Penguins Lose To The Sharks 2 – 1, Ending Another Losing Road Trip. – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Lose To The Sharks 2 – 1, Ending Another Losing Road Trip.

The Penguins ended their West Coast road trip with a 2 – 1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. They went 1 – 2 on the road trip. Truth be told, even though the Penguins didn’t play perfect hockey, the offense, backed by rookie Goalie, Casey DeSmith, did play well enough to win.

However, there were actually 2 teams on the ice last night and the Sharks Goalie Aaron Dell, with the help of some good defensive positioning team “D” played better; Dell rejected 31 of 32 shots, while the skaters in front of him block 28 shots by the Penguin shooters. San Jose’s “D” didn’t always exit their zone very well (giving up a total of 78 shot attempts; 32SOG, 28Blks, plus 18MSs by the Penguins), but they did get into the shooting lanes.

So, even though the Penguins did have a losing road trip, ending it with a loss, they need not hang their heads. There were some bright spots and some highlights to the game last night:

• 78 shot attempts
Casey DeSmith had another solid game between the pipes stopping 34 of 36 shots.
• The “Big RigJamie Oleksiak was a physical force out there on the ice. He dished out 7 of the team’s 21 hits.
Jake Guentzel made a spectacular save/blocked shot in the closing seconds of the game, in front of an empty, with DeSmith on the bench in favor of an extra-attacker.

In the end, I was not all that disappointed in the play of the players as a whole, on the ice. So, I am seeing a glimmer of hope that our Penguins do still have a reasonable chance of getting the opportunity to defend their title this April. Watching the game progress and then wind down, I still cannot help but think if there is blame to be laid upon the Penguins, this game was lost by the coaching staff. More precisely, the coaches’ line-up decisions.

Reading across some newer, advanced stats discussing player’s effectiveness at clearing their own defensive zone, it was shown that Matt Hunwick is pretty much near or at the bottom of the team when it comes to this. During this game against the Sharks I counted 6 times in which I saw Hunwick standing still (not Skating) with the puck during breakout attempts (there may have been more).

First of all, watching this, it doesn’t come as any surprise to me that he occupies the bottom portion of the team in his zone exit stats. Since Hockey is a game of skating, it will always be easier to defend and break up all plays, including break-outs of teams that have to stop skating to look the scene over.

Second of all, with the amount of times I see Hunwick standing still, I have to wonder how some people consider him a good puck moving Defenseman. Hunwick doesn’t skate the puck out of his zone. He stands there looking over the fore-checkers, and he has such a horrible zone exit stat. By definition, if you can’t move the puck out of your own zone you are not, repeat, NOT a good puck moving Defenseman.

It is well past time to give Hunwick press box time. If Mike Sullivan truly doesn’t like Ian Cole (I can see why, Cole’s zone exits are about as bad as Hunwick’s), start trying guys like Andrey Pedan and Jarred Tinordi while trying to trade for that serviceable Defenseman. If Pedan or Tinordi do work out, then great, stop looking for one. If neither works out, let’s face it, they really won’t do to much worse than Hunwick.

To repeat a response I made to one of our more frequent commenters here on previous posts, my vote would be to try Pedan first. (Keep in mind I don’t get a vote!) Although I haven’t really seen him play, scouting reports say he is a good skater and has good offensive skills. He also is having a pretty good defensive year down in Wilkes Barre Scranton WBS (He is +12 right now). And he is very big (6’-5”, 215 lbs according to WBS’s official site) with a mean streak (407 PIM in 214 AHL games).

Furthermore, I would pair Pedan with Kris Letang. Opposing teams are always trying to take runs at Letang. I would be willing to bet that with Pedan out there, paired with Letang, many of those players would reconsider trying to take runs at the Penguins’ 2018, Metropolitan Division, All Star Defenseman. I am not saying it would stop them all, there will always be the true cement-headed goon out there, until the league truly does start suspending players like Dustin Brown, but it should cause a significant drop in the dirty hits Letang is currently taking.

I also wonder, with the defensive stats and skating ability that the scouts allege Pedan has, maybe he could cover up more of those defensive guffaws that Letang has always had a penchant to make. To date the only player that I have seen that was ever really able to effectively mask that hole in Letang’s game was Paul Martin.

The other glaring error in the Penguins line-up is Mike Sullivan’s refusal to sit Conor Sheary. Yes, Sheary had a goal against the Sharks but that is just one game and if Sullivan truly wants to use Jean-Sebastian Dea as a 4th line Center and remove a Winger, Sheary should be the odd man out. Below is a head to head comparison of Sheary and Daniel Sprong during the 8 games that Sprong played.

Name G A Pts +/- SOG S% TOI
Sheary, Conor 1 1 2 -2 11 9.1 108:20
Sprong, Daniel 2 1 3 2 22 9.1 111:50

There isn’t that big of a difference in Goals scored and Assists, but there is a 4 Goal difference in +/- and a 22 shot difference in Shots on Goal, with  Sprong getting the edge here.

Name G/60min Pts/60min MPD SF SA Diff %
Sheary, Conor 0.55 1.11 1 98 81 17 53.85
Sprong, Daniel 1.07 1.61 3 114 67 47 66.67

In the Advanced Statistics, Sprong has a much more distinct edge. He scores way more goals per 60 minutes of ice time, gets more points, draws more minor penalties (MPD), and the team gets more Shot Attempts (SF) with Sprong on the ice while giving up far, far less Shot Attempts (SA). The SA is even more impressive when you look both at the difference in terms of raw numbers and consider that Sprong played more minutes.

