The Pens Depth Explained Through Advanced Stats (Third and Fourth Line Appreciation Post)

I saw a post earlier from a Chicago fan who claimed the Blackhawks have more depth than the Pens, and since one of my favorite past-times is to study advanced stats I decided to make this post so people can educate themselves.

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Newsflash: THE PENS HAVE DEPTH. Extreme depth, actually. Depth that has let us win games without Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Letang in the lineup. Depth to the point that we’re healthy scratching players who have made an impact down the stretch of the season. We’ve scratched players who have scored already in this playoff series. We have so much depth that I suggested we play Jarome Iginla on the third line. No other team in the league can say that.

Also, Pens fans are always accused of not recognizing anyone on the team besides Malkin and Crosby, when it seems to me as though people from Pittsburgh are about the only ones that do realize how much they contribute. So when I saw a post this morning questioning the Penguins’ depth I decided to make this post dedicated to the advanced stats of our third and fourth liners.

Relative Corsi Quality of Competition

While Rel. Corsi QoC is one of the hardest advanced stats to calculate, it is also very telling. It is offense generated (minus blocked shots) but takes into account the opponents a player is up against on the ice. So let’s take a look at the top five Pens in this category.

1.Mark Eaton
2.Brandon Sutter
3.Matt Cooke
4.Pascal Dupuis
5.Jussi Jokinen

Of the top five, four are forwards. Of those forwards three are on the third or fourth lines. In fact, Jokinen was a healthy scratch in yesterday’s game 5. So what does this advanced stat show? It shows that our third and fourth line is capable of playing against other teams’ top lines and still generate offense.

Corsi Quality of Competition

This is basically the same as the previous advanced stat except it takes into account blocked shots for and against. The top five in this category are:

1.Robert Bortuzzo
2.Mark Eaton
3.Jarome Iginla
4.Brandon Sutter
5.Matt Cooke

Of the five, three are forwards, and two of the three forwards play on the third or fourth lines. Once again, our bottom two lines are capable of generating offense against the top lines of the opposition.

Penalties Drawn/60

Basically what it sounds like. How many penalties per 60 minutes a player draws. This to me is one of the most important aspects of playing on a third or fourth line. Third and fourth liners are typically gritty players. They’re not afraid to take a hit and play the game tough. Part of their job is to draw penalties. Also, as good as star players are at drawing penalties I would rather see a penalty drawn by someone on our bottom two lines. Think about it. If Sidney Crosby is on the ice and draws a penalty he is also on our top power play unit. Depending on how long he was on the ice before the penalty, he may either be tired or forced to wait until the second power play unit. This is why I love third and fourth liners getting calls. Our top power play unit is rested and you can get the line combinations you want. The top five players that draw penalties are:

1.Sidney Crosby
2.Brenden Morrow
3.Craig Adams
4.Evgeni Malkin
5.Matt Cooke

Once again, three of the five players are on our third or fourth lines.

Joey V

First off, major props to Joey V for his awesome game last night. He came in and played gritty hockey and got the job done. Same thing for TK. Joe Vitale also happens to have an area of his advanced stats that blows me away. Vitale only starts 42.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone. This is the fourth lowest on the team. However, he is in the top five in offensive zone finishes by finishing 51.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone. 9.4% difference. That’s insane. To put this in perspective, the leaders in offensive zone finishes are Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, who also lead the team in offensive zone starts. Remember, since Vitale’s on the fourth line he’s usually up against the other team’s top lines. The fact that he manages to get the puck into the opposing team’s zone while facing the competition he does is insanely impressive.

In conclusion, the Pens have depth. Their third and fourth liners know their role and execute it well. Our fourth line was by far our best line through the first period of yesterday’s game, and started off the scoring in the second. Not to mention the fact that last year’s MVP is on our second line and our second line was the best line in hockey last year. Basically, if you don’t think the Pens have depth I’m just going to assume you haven’t watched a Pens game at all this season.

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