The Pittsburgh Penguins are leading the league in production totals so far this season. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both ranked within the top-four players in the league in points, even fresh out of a bye week. In this week off, no other player managed to top Crosby’s league-leading 26 goals. This high level of production from Pittsburgh’s two star-players has led the team to a season that has been one of the highest-producing in the league.
High Production by the Stats
The Penguins are winning a lot (26-8-5) because they’re scoring a lot. They’re second in the league in total goals scored this season with 137 in 39 games — only the New York Rangers have scored more. Even more significantly, they’re first in the league in both shots made per game and goals scored per game. A Penguins fan will see an average of 3.5 goals scored by Pittsburgh per game. The median in the league? About 2.7.
Who’s Leading the Production?
The majority of Pittsburgh’s shots come from the big names on the roster. Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Malkin and Crosby each have over 100 shots so far this season.
Crosby’s shot percentage is by far the highest on the team at 22.4% — that’s also the best in the league when considering the high number of shots he takes. (Jets rookie Patrick Laine is the only other player to come close to this level of accuracy on that high a number of shots.) On the other end of the spectrum, Hornqvist’s shot accuracy is down at 7.6%.
But then, Hornqvist’s shot accuracy isn’t an issue — he provides more assists than goals for the team. Sometimes his shots are more about getting pucks to the net and creating rebounds than immediately scoring. The Penguins have become particularly talented at taking advantage of the chances created by such rebounds. Agitators like Hornqvist and Bryan Rust can often be seen waiting in the crease for an opportunity. That’s the reason why, at the conclusion of a play, you can generally find Hornqvist being firmly towed away from the goal mouth by a tangle of opposing players, not altogether too pleased to see him whacking away at the puck after the whistle.
Agitators like Hornqvist and Bryan Rust can often also be seen waiting in the crease for an opportunity. That’s the reason why, at the conclusion of a play, you can generally find Hornqvist firmly towed away from the goal mouth by a tangle of opposing players, not altogether too pleased to see him whacking away at the puck after the whistle.
To sum it up: the Penguins like to get pucks to the net and be there to take advantage of the consequences. It pays off, like this example of Sheary being ready to finish off a shot by current linemate Bryan Rust in the Penguins’ game against the Lightning on Sunday.
Why Is This Important?
By creating this many chances, the Penguins are able to maintain their high levels of scoring. This is especially important because, although they take the most shots per game in the league, they also allow the fourth-most shots against. The Penguins need to create a lot of chances because they allow many chances to be had by the opposing team as well.
As long as Pittsburgh’s top players stay on track for these high levels of production, the Penguins will be able to maintain their league-leading goal pace. Because one-third of their shots come from their top four players, they will depend on them to keep their momentum going into the second half of the season. These four know the secret to high production for this team: get lots and lots of pucks to the net.
Julia Stumbaugh is a student at the College of William & Mary.