Crunching the numbers from an amazing run by Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins
Look, I understand the fact that many hockey fans suffer from the occasional bout of Sidney Crosby overload. Still, sometimes you just have to put your puck-based prejudices aside and marvel at some amazing hockey craftsmanship. Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are simply on an amazing run right now - and with the team on its first 10 game winning streak since 1999 - I thought it might be wise for us to stop and smell the statistical roses.
Pittsburgh’s impressive streaks
You can break down the Penguins’ amazing run in a few different ways. Most obviously, they are on a 10-game winning streak. However, you can go back a little further to find a longer run of impressive play; since losing twice in a row to start the month of November, the Penguins are 13-1-1 in 15 games (earning 27 out of a possible 30 points in that span). They are also 13-2-1 during Crosby’s 16-game points streak.
Some of the other numbers from Crosby’s 16-point streak
It’s easy to isolate the big, obvious numbers from Crosby’s run: 18 goals and 15 assists for 33 points in those 16 games. Let’s look at some of the other numbers, though: he earned a +12 rating during that run and supplied three game winning goals. He also won at least 50 percent of his faceoffs in 10 of those 16 contests, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Crosby carries the offense
By my calculations, the Pittsburgh Penguins scored 52 goals during Crosby’s 16-game streak. Counting his goals and assists, Crosby accounted for 33 of those goals, meaning that an amazing 63.46 percent of the team’s goals were created by Crosby.
Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin has been pretty solid (if inconsistent) when he’s been healthy during that stretch: five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 13 games played. The only issue is that those results are spotty; that span includes one three goal and one three assist game. (See his game logs.)
(Still, it’s pretty stunning that adding up the Penguins’ second highest point producer [Kris Letang, 26 points] with Malkin  only equals Crosby’s outstanding output.)
It’s an amazing achievement for Crosby, but the natural question is: what happens when he hits a snag, something one can only assume might happen during an 82-game season?
Marc-Andre Fleury’s resurgence
The other marquee talent driving the Penguins’ amazing run is Fleury. His redemption is sweet retribution for the patient Pittsburgh front office and proof that it’s important to give young goalies the time to get their games back together when they falter. (Carey Price is another prime example.)
Honestly, I’ve been pretty tough on Fleury, so here is a stats-based olive branch.
Numbers from his nine game winning streak
- He allowed only 14 goals in those nine games, with four against Carolina being the most in any single contest.
- Fleury stopped 252 out of 266 shots for a save percentage of approximately 94.7 percent.
- The 2003 No. 1 overall pick earned a shutout in those nine games and only dipped below a 90 percent save percentage once: against Carolina.
And if you want to know his numbers during the Crosby streak ...
- In the 13 games Fleury played during Crosby’s 16-point streak, he went 11-1-1 with 23 goals allowed. He stopped 336 out of 359 shots for a 93.59 save percentage.
So, as you can see, Crosby isn’t the only Penguins player on a hot streak. The oddest bit might be that his most common even-strength teammates (Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis) are experiencing fairly bland statistical seasons. Kunitz only has 17 points and Dupuis only scored 13, behind three Pittsburgh defensemen.
Speaking of that, three of the team’s top six scorers over the entire 2010-11 season are blueliners. Letang has an astounding 26 points in 28 games while Paul Martin produced 14 and Alex Goligoski came in right behind with 13.
I hate to be a downer, but the Penguins should heed a bit of a warning: one player producing more than 63 percent of your offense obviously places a tremendous burden on that individual. Even if that individual is one of the best players in the world.
Then again, Malkin is hobbled and the team is playing without valuable two-way center Jordan Staal, so you cannot blame the Penguins for leaning on their red-hot captain so much.
The best part about Fleury’s resurgence is that they also know that they have a capable backup in Brent Johnson, who stole much of the young goalie’s thunder in the beginning of the season.
All disclaimers about balance aside, the Penguins are winning at an amazing rate, whether those victories come from blowouts (like a 7-2 drubbing of the Blue Jackets) or hard-fought one goal wins (such as last night’s 2-1 squeaker against the Devils). In a sport with such a small margin of error, you have to take what you can get ... and Pittsburgh is taking it all right now.