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Penguins 5-on-5 Futility Reaching Historic Level

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Sidney Crosby By Michael Miller (Own work). [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Penguins have a 5-on-5 problem.

The back-to-back Stanley Cup champions currently sit dead last in the NHL with a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 5.33% and a save percentage of .903%. Their combined SPSv% (shooting percentage plus save percentage–also known as PDO) of 957 is a full 19 points lower than the 30th place team, the Arizona Coyotes, and 73 points lower than the top-ranked team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, at 1030 (9.43%, .935%).

And it gets worse.

Since the NHL started tracking the stat in 2009-10, no team has ever finished a season with a lower combined number.

Yes, the Penguins, who are currently leading the league in shots generated per game, are looking at all-time levels of futility when it comes to 5-on-5 play.

Pittsburgh’s 5.33% 5-on-5 shooting percentage is .38% lower than the second-worst team, the 2014-15 Arizona Coyotes (5.71%), a group that finished the season with only 170 goals and a 24-50-8 record.

Injured? You need a lawyer. Call Joshua R. Lamm.

One answer is the Penguins have to get more rebounds and second-chance opportunities, like Patric Hornqvist. (Read Dan Kingerski’s Monday column why Hornqvist is more valuable than ever)

The Penguins are averaging 1.4 5-on-5 goals per game. That they are 17-14-3 is a minor miracle when all is considered. The Penguins lead the league in 5-on-3 goals (5) are tied in 3-on-3 goals (5) and tied for the lead in 6-on-5 goals (5). They are the only team in the league that has scored fewer 5-on-5 goals (48) than in all other situations combined (51).

Penguins Defense?

As much trouble as the Penguins have scoring at 5-on-5, their goaltending and defense is just as suspect. So far, the Pens rank last in the NHL with an abysmal .903% save percentage, .036 lower than the #1 team, the Philadelphia Flyers. Taken in historical context (or at least since the NHL started tracking the stat in 2009-2010) the 2017-18 Penguins rank 267th out of 271 total team seasons. The only teams with more futile goaltending were the 2012-13 Flames, 2009-2010 Senators, 2014-15 Oilers and 2012-13 Panthers. Not exactly a stout group.

What’s just as alarming is the drop off from the cup winning teams. In 2016-17 the Penguins finished the season with a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 8.56%, and a save percentage of .926%, 5th best and 8th best in the league respectively. In 2015-16 the Penguins’ 7.59% 5-on-5 shooting percentage ranked near the middle of the pack–although that probably had more to do with the Penguins pre-Sullivan–and their save percentage was 5th in the league at .930%.

So what’s it all mean? Is it just bad luck? Are the back-to-back champions tired after playing 213 games in the past two season? Do the Penguins miss Cullen, Bonino, Kunitz, and Fleury that much? Is it because Sidney Crosby’s 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 3.66% is 459th in the NHL out of the 466 players with more than 25 games played? Should the Penguins go about their business knowing that a massive regression towards the mean is coming?

At this point, no one has definitive answers.¬†Sullivan has tried juggling lines, and the Pens recently brought up Dominik Simon in an attempt to shake things up. So far, mixed results. PHN’s Dan Kingerski believes that a shakeup is necessary a la 91-92. John Steigerwald says to hold the line; it’s still too early to panic. But Rutherford is on the record as being impatient.

Odds that the Penguins decide a change is necessary? I’d say it’s a lot higher than 5.33%.

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