Me, March 1, 2014:
Soooo…at some point someone in Pittsburgh is going to say “Given that Crosby and Malkin were there when he got here, what HAS Ray Shero done to make the team better?” right? Pittsburgh’s third and fourth lines were a disaster last year, their first without Jordan Staal (another player Pittsburgh just got by being terrible) and they’re a mess again this year. They’re markedly different than all of the other contenders. If the Pens lose in the playoffs, as they probably will, it will probably involve Crosby/Malkin having a few cold games (or Marc-Andre Fleury blowing up). When that happens, people will say “Gee, Malkin/Crosby/Fleury were terrible.” Perhaps they should point out that Pittsburgh is trying to win with an abysmal bottom half of their team, which piles an awful lot of pressure on the other guys.
Commenter Ice Hawk, today:
Very prophetic. However Malkin/Crosby/Fleury have been terrible.
A look at the data suggests otherwise, at least in the case of Sid and Geno. Through four games, the Pens have played 193.8 minutes of 5v5 time. Crosby/Malkin have barely played together – just 1.9 minutes – so we’ll proceed as if they haven’t played together at all. With Sid or Malkin on the ice, the Pens have 145 shot attempts and have allowed 105. A collective Corsi% of 58%. This is excellent. They have outscored the Blue Jackets 6-4. This is excellent – the Pens are outscoring Columbus by a goal an hour when Crosby/Malkin are on the ice at 5v5. Pittsburgh’s power play has been scoring goals, although they’ve also given up a pair of shorthanded goals.
When neither Crosby nor Malkin is on the ice, the Pens are getting torched. They have a Corsi% of 40%, which is terrible, over 72.7 minutes. They’re fortunate that they’re tied 2-2 in 5v5 goals. Their penalty kill, on which neither Malkin nor Crosby really play, is getting lit up to the tune of 10 GA/60, when 6.5 or so is more the norm.
If Malkin and Crosby have performed roughly as we’d expect and the Pens terrible bottom end is getting trashed for a second straight year, blaming Pittsburgh’s position on Crosby and Malkin doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s going to make even less sense if they end up cutting Dan Bylsma loose in a week.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org