per game. Here are his numbers from the last four campaigns.

2013-14: 26.00 faceoffs/game, 58.6 percent win rate, 4 games played

2012-13: 23.16 faceoffs/game, 54.3 percent win rate, 36 games played

2011-12: 20.59 faceoffs/game, 50.1 percent win rate, 22 games played

2010-11: 23.93 faceoffs/game, 55.7 percent win rate, 41 games played

Several questions arise, centered mostly around Crosby.

First, will the increased number of faceoffs impact the rest of his game in any way? So far he’s taking about three additional draws every game. He took 41 faceoffs against Buffalo on Tuesday. Forty-one!

Second, what happens if and when Crosby suffers some sort of injury, be it major or minor? If that happens, the team will have more to worry about than just faceoffs. Still, when one player accounts for more than 40 percent of all faceoffs, then there’d be a gaping hole left in his absence.

Finally, how does hybrid icing play into the faceoff factor? As it stands, there will be more drops in the dot and less action. Folks might be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the 2003 Stanley Cup-winning New Jersey Devils in favor of slowing the game down.

Sidney Crosby has come a long ways since averaging 45.5 percent in the circle as a rookie and 48 percent his first two seasons. Good thing, because it looks like the drops in the dot are becoming more important than ever.

Treasure Life!
JT @JohnToperzer

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