Key Observations Heading Into Game 1 Between the Penguins and Ducks

The Pens Nation Gameday Report


By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)

The Penguins are entering the 2014-15 season with several question marks hanging over the team.  A new GM, new coaching staff, and mostly new bottom-six forward corps has given the team an identity makeover that was badly needed after five season of disappointing postseason exits.  With all the new people in place, a concern also exists with franchise mainstay Evgeni Malkin.

As of right now, it looks like Malkin will play in this game.  That’s a good thing for the Penguins.  With an even strength Corsi of 55.2% over the past three regular seasons, Evgeni Malkin is a huge driver of possession for his team.  That percentage breaks down to 21.14 more team shots than the opponent per 20 minutes of ice time.

There has been some concern about Malkin missing most of training camp with an injury.  These concerns are not without merit.  For the first time in three years Malkin is entering a season without James Neal on his wing.  When skating with Neal the past three seasons, Malkin’s even strength Corsi went up to 57.1% and they accounted for 60.5% of goals scored.  He’s also facing the loss of Jussi Jokinen.  When together those two accounted for a mind-blowing 70.4% of even strength goals scored.  These are not insignificant losses to Malkin’s left and right wings.

The addition of Patric Hornqvist should mitigate the loss of James Neal.  Much like Neal in 2010, Hornqvist comes to the Penguins as a promising goal scorer who lacks that one explosive season (the one exception is that Hornqvist does have one 30-goal season while Neal lacked one coming into Pittsburgh).  In his five full seasons in the NHL, Hornqvist has an even strength Corsi of 52.7% with 56.6% goals for.  What he has lacked in that time frame is an all-world center feeding him the puck.  With all due respect to David Legwand, Kevin Klein, and Mike Fisher, they are not Evgeni Malkin.

This is a season of transition for both players.  One his losing his favorite winger while another is gaining one of the best centers on the planet.  The month of the season will be critical as these two get acclimated to each other’s playing style.  Chemistry will be built.  Enjoy the show!