by: Rich Miller (@pensbender)
The Penguins have easily been the leagues’s most injured team this season, but they keep winning. The fact that the Penguins are currently leading the Eastern Conference by seven points is sort of remarkable. Even leading the hapless Metropolitan by 17 is impressive.
But the team is now basically a Paul Martin and Beau Bennett away from finally being as close to healthy as they’re going to get. Both should be back within the month. The fact that the Penguins not only survived this rash of injuries, but persevered through it is truly unimaginable.
Earlier today, the Pensblog took a look at what the Pens have done in their last ten games. The biggest take from it:
“The top two lines have scored 26 of 30 goals scored by forwards. That’s 87%.”
Then @MikeDarnay tweeted this:
— Mike Darnay (@MikeDarnay) January 8, 2014
We knew they were a top-heavy team, but good god. It’s impossible to think that the top-six can continue to carry this load, but there’s more to this story of how incredible it is that the Pens keep winning this way.
In the last ten games, the Pens have had more even-strength shot attempts than their opponent only twice –cumulatively they’re a minus -79 in shot attempts over that span, but somehow have won eight of the ten.
They’ve actually been struggling at even-strength since the rash of injuries began. Via Extra Skater:
So besides the top-six doing everything, how do they keep winning?
For starters, when a team is being badly outchanced, they better be good at blocking shots. The Pens 711 blocked shots are good for fourth in the league.
Even though they haven’t been generating the chances, they are at least starting with the puck more often than not –51.4% in the faceoff circle.
Their special team units are still incredible. The power play is first at 25.7%. The PK is second at 88.8%. It can’t be emphasized enough how important this is to their success. Only seven other teams have given up more goals than the Penguins at 5-on-5. Only one team has given up less while down a man.
Perhaps the most telling stat, however. The Pens are 13-3 in games they are outshot. How? They’re making the most of their shots, their 10.37% shooting percentage is good for third in the league. Thank you, again, top-end talent.
Finally, you cannot discount the goaltending. It hasn’t been as exceptional as it was at the beginning of the season, but they are doing a solid job of keeping it close until the stars get to their hero game.
Can this last? Who knows. This isn’t the first team to ever find success through special teams and solid goaltending. Having a collection of the best players in the game in your top-six doesn’t hurt either. But will all of that be enough?