Friday, March 15, 2013

Pens beat Leafs 3-1; some great numbers on Simon Despres

By Finesse

The most important development in the last two games is not the four standings points or the team showing extreme confidence in being able to overcome large deficits.  It's only giving up a total of 3 goals.

The fact that the Pens came back twice from late deficits is important because it creates a certain confidence that they can do it again in the playoffs.  But the late goals the Pens scored against Boston and Toronto weren't the result of flipping some switch and coming on late in a game.  The Pens were relentless and energetic for almost a full 60 minutes in both games.  When they play that way, as the last two games showed, it's almost impossible to keep them under 3 goals.  As John Madden would have said, if you're scoring three goals every game, and you're giving up less than three, you're probably almost always going to win.

Numbers on Despres and other thoughts after the jump...

- Fleury was great, and outside of 3 minors by Brooks Orpik, the Pens were very disciplined.  The penalty kill has been brutal this season.  The easiest way to fix it is to not take penalties.  The Pens have taken only 5 minors in their last two games.

- Speaking of French Canadians, Simon Despres has played well enough to deserve a permanent role in the top 6 and, in fact, he's arguably the Pens third best defenseman behind Letang and Martin.  He's cut down on the noticeable errors and makes at least two or three WOW plays a game.  The team numbers support this:
  • The Pens are 15-4 when Despres is in the lineup.  In those 19 games, the Pens give up an average of 2.57 goals/game.
  • The Pens are 5-4 when Despres sits.  In those 9 games, the Pens give up an average of 3.33 goals/game.
Yes, it's a small sample size.  But yes, it's a big difference.

Despres' development, coupled with this summer's pending and quite possibly fruitless negotiations with Letang over a contract extension (very likely that his demands will be unaffordable), make the idea of trading Despres almost a non-starter unless you get a rock on the blueline in return who will be here for multiple sesaons.  He's definitely not untouchable, but this is sort of an evolution from our position earlier this season when we would have been more actively shopping him when the reason for keeping him was his potential, not his production.  Kudos to Despres for turning his "potential" into "production," and doing it quickly.

- In a perfect world, this means that the four Pens defensemen who should be starting every game in the playoffs are Letang, Martin, Orpik, and Despres.  Niskanen would be a fifth must-start, but for the fact that we think he's the most tradeable.  (We're not advocating dealing him, just saying the Pens could afford to move him).

- Rob Rossi of the Trib continues to vex us.  He packages pure speculation as "reporting," such as when he saw a Columbus executive at a Penguins' game, wrote that jack Johnson "could potentially fit [the] description" of what the Pens are allegedly interested in, and watched as the hockey internet gave credence to this idea.  Of course, this idea was immediately dismissed as "silly" by the Columbus GM, which then led to Rossi doubling down on the "speculation as reporting" where he wrote, "Johnson could fill any of those roles for the Penguins, though that hardly means his journey is guaranteed to result in a move to Pittsburgh."

What is Rossi doing?  Exactly what we do, only irresponsibly.  He looked at CapGeek to identify potential trade targets for the Pens, saw a GM at a game, and then wrote a blog post where he carefully worded his "reporting" with his "speculation" to create the illusion that he has "sources" telling him that the Pens are "intrigued" by certain potentialities and that this "intrigue" is meaningful.  At least half of the blame for this rests with people who take him seriously.  Want to know how to properly weave reporting with speculation so that people can easily tell which is which? Read Pierre Lebrun.

We think (or as Rossi would write:  "We hear") that almost all information that Rossi gets from his "sources" is deliberately given to him by the Pens to skew the market and conversation in the Pens' favor.

- Around the East
  • The Rangers lost again, but the more fair way to say it is probably that the Jets won again.  Their playoff odds are up to 63.3%.  Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal all in the playoffs?  Sign me up.
  • The Rangers can't score goals. Tortarella is a good coach, but it seems like he stifles his own players sometimes.  Plus, as we've said several times, they have no depth up front.  Their 7th best forward is Tyler Pyatt.  He has 6 points in 26 games.  Last year he had 19 points in 73 games.  
  • The Caps won! We still passionately root against them, but congratulations to them on dragging out the torture for their fans for a few more weeks. 
  • Flyers host the Devils tonight. According to the most addictive website ever, if they lose, their playoff chances drop under 4%. 
Rags and B's this weekend.  Huge.

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