Tale of the Tape: Comparing Pittsburgh Penguins to Stanley Cup Teams
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Tale of the Tape: Comparing Pittsburgh Penguins to Stanley Cup Teams

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The Stanley Cup will be paraded through St. Louis by a few hundred thousand fans who have never before been part of a Stanley Cup party. After 52 years of existence, St. Louis finally joined the club of Stanley Cup winners. They did so despite being one of the worst teams in the first half of the season. And St. Louis did so with first-year, fourth string goalie Jordan Binnington, recently unemployed head coach Craig Berube and without extreme team speed. So what did we learn from the 2018-19 NHL season and what can we apply to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

The days following the Stanley Cup presentation are the best time to take inventory of the direction of the game and the needed elements to hoist Lord Stanley.

Commonalities in the Stanley Cup Final:

–Neither team can be called a speed team, can they? But neither Boston or St. Louis are slow.

–Each team put at least one bruising, stay-at-home defender in the lineup. Most often, each team put a pair of thumping defensemen in the lineup. St. Louis put Robert Bortuzzo and Joel Edmundson into the lineup. Boston put Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo on the ice. Though in fairness, Bortuzzo played only 17 playoff games and St. Louis swapped Edmundson for Bortuzzo in Game 7.

St. Louis pays only $2.1 million for the pair, however.

–St. Louis won with a lot of skill, determination, and goaltending. The series Corsi was exactly even, 50.0%. The Scoring chances where nearly identical, 127-123 in favor of St. Louis but St. Louis finished twice as many chances, 14-7.

The same storyline exists in the high-danger chance category, too. St. Louis and Boston were nearly equal, 48-44 (St. Louis), but St. Louis finished more, 9-4.

–Both were veteran teams. There wasn’t much youth infusion in St. Louis but a little in Boston. St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo is 29-years-old and Boston captain Zdeno Chara was the second oldest player in the NHL, behind only Matt Cullen.

The St. Louis top line age: Jayden Schwartz (26), Brayden Schenn (27), Vlad Taresnko (27).

The Boston top line age: Brad Marchand (31), Patrice Bergeron (33), David Pastrnak (23)

The youngest players in the lineup for St. Louis in Game 7 were bottom-six forwards Robert Thomas (19), Sammy Blais (22), and Zach Sanford (24), though Sanford got the tap for the second line in the playoffs. Defenseman Vince Dunn is only 22-years-old.

The youngsters in the Boston lineup are a little more prominent. Jake Debrusk (22), Karson Kuhlman (23), Danton Heinen (23), Charlie McAvoy (21), Brandon Carlo (22), Connor Clifton (24)

Average Age:

St. Louis Blues: 27.88

Boston Bruins: 29.05

Pittsburgh Penguins: 27.68

Average size:

St. Louis Blues: 6-foot-2, 206 pounds

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Boston Bruins: 6-foot-1, 196 pounds

Pittsburgh Penguins: 6-foot-1, 197 pounds.

Corsi:

St. Louis Blues: 51.50%

Boston Bruins: 53.07%

Pittsburgh Penguins: 49.73%

5v5 GF:

St. Louis Blues: 53.5%. 166 goals.

Boston Bruins: 55.12%, 155 goals.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 54.82%, 182 goals.

5v5 Goals Against:

St. Louis Blues:147

Boston Bruins: 127

Pittsburgh Penguins: 150

Total Scoring Chances: 

St. Louis Blues: 1851, 52.18%

Boston Bruins: 1677, 52.23%

Pittsburgh Penguins: 1871, 52.07%

*advanced stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com

–All three teams were in the top 10 of scoring chance save percentage. Boston was second, the Penguins sixth, and St. Louis ninth.

–Only Boston was in the top 10 for high danger chances. They were eighth in the NHL. St. Louis was 23rd. The Penguins were 27th. Just imagine how bad that stat would be if the Penguins didn’t lead the league in high-danger chances from Feb. 23 to the end of the regular season.

–Boston was second and St. Louis third in high-danger chances allowed. The Penguins were 17th. Again, imagine how bad this stat would look for the Penguins if they didn’t lead the league in fewest allowed from Feb. 23 to the end of the regular season.

Analysis:

The Penguins are not too old, but they are 10 pounds lighter than St. Louis. The Penguins lack of puck possession and lack of high-danger suppression stand out. Fortunately, the Penguins appeared to correct their scoring chance issues later in the season but overall were not in a class with the Stanley Cup contenders.

Based purely on numbers, the Penguins puck possession and goals allowed are where they need to improve. The Penguins, of course, have a few forwards who are not defensive minded which inflates their goal totals but not their goal differential.

The unmeasurable statistics are heart, co-operative play, teamwork, and systematic play. Those are three areas in which the Penguins have been in decline since their last Stanley Cup in 2017. And there isn’t a stat for that.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Matt Luda

    June 13, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    The Blues are precisely what Sullivan means when he says he wants a team that’s hard to play against. They’re strong, selfless and disciplined. The Pens should learn from them, but they don’t have the personnel to do it. Guys like Kessel and Malkin feel too accomplished and entitled to put the team ahead of their own stats. They’re too old and set in their ways for that to change, which is why GMJR needs to move one if not both of them as soon as possible.

    • Hatrick Pornqvist

      June 13, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      Geno can play that way, Phil I’m not sure would ever do it. Letang’s instincts need more work. I don’t think the roster is an issue though. As Dan points out, look at us late Feb and March. We played like the Blues. It’s not the lineup so much as the dedication to the plan.

      • Matt Luda

        June 13, 2019 at 5:33 pm

        If you think Kessel, Letang and Malkin will change in their 30s, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news . . .

        • Hatrick Pornqvist

          June 13, 2019 at 6:44 pm

          I said I didn’t think Phil ever would, that Geno “could” play that way, and that I wish Letang stuck with Sully’s instructions better. I don’t think trading Geno is an idea worth entertaining.

      • RobertU

        June 13, 2019 at 7:23 pm

        Pens played that way (mostly) without Geno in the lineup and despite Kessel. That said, nothing about the Blues lineup says they are better than the Pens on paper. It comes down to doing the hard work and playing the team concept game…and there seem to be a few bad apples on the Pens who make that impossible for them.

        FWIW, for all those “advanced” stats junkies, The Athletic gave Boston 2:1 odds going into the series based on “advanced” stats. The Bruins crushed St. Louis in corsi in game 7. IMO, the difference makers in that game were: playing within the system, keeping the crease clear, winning the high danger attempts stat, a bad hop over a stick that would have been a goal for Bos, and one amazing save by Binnington. So, not a great playoffs for corsi adherents, those who preach speed over all else, or those who say physical play is outdated.

  2. Matt Luda

    June 14, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Blue Jackets > Lightning
    Islanders > Penguins
    Blues > Bruins

    Now connect the dots, GMJR

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