Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pens beat Ottawa 3-1 to keep rollin' & trollin'

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Before we get started, if you woke up this morning and thought to yourself, "I feel oddly smart today, it's making me uncomfortable, I need to find something to make me dumber," make sure to read Don Brennan's column in the Ottawa Sun about the relative size of his testicles compared to Matt Cooke's.

There's a lot of validity to the viewpoint that the Senators lost this game because they spent the first half of it consumed exacting revenge on Matt Cooke for his accidental slicing of Erik Karlsson's Achilles earlier this season.  While Chris Neil & Co. were needlessly gunning for Cooke, the Pens' two alternate-alternate captains, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, took young Dustin Jeffrey under their grizzled veteran wings and staked the Pens out to a 2-0 lead.  Ottawa, a team that doesn't score goals, should have had a laser focus on doing everything it could to get out of the #8 seed to avoid a first round matchup with the Pens.  Although in a roundabout way they did get closer to that end because with the right combination of wins by Washington and Winnipeg, there's a very realistic chance the Senators won't finish with the #8 seed.  They'll get the #9 seed.

Young Dustin, so willing to be led.
But the viewpoint we subscribe to is that the Pens are just very good, even if they were missing an All-Star starting lineup (Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Neal, Martin, Fleury).  In our podcast with Neil Greenberg last month, we debated how many more wins the Pens would have down the stretch because of the acquisitions of Morrow, Iginla, and Murray.  He thought it would lead to no extra wins; we said it didn't matter because they were here to swing one or two games in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  No one accounted for the possibility that everyone on the Pens would get hurt and two of the most well-respected players of the last decade would take over.  There is no case to be made that the Pens would be on an 7-game winning streak if they hadn't made these trades.

Brenden Morrow now has 11 points in 12 games with the Pens.  He had 11 points in 29 games with the Stars.  Jarome Iginla has 8 points in 10 games.  The Pens are 10-2 with Morrow, 8-2 with Iginla.  It's borderline comical.

None of this is to say that the Pens are a lock to do anything in the playoffs, especially because there's a real possibility, as silly as it may sound, that the team's biggest hurdle will be incorporating everyone back into the lineup.  It's just meant to point out the obvious: Morrow and Iginla are not Ponikarovsky and Leopold.  They're difference makers of the highest order.

Because I'm a masochist, I've kept an eye on the Pens' advanced stats since the trade (you can learn about advanced stats in our podcast with Greenberg, a pioneer of the advanced state movement with ESPN and the Washington Post).  I'll spoil the drama: They're not good.  In their last 3 games against Montreal, Boston, and Ottawa, the Pens have a combined Corsi of -93 (-22, -38, -33 respectively).  The team Corsi has dropped to the middle of the pack in the league.

I have yet to decide whether to give this any credence, especially where the team has been missing its 5 best players, but I am preparing myself, and you, for the inevitable "Why the Pens aren't as good as you think" story-lines in the playoff previews.  Just as sure as winter, it's coming.

Get it over with already.

1 comment:

  1. That Corsi list is inherent proof positive that Corsi is a bogus statistic; there appears to be little correlation between a high Corsi and things like, you know, not missing the playoffs.

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