Name Hits Blks MSs Tk Gv
Sheary, Conor 3 3 4 3 4
Sprong, Daniel 9 4 8 0 2

Looking at what the NHL web site calls the Real Time Statistics, Sprong dishes out 3 times as many hits, Blocks (Blks) a little more shots and Gives (Gv) the puck away only half as often. Furthermore, the Gvs may not tell the whole story of how weak Sheary is on the puck. The NHL doesn’t really record the number of times the puck is stripped off of a player and this happens a lot to Sheary. He is so small and light, opposing players toss him around like a rag doll and take the puck away from him like bullies on the playground stealing candies from babies.

The only category Sheary wins here is the TKs.  Even here, though, I have seen the puck taken right back off of his stick by the bullying opponents almost immediately after he got the steal.

If someone wants to argue that the 8 game time frame is a small sample size, well there is something to that position. The sample size may be a little weak. However, Sprong has only been allowed to play 8 games, this 8 game sample was against the same 8 opponents on the exact same nights (so the conditions were the same), and there really isn’t a whole lot of room now, with only 33 games to play to get a better sample size if the Penguins truly want to have Guentzel play wing rather than Center, as Sullivan has suggested, to get a better sample size.

If the team truly wants a shot to defend their title in April, Sheary needs to sit and Sprong needs to play, at least until Bryan Rust comes back. There is no Objective evidence to support Mike Sullivan’s decision to sit Sprong in favor of Sheary.

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  1. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    January 21, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Hey Other Rick,

    Great stuff, as always … 🙂

    While I haven’t watched him as closely as you, I too, have noticed Hunwick’s alarming tendency to stand flatfooted with the puck in his own end. It sort of reminds me of Rob Scuderi’s last season here, when Scuds would literally stop in his tracks and make a lateral pass to his defense partner, Simon Despres, on every play.

    It’s a miracle (not to mention a credit to Despres) that we were able to exit the zone at all.

    Anyway, I’m still in total agreement that I’d (a thousand times) rather see Ian Cole play than Hunwick. I still can’t for the life of me figure out what grievous sin Ian’s committed…other than being a pending UFA. Heck, in one his last games back on January 2, he had four hits and eight blocked shots in a win over Philly. I mean, seriously…what more does Sullivan want?

    The only thing I can think of? The Pens feel Pedan can fill Cole’s niche, given that he has a lot of similar attributes. Still, it hurts to see Ian sit while Hunwick muddles through.

    Switching to Sprong, I didn’t see the game against Anaheim. But somebody (Phil?) mentioned that he looked dreadful in that game. I agree…one bad game shouldn’t dissuade the Pens from using the kid…unless there’s more to the story than meets the eye…


    PS–Has anybody else noticed how often Kris Letang stands frozen in place, like an ice-sculpture tripod, when other teams score? I swear, every time we give up a goal, it seems No. 58 is anchored nearby, doing next to nothing to help. It’s maddening…

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      January 21, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Rick,

      Yes, I have seen Letang just standing there.

      Perhaps it is part of what Jim mentioned about the cognitive issues associated with repeated concussions. Perhaps he just isn’t processing fast enough to show any reactions. Regardless of what the cause is, it is a problem.

      However, just like I am resigned to the rift between Cole and Sullivan, I am also resigned to the Penguins not trying to move Letang. I am not saying it would be easy, given the length and nature of his contract (LNTC), but I really don’t see the team ever trying to trade him, I don’t see management ever trying to improve the team through moving him. I really see them being the captain of the Titanic, blinding themselves to the iceberg on the horizon. That is why, even though what I think really doesn’t matter, I have switched gears, stopped thinking about how to trade him, and started thinking about how to insulate the team from his flaws (defense) and limitations (injuries).

  2. kerdog211's Gravatar kerdog211
    January 21, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Hey the other rick,

    I taught last nights game was pretty entertaining in spite of the outcome. Both goalies played there hearts out and one team played better defense and that ended up being the difference. I still believe the Pens have a good shot at getting a ticket to the dance it just may be the last spot. Though they played well I am still going to bang the drum for Sprong! Like you I don’t think he should be the one watching from the box, it should be Conner. I know Sully wanted to see Jake on wing and that’s fine with me, as I said before I think Jake at center was a failed experiment (expect that it did show us that Riley is better suited for a forth line role, heck he made them actually look relevant), but I do not think it should be at Sprongs expense. The whole situation reminds me of when I was just a wee lad and my dad gave me a jaw breaker I put it in my mouth and it was pretty good, but I knew if I just gave it time it would get sweeter and sweater. Then my mom comes along and say spit it out your not ready for that you’ll choke, here have some fruit instead. Now don’t get me wrong I like fruit, fruits great but its no jaw breaker! I know if I could have just had that jaw breaker a bit longer there was a chance it was going to go from good to great. Sully I want my jaw breaker back!!!
    One last comment. Sid was a beast last night, that back check in front of Smith was ridiculous! We are so lucky to to be able to watch this guy play!!!

  3. January 21, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Someone show this to @penguins coaching staff.


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