Are You Rrrrrready?
There are certain teams in the NHL for whom the regular season means nothing. It’s all about the playoffs for these “elite” teams. The President’s Cup means nothing. Individual awards mean nothing. For these teams, it’s all about the Cup.
Who are these teams? In looking at the last three years, in the East, I’d say Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington. The Rangers have probably moved into this category, too. Out west, you have the Central troika of Detroit, Chicago and
Columbus . Throw in Vancouver and San Jose out west, and now Los Angeles. These would be the tams that expect to compete for the Stanley Cup every year. That’s not to say others can’t jump up, or that one of these will fall out.
So how have these teams fared in key playoff statistics over the past three seasons?
Winning percentage: .462. Only the Rangers are worse.
Series won: 1. Fewest among all perennial playoff contenders.
Goals scored per game: 3.15. That ranks third among the contenders, behind only the Flyers and Blackhawks. Offense, not a problem.
Power play percentage: 16.5%. This is computed by subtracting shorthanded goals allowed from power play goals, then calculating the percentage. The Pens are a middling 7th. Ignoring the 5 shorties they’ve allowed, the power play percentage is second, which makes it look better than it really is.
Goals allowed per game: 3.46. Dead stinkin’ last.
Penalty kill percentage: 66.7%. Again, this is adjusted for shorties scored. Shockingly, this number is again the very bottom of the barrel.
Not surprisingly, the Pens’ problems are not in the offensive aspects of the game. They score plenty of goals. They go north very well.
As for south, maybe they need to acquaint themselves with Roald Amundsen. You know, the first guy to set foot on the South Pole. They seem to have forgotten that there is a south.
And, as you can see from the stats, this inattention to defense in the playoffs is critical. I computed the correlation coefficient between series wins and four stats. This number ranges from -1 to 1, with numbers closest to 1 showing the highest correlation.
Goals for: .309
Adjusted power play percentage: .408
Goals against: .632
Adjusted penalty kill percentage: .497
By far, the best correlation is between goals against and series won. The lowest is goals for. Yet the Pens seem to continue to preach offense, offense, and more offense. They jettisoned the guy who was their best penalty killing defenseman (Zbynek Michalek) so they could quixotically chase Zach Parise and Shane Doan. While the defensive market wasn’t strong, there were several guys who could have helped this woeful defensive team. But they passed on them to go for more offense.
And now look where they are. They will enter the coming season with worse defensemen than which they ended last season. They won’t have Jordan Staal, though defensively, Brandon Sutter should be close to his equal. They lost Steve Sullivan and have no viable top line right wing. They retained the coach who has no clue what defensively responsible hockey is. They kept Tony Granato, despite his having the worst playoff penalty killing (by 11 percentage points!) in the league over the the last three postseasons.
In short, this looks like a team without a plan. They want to play pond hockey, but they keep drafting defensemen who take years to develop. They know they need to be better defensively, but did nothing in the (too-long) offseason to address the deficiency. Hopefully Shero will address these areas in the coming months.
We’ll see how it plays out over the next few months. For now, it’s just great to be able to talk hockey again.