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face the Penguins in the playoffs in a month’s time
03-13-2018, 05:54 PM
Post: #1
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face the Penguins in the playoffs in a month’s time
After a season where he challenged Connor McDavid for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award while taking home the Rocket Richard Trophy with 44 goals, Sidney Crosby is having an OK year — for him.

Over a point per game with 73 in 68 games, on pace for 88, that’s about nine points off last season’s pace, and for most players in the NHL, that’s a brilliant season. For Sidney Crosby though, being third on the Pittsburgh Penguins in points, even if the players he’s behind are Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, is below expectations.

The crazy thing is, the relative lack of production isn’t actually due to a drop in performance.
Compared to the last two seasons, Crosby’s shot quality has dropped. It’s significantly below last season but fairly close to 2015 16, where he shot at exactly his career average overall, and at 11.39 per cent at 5 vs 5. He’s not putting up the kinds of scoring chances necessary to hit 44 goals again, but his 5 vs 5 shooting percentage is just 5.38 per cent despite the fact that he remains a far above league average shooter.

In terms of playmaking, he’s creating more this year overall in scoring chances for teammates than the last two years, and putting a comparable number of passes to last season in the slot.

On the surface he’s been rewarded for this with 51 assists, his most since 2014 15, but 25 of those are on the power play. At 5 vs 5, he’s producing fewer assists than either of the last two years per minute played, and far fewer primary assists.

In fact, Crosby has seen the lowest 5 vs 5 production in his entire career this season in goals, primary assists Tom Sestito Jersey, and points per 60 minutes played, even though he’s seventh in the league in scoring chances created.

Thanks to the Penguins’ deadly power play, Crosby’s overall production remains respectable. But this season at even strength has been an absurd outlier.

We know from his personal contributions that it shouldn’t be much of one, if one at all, so what’s going on? Well throughout his career, Crosby has been a phenomenal influence on shot quality while he’s on the ice, but this season the Penguins have been unfathomably unlucky while he’s skating. To illustrate this, take a look at this season for Crosby square with an X in it in personal and on ice shooting percentage compared to every other season since 2007 08 diamonds .

The axes are set at Crosby’s career averages in both statistics at 5 vs 5, and this season is the biggest negative outlier in his career by both measures. Crosby is 3.73 percentage points lower than his career average of 9.76 per cent in on ice shooting percentage, with his previous career low being just 1.63 points below, meaning he’s twice as far away from that average this year than he’s ever been before.

With his personal shooting percentage, this year Crosby is 7.64 percentage points below his career average of 13.02 per cent, with his previous low being just 3.02 percentage points lower, once again twice as far from his career average as ever before.

Knowing that this isn’t a performance issue — because Crosby would have to be shooting and playing like a poor fourth line player in order to earn those kinds of numbers — we know that it isn’t something that should be expected to continue indefinitely. In fact it’s already begun to change, as 23 of Crosby’s 40 even strength points this season have come in the last 28 games after just 17 in his first 40.

However, if you’re an Eastern Conference team that’s about to face the Penguins in the playoffs in a month’s time, you should be very scared, because the run that Evgeni Malkin is on right now is pretty much what Sidney Crosby is due for.

Just doing the lazy math, if Crosby were to maintain this season’s level of raw performance, but experience his career average 5 vs 5 shooting percentages both personally and on ice, what would his season look like? His seven 5 vs 5 goals would turn into 17, and his 20 5 vs 5 assists would turn to 34. That would raise his point total this season to 90, leading the league. That is a massive change.

If Crosby ends up regressing to his career averages in the playoffs, the Penguins might be the first team to win three Stanley Cups in a row since the New York Islanders.

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