BUFFALO — Victory has many fathers, but Defeat is an orphan. The inverse is true when the Pittsburgh Penguins lose games. Theories fly from the hinterlands of social media and that guy at the Thanksgiving table who asks every kid to pull his finger. But the necessary fixes to the Penguins’ issues don’t seem to be debatable, but a matter if the team can adjust or if we’ll see a Penguins trade … or two.
The oddity is the Penguins are among the elite teams regarding expected goals-for (xGF) and scoring chance ratios. There have been times when the Penguins squash their opponents will, suffocating them in a blanket of forechecks and neutral zone traffic. And others when the Penguins trade chances, amassing a healthy amount for themselves in the process.
For analytics devotees, the Penguins should be darlings.
Seventh best Corsi. Eighth in expected goal differential. 10th in scoring chance ratio and sixth in high-danger scoring chance ratio.
By the numbers, the Penguins should be rolling through opponents like turkey leftovers. All stats are according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
But … they are just 9-9-0.
The record is all that counts, and it says the Penguins are bathing in mediocrity rather than basking in goal lights. They are outside the playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference. Until the NHL abandons the final scoreboard and ranks teams based on who should have won, the Penguins need to score more goals.
One theory was circled multiple times by Penguins coach Mike Sullivan on Friday morning as the Penguins hurtle toward the quarter mark of the season with as many wins as losses. Whether he was describing Alex Nylander’s game, the power play, or how to start getting that important goal, Sullivan has mentioned one specific thing.