Pucks in Depth: No Reason For Wild To Panic … Penguins’ New...

Pucks in Depth: No Reason For Wild To Panic … Penguins’ New Top Line Dominating

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Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby against the Minnesota Wild
No reason for the Minnesota Wild to panic …

A few weeks ago the Minnesota Wild owned a 41-14-6 record, sat atop the Western Conference in wins, points and goal differential, and looked the part of a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Since that point, they have dropped five consecutive games, eight of their last 10, and now sit seven points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the division and conference.

While this cold spell has some — including Bruce Boudreau! — questioning how good the Wild are, the numbers suggest they are playing well despite their losing ways.

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As you can see, the Wild are faring extremely well when it comes to controlling the shot attempts and scoring chances (especially so with high-danger looks) yet are getting their teeth caved in when it comes to goals.

In large part, the reason for that is a lack of puck luck. On the season, the Wild are converting on ~9% of their shots and almost 16% of their high-danger chances at 5v5. Their shooting percentage during this skid has fallen off a cliff as they’re scoring on less than 5% of their shots and just over 11% of their high-danger looks.

They’ve bled goals of late, too, but not as a result of poor team play. During this rough patch, the Wild have allowed fewer 5v5 chances than all but one team (Philadelphia). Despite that, they haven’t been able to keep the puck out as Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper have combined to stop less than 90% of the shots they’ve faced.

By comparison, Calgary, Philadelphia and San Jose, the three closest teams to Minnesota in scoring chance suppression over the last 10 games, have enjoyed .940 goaltending or better.

The Wild have generated a lot of chances and allowed very few — they’re top-5 in both categories — during this 2-8-0 stretch. Should that continue, it’s only a matter of time before their players get back on track.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ new top line dominating …

The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently dealing with a ton of injuries.

From Evgeni Malkin to Bryan Rust to Carl Hagelin, there are plenty of important bodies missing — and that is only up front.

As a result of the barrage of injuries, head coach Mike Sullivan has been moving a lot of players around the lineup hoping to find something that works.

It appears Sullivan has done just that as the line of Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyConor Sheary has been nothing short of dominant since being assembled.

The sample size is small (~100 minutes) but the numbers they’ve posted us a line have been nothing short of remarkable.

When that trio is on the ice, the Penguins are controlling a hair under 63% of the 5v5 shot attempts and more than 66% of the goals. As impressive as that is, the raw numbers may stand out even more.

In essentially five periods of hockey as a line, the Pens have out-attempted their opponents by 54 and outscored them by four (8-4).

Again, the sample size is small but based on Crosby’s work with Sheary this season, and how much promise Guentzel showed prior to being recalled, I’m willing to bet it’s no fluke this trio has been so dominant.

Note: data via naturalstattrick and datarink.

Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)