Penguins Thoughts Part 1: Forwards – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Thoughts Part 1: Forwards

The Penguins have recently changed their forward combinations to a more evenly balanced setup. Some of the changes I wholeheartedly agree with while others, I feel, aren’t being handled properly. Let’s get straight to the point.

Patric Hornqvist’s Move to Evgeni Malkin’s Wing.

Earlier in the week I wrote a full article detailing why the Penguins needed to make this move, then shortly before I was ready to publish said article it was reported that this indeed was going to happen.

Into the trash bin went the article.

That being said, most of the points that I was going to make actually have come true, so allow me to explain why I was right.

Before I begin, I should tell you that much of my argument is based on Corsi rating and Corsi For %. For those not familiar with advanced stats:

Corsi = Individual Shots directed at the net including shots that missed the net and shots that were blocked.

CF% = Corsi for percentage = Corsi for / (Corsi for + Corsi against). Kind of like a +/- for attempted shots.

These are big indicators of puck possession, which is what Penguins coach Mike Johnston’s system is largely based upon.

Malkin’s 5 v 5 even strength CF% this season overall without Hornqvist is 50.6%. Malkin played the majority of the early season games with Pascal Dupuis, earning a 53.7% for the duo. When Malkin and Hornqvist have played together they have earned a 72.1 CF%. They do have a small sample size of 5 v 5 Time On Ice together, but it is still a good indicator. Prior to the lineup change Malkin scored 5 of his 6 goals on the power play and only had 18 5 v 5 shots on goal.

To show how that move benefited the top-six as a whole, Sidney Crosby had a 58.4 CF% while playing with Hornqvist. He currently has a 67.9% with Dupuis.

Depending on who you talk to, some “experts” don’t care for advanced stats such as Corsi, and honestly, until recently I was one of them and I am still learning their value, but in today’s NHL it is hard to ignore them.  To show how the rating reflects play, the Penguins are #9 in the league with 34 goals scored in 5 v 5 play and #3 in goals allowed (19). Their CF% ranks #3 with a 53.9 as a team.

Penguins Lines

If I am making the Pens lines, they would look something like this.

Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis

Bennett – Malkin – Hornqvist

Comeau – Sutter – Downie

Spaling – Goc – Adams

First Line

Crosby, Kunitz, Dupuis is a proven commodity, so I don’t need to argue their merit.

Second Line

The most questionable spot on the Penguins roster, in my opinion, is the third member of the Malkin, Hornqvist line. The team seems to be rotating Nick Spaling and Blake Comeau in this spot. I like both of these players, but not in this role.

Beau Bennett needs to be a top-six player. He is not a 3rd liner, despite Johnston’s insistence upon playing him there. He is a skill player who needs to play with Malkin, and if he cannot succeed there it should be time for GMJR to find another option outside of the organization.

Beau Bennett, Evander Kane, Joffrey Lupul, someone must step up or be brought in to solidify this spot in order for the Penguins to be considered a true Cup contender.

Third and Fourth Lines

Talent wise, with a couple of tweaks, the Penguins have two third lines.

Brandon Sutter has become the player that the Penguins expected, and need him to be.

Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, and Nick Spaling have added badly needed strength to the bottom-six.

We haven’t seen the best of Marcel Goc quite yet, and he could easily be a 3rd line center on many other teams.

I still would rather have seen Oskar Sundqvist on the Penguins roster as opposed to Craig Adams, but the team seems intent on keeping Adams, so I guess that we have to live with it. The only possible change is if the Penguins keep Bennett on the 3rd line and add another top-six winger. That would move Adams down the depth chart to being a press box observer.

Dupuis to Miss


With news breaking that Pascal Dupuis will not be making the trip to Canada with an undisclosed issue, Blake Comeau practiced alongside Crosby and Kunitz on the top line. Depending on the length of time that Dupuis will miss, I would rather see the Penguins use Jayson Megna to fill this spot rather than messing with the other lines. Megna has performed admirably in the past while playing with Sid.

Power Play

The Pens power play has been the best in the league, average, and a liability at times, depending on when you watch it. I have never been a fan of Malkin playing on the point. I would rather see Christian Erhoff or Paul Martin paired with Kris Letang on the point with Crosby, Malkin, and Kunitz or Hornqvist up front.

The 5 v 4 power play has scored 17 goals for tops in the league, but is tied for next to last in the league after giving up 3 shorthanded goals. Their CF% 5 v 4 PP is ranked 26th in the league at 85.9.


To date, Jim Rutherford and Mike Johnston have made mostly right moves and the team is still growing and learning about the system, and each other. Things are good, and with the right decisions and a little luck, it will only get better.


pp0457Up next, Part 2: Defense

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  1. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    November 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    First, while I agree with most of what you say, I think Hornqvist works better on Sid’s line. Malkin does need a winger and they eventually will have to go get one because…

    Second, I doubt Beau Bennett will ever be top six forward. Let’s be honest, he apparently can’t stay healthy long enough to merit the spot – he simply can’t be counted on. How do you plan around someone who isn’t available that often? I don’t know what the problem is. Is he “brittle,” as I’ve seen referred to elsewhere? Is he out of condition? He doesn’t appear to be, though he may need to bulk up a little. Nonetheless, I hope the team is talking about it and formulating a plan to deal with it. I think we have to admit he may be a perpetual third-liner, if he doesn’t suffer a career-ending injury.

    They may be forced to replace Dupuis, for now, because of the relative uncertainty of Bennett. At some point they’ll have to ask themselves if he’s worth the investment in both money and time. I think it’s great that Megna may get a shot, but I doubt he’s ready for permanent top six status. And while Comeau and Spaling may fill in admirably from time to time, that weakens the bottom six more than it helps the top six. They finally addressed the bottom six deficits of the past only to be hampered yet again by Bennett’s health plan.

    Ii know teams must be able to adapt on the fly and improvise at a moments notice. That’s the nature of the game. But, even with Bennett in the line up, they have been struggling a bit, and scoring less, since Dupuis went down. If a deep run is their goal, which we all know it is, the Bennett health plan has to be accommodated and someone will need to be traded to pay the premium.

  2. Penguin871's Gravatar Penguin871
    November 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    To throw a curve at you, Dupuis is now out for 6 months. I like Rick am a fan of Hornqvist on Crosby’s line. Does Crosby have an even strength point since he moved? Has Malkin scored with Hornqvist on his line? Maybe Kunitz can move to Malkin’s line. Everyone always said Kunitz/Malkin have great chemistry.

    As for the powerplay, I wouldn’t change a thing right now, they are tied for most goals +/- and have played 3 less games than most teams. If it cost a few shorties, it’s no big deal.

  3. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    November 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Hey Greg,

    Excellent article…and great use of advanced stats.

    I have to admit I wasn’t happy when Johnston broke up the Crosby-Hornqvist combo. I thought they had great chemistry and made a really dynamic pair.

    I didn’t get the same vibe watching Malkin and Hornqvist—at least against Toronto. It seemed that while Hornqvist attacked the net with his typical intensity, Geno was doing a lot of east-west stuff.

    Again, this was just an observation and it was based on one game. There’s no question No. 71 was languishing 5-on-5 and something needed to be done. And the move certainly has created more balance among the forward lines.

    Still wish we had a little more functional size and toughness up front. Maybe JR will figure out how to pry Evander Kane away from Winnipeg.


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