Penguins Offensive GVT: -1.4
Penguins Defensive GVT: 4.9
Penguins Goalie GVT: 6.9
Penguins Total GVT: 11.0
Rangers Offensive GVT: 29.6
Rangers Defensive GVT: 10.1
Rangers Goalie GVT: 17.8
Rangers total GVT: 60.0
Pittsburgh has been a very good possession team for the entire 2014-15 season even with the injury issues they have had. For the entire 2014-15 season they are the third ranked Score-Adjusted Fenwick team at 53.8%. In the last 20 games of the regular season they are also third ranked with an impressive Score-Adjusted Fenwick of 55.7%. Pittsburgh is still finding ways to drive possession even without three of their top four defensemen in the lineup (Letang, Maatta, Ehrhoff).
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. These two players are still top players in the NHL and both guys are capable of driving possession regardless of who their linemates are. The only thing that will stop these two players is if their shooting percentage falls off a cliff. Sidney Crosby did not win the Art Ross Trophy but he did lead the NHL in points per game with 1.09. Evgeni Malkin finished seventh overall at 1.01. There are only eight players in the league who had a points per game average of at least 1.00 and the Penguins have two of them.
Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has been a strength all season long. They are the third ranked team in the NHL at 84.8%. A large factor in their penalty killing success has been the play of Marc-Andre Fleury. Out of goaltenders who have played at least 100 minutes of shorthanded time he ranks third with a save percentage of .912. It is tough to score goals in the NHL these days. If you can eliminate the oppositions ability to score in advantageous situations it goes a long way towards success.
Injuries are once again one of the bigger storylines for Pittsburgh’s season. It has been known for a while that the team would be without Olli Maatta and Pascal Dupuis for the entire season, but recently Pittsburgh has added Kris Letang to that mix. Letang was playing at a Norris caliber level this season and his presence in the lineup cannot be replaced. Adding to the injury issue is the fact Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot will be entering the playoffs having missed multiple games to end the regular season.
Not only does Pittsburgh suffer from man-games lost but the injuries are to difference making players.
Pittsburgh may have the best one-two center combo for their top six lines but they may also boast the least impressive one-two combo for bottom six centers. Brandon Sutter and Max Lapierre both struggle on the possession front in the roles that they are given.
dCorsi is a metric created by Steven Burtch that measures how a certain player is performing in the role they have been given. Max Lapierre had a dCorsi of -6.19 with Pittsburgh. Only Zach Sill was worse this year among players with at least 30 games played. Given that Lapierre plays a sheltered role it is not promising that his dCorsi is that low. Brandon Sutter has a dCorsi of -4.10. Sutter plays a shutdown role which is more difficult than Lapierre’s, but he is still not very good in that role. When Brandon Sutter is not scoring goals he is not doing much else.
You can be a quality possession team but if your PDO is incredibly low that won’t matter. Pittsburgh’s finish to the regular season saw some incredibly low PDO numbers. Here is their ten game rolling average for the 2014-15 season:
This incredibly low PDO has prevented the Penguins from winning hockey games despite their quality possession numbers. If it stays where it has been for the last month and a half they will not stand a chance against the New York Rangers.
New York Strength
New York has the most consistently great goaltender in the NHL. Henrik Lundqvist is the kind of difference maker that can steal wins even if his team is not playing at a high level. The consistency is the key to what makes Lundqvist so great. Any goalie can have hot stretches (Andrew Hammond) but can that goaltender prevent himself from going through cold ones? King Henrik is as good as anybody as avoiding the down swings.
There isn’t a ton of movement up or down for Lundqvist. Fleury has had a good year but you can see he has more up and down trends. With Lundqvist you know what you are getting. With other goalies you are hoping to get quality goaltending. Last year Marc-Andre Fleury had two shutouts in the playoff series against the Rangers but then failed to go above .900 in any of the other five games. Whereas Lundqvist had a save percentage of .940 or higher in five of the seven games.
Very few teams shoot the puck better than the New York Rangers in the 2014-15 regular season. New York is ranked third overall in the NHL for team shooting percentage at a gaudy 8.84%. Teams that take full advantage of the scoring chances that they earn are very tough to beat. In contrast Pittsburgh is 19th overall at 7.42%
Much like Pittsburgh New York also is very good at killing penalties. They are sixth overall at 84.3% which is fractionally lower than Pittsburgh. If the Rangers are able to nullify Pittsburgh’s stars on the power play they may be frustrated and start pressing much to the Rangers delight. Also worth noting that New York is tied for second with nine shorthanded goals as a team while Pittsburgh has given up the second most shorthanded goals with 11.
New York Weaknesses
New York may be the President’s Trophy winner but they are limping into the playoffs as far as possession is concerned.
If this trend remains in place for Round one New York will have to continue to rely on their league leading 1019 PDO.
Ryan McDonagh is New York’s best defender. He is tasked with playing against the other team’s best players and for the most part does a really nice job. He is also tasked with carrying his defense partner Dan Girardi.
Now the Rangers could move Girardi away from McDonagh to maximize their best defensemen’s skill set but Girardi’s even strength CF% is a woeful 43.9% away from McDonagh. The Rangers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t with this pairing.
Rick Nash played well last year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but his shooting percentage was incredibly low and the goals weren’t coming. Many people were critical of his performance due to the lack of goal scoring. Fast forward to this year and Nash is still playing well but the goals have come. Nash scored a career high 42 goals this season. So why is this in the weakness column? His shooting percentage leading into the playoffs is taking a very similar path to what it did last year. Nash can’t go cold for New York, they need him filling the net
As far as predictions go I believe this series is a lot closer than some people think. The Penguins will have a chance if their PDO isn’t at the catastrophic levels that it has been at since the beginning of March. The Rangers will need their PDO to continue humming along at a league best rate to make up for their recent possession woes.
Ultimately the one variable I feel most comfortable predicting is the success of Henrik Lundqvist. I expect him to play well and I am also predicting that New York’s third best shooting percentage is not going to fall off a cliff.
For Pittsburgh to win they are going to need Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury firing on all cylinders. Offensively Crosby and Malkin are the only consistently reliable Penguins threats. That is a huge burden to carry in a playoff setting where time and space is drastically minimized.
I believe the series will be close and I have New York winning in seven games.