The Pittsburgh Penguins have forced a game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. This is largely on the fact that their star players suddenly got some production in a dominant game 6 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With Sidney Crosby having scored the team’s three game winning goals this series, the focus has shifted over to Evgeni Malkin. Will we see the destructive, lazy, penalty prone Malkin or will we see the “I am score!” Malkin?
This has pretty much everything to do with his ice time.
For those that missed it, I did a piece after round 1 on Malkin’s ice time per game in relation to team record, goals for and against, and also Malkin’s personal point production. The results were indisputably conclusive. I decided to follow up and see if that trend has continued throughout the playoffs.
One thing about Malkin, for how “invisible” the fans have found him, he’s only been held off the scoresheet 6 times out of 16 playoff games he’s suited up for(37%).
But with only one multi-point game, he hasn’t exactly taken anything over either. And again I’ll show you that to be effective he actually shouldn’t.
So far Geno has 4 goals(G) and 9 assists(A) for 13 points(P) and a points per game average(PPG) of 0.81. The Pens as a team so far are 7-4-2-2 (wins, losses, OT wins, OT losses) and average 3.18 goals for per game(GF) vs. 2.5 goals against per game(GA).
In 6 out of the 16 games, Malkin had over 19 minutes of ice time. In those 6 games his stats are: 1G, 2A, 3P, 0.5PPG, and scoreless 3 times (50%).
All of these are well below his playoff average. Even worse, in those same 6 games, the team record was O-4-1-1. That’s right. Just 1 OT win and zero regulation wins in 6 games. The team was outscored 20-13 for an embarrassing 2.16 GF, and they gave up 3.33 GA. The averages aren’t even close. As is proven twice now, Malkin playing 19 minutes or more just doesn’t work.
When the big fella plays between 17-19 minutes, things become more manageable. This has happened 4 times, and in these games he’s also managed 1G and 2A for 3P(0.75PPG) and was held scoreless just once (25%). These are pretty much on par with his averages. Amazingly. Where at these minutes Malkin is average, the team improves dramatically. The team stats are a 2-1-1 record, outscoring opponents 13-10 for 3.25GF and 2.5GA. Only once in these 4 games did the Pens score less than 3 goals(2). Between 17-19 minutes the team had zero regulation losses (1OT) compared to the exact opposite zero regulation wins at 19 plus minutes.
Again, here’s the kicker. Geno has 6 games at 17 minutes or less. He’s put up 2G 5A, 7P, for a miraculous 1.16 PPG. All this while never being held scoreless. Not only is he personally not human playing less than 17 minutes, the team is virtually unstoppable. The Pens in these 6 games are essentially perfect at 5-0-1-0 with ZERO losses in any form. They boast an unfair 4.16GF while conceding just 1.67GA.
Believe it or not, the evidence gets even more compelling. In arguably the 4 most convincing Pens victories of the playoffs to date (round 1 -games 4 and 5, round 2 – game 6, round 3 – game 6), only one time has Malkin played more than 18 minutes. This was game 6 vs Washington and it resulted in the only non-regulation win of the bunch. In the other three, he played 12:56, 15:01, and 15:27 respectively.
In the 4 worst showings (round 1 – game 2, round 2 – game 5, and round 3 – game 4) he played well over 19 minutes, including his only game over 20:00 (the 3-1 loss in game 5 to Washington).
Breaking it down by series works too, and we’ll focus on the task at hand, the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins have 3 wins against Tampa and in those games Malkin played 16:33, 18:16, and 15:27. They also have 3 losses. Those games featured Malkin at 19:39, 19:23, and 19:25.
To put it more plainly, 5 out of the 6 playoff losses so far have come when Malkin skates for more than 19 minutes, including every single loss in regulation. The 6th loss (in OT) came when he played more than 17 minutes.
Speaking of that particular loss. It stands as the ONE anomaly in this pattern. Game one against the Capitals ended in a 4-3 OT loss, yet Malkin had 17:27 ice time and picked up a goal. Even though it wasn’t a regulation loss, statistically it should have been a win, so I dug a little deeper. It turns out that in the first period of that game he had 5:24 ice time with a :46 second shift average. Washington won that period 1-0. In the third he had 5:26 and :40 and the teams tied 1-1. In the second period, which Pittsburgh won 2-1, Geno had just 3:56 of ice time on a :29 shift average. Oddly enough, he scored his goal in this period, during a 5 second shift.
No matter how many ways I look at it, every single stat points to success for both the Penguins as a team and Malkin as an individual when he plays less than 17 minutes a game, and the less ice time the better.