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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OGA SPR: The Pittsburgh Penguins - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Pittsburgh Penguins- the 24th installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The Pittsburgh Penguins as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The Pittsburgh Penguins began last season as one of two teams left standing previously in the 07-08 NHL season. They had lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Detroit Red Wings and were ready to prove their appearance in the Finals was no fluke. A full season later, they found themselves in the exact same spot, but this time with different results. But how did the 08-09 Stanley Cup Champions Penguins fare against the PQC on their ride to grabbing the Cup?

As you may remember, last season started overseas and started strong. The Penguins were at 2.5 points above the Curve mean-line by Game 20. Then came the slump of the flightless birds that saw a coaching change and then a team's response. Where the Penguins had fallen to a full 3 points below the Curve by Game 40 and the hopes of playoff hockey at the Igloo appeared to be fading away, the Penguins responded well and began riding the Curve upwards until the end of the season where they finished +3 against the PQC.

Pittsburgh finished the 08-09 campaign with a PQC rating of 4.95 and reinforced the overall dynamics OGA uses to establish the measuring points along the Playoff Qualifying Curve. With a close evaluation of team play compared to the historical PQC performance of the league, conference and division, OGA was able to presciently call the Pittsburgh Penguins 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) at Game 18 on November 18th, 2008.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: While the 08-09 Penguins did hoist the Stanley Cup last season, their yearly rating of 4.95 on the PQC was not their best performance, but was better than the team average of 4.55. The two season previous, the Penguins had finished in the 5+ rating territory. Just call it experience. Because what they learned along the way brought a complete team with a complete effort to the Finals last season.

And their average play as measured against the PQC since the lockout indicates another good shot of playoff hockey come next spring. Of note is how consistently the Penguins improve their team play and overall game each season as the playoffs draw close. Even in their terrible campaign of 05-06, where they had sunk as low as -5.0 against the Curve, the Penguins were able to improve their play as they pushed for playoff positioning.

The Penguins have important demarcation points along the Curve OGA looks for when evaluating their playoff chances. And this season, as they battle the alleged, non-confirmed but always-looked-for, Stanley Cup Hangover, the OGA boys will be watching the numbers. And letting you know what we know.

So how have the 09-10 Pens prepared for their defense of the title? Let's find out.

  • If you are a Pens fan, you have the luxury of knowing your team spent the off-season celebrating rather than rebuilding, restructuring, hiring/firing, questioning what works, etc. Because it works. And here's the proof:
Question. Does Sidney still live with the Lemieuxs? That looks like pretty cozy quarters. Guest Room?
  • Although much of the team on and off the ice remains intact, some impact-player personnel have changed. It will present some challenges for the Penguins but will also make camp and the pre-season an opportunity to reinforce the teams' goal of defending the Cup while also adding some new flavor and tweaks to chemistry and line pairings.
  • OUT - Major players skating elsewhere this season: Petr Sykora (RW), Hal Gill (D), Rob Scuderi (D), and backup goalie Mathieu Giron. The biggest loss for Pittsburgh is along the blue line but the organization feels it is deep on defense. Also departed are wingers Chris Minard, Jeff Taffe and much-anticipated but rarely-skated, Janne Pesonen. Miroslav Satan is still unsigned and probably won't be playing for the Pens this season.
  • IN - Jay McKee (D) was signed in to help sure up defense. Other defenders signed were Nate Guenin and Chris Lee. The right wing was also addressed by signing Chris Conner and Wade Brookbank. Mike Rupp (LW) was also added to the mix. To replace the backup goalie, they signed former Capital, Brent Johnson. Free agent Ryan Bayda, previously with the Hurricanes, is in camp with Pittsburgh. And don't forget the Penguins signed Bill Guerin at the trade deadline last season and will now contribute to veteran leadership and offensive production for a full campaign with his new club.


The Sure Thing: Evgeni Malkin (C). He scored 113 points (35/78), finished at a plus-17 with 290 shots on net. The Art Ross Trophy winner led the NHL in points and assists and is ranked as either the first or second best draft pick for most fantasy rankings this upcoming season. If you are not sure why it's a Sure Thing to draft Evgeni Malkin then you rarely watch hockey...if ever. And that's okay, because we want you IN! One quick way to create a new hockey fan is to convince them to play some fantasy hockey. Therein lies a quick tour of who's who in this league for the new apprentice...

TrustyRusty: Sidney Crosby (C). Again, if you are not sure why Sid the Kid would be a trusted choice here, you are a new fan. He captains the team and puts up big numbers each season - 103 points last season alone. If you have the chance to grab him, don't play games...just do the right thing for your fantasy team and take the little spitfire.

TrustyRusty Honorable Mention: Sergei Gonchar (D). This proven offensive-minded point-getter has been a staple on many GMs' fantasy teams over the years. This season, he is healthy and ready to quarterback the power play for a full season. As a defenseman, he can be expected to post about 60 points if he stays healthy and is an easy choice on draft day for your d-doods.

Up and Coming: Jordan Staal (C). He's the team's third center and was fourth in points for the Pens last season. A true two-way forward, he just keeps getting better each year and if you aren't able to secure Malkin or Crosby for your fantasy team, don't forget about Jordan who will get some power play time with the aforementioned ringers.

Under the Radar: Chris Kunitz (LW). Chris is under the radar because you may forget to notice his numbers or play being blinded by the glare of the Malkin-Crosby act out there on the ice. But Kunitz played alongside Crosby after being acquired at the trade deadline by Pittsburgh last season and put up 18 points in 20 regular season games. Playing with Crosby, Kunitz will eclipse the 53 points (23/30) you may not have noticed last season he produced between ANA and PIT.

The Watchful Eye: Eric Tangradi (LW). He's only 20 years old but has a chance of cracking the lineup in Pittsburgh. He was a monster in the OHL last season posting 88 points (38/50) in 55 games. Wait to see if he skates opening night but keep him on your watch list if not.

The Crease: Marc-Andre Fleury. No, this is not the Fleury you were looking for...

Pittsburgh goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury has been a keeper in many leagues for the last couple of seasons as his numbers (wins and percentages) keep improving. He is definitely a top-tier goalie and a good choice if in your top preferences. There may be some adjustment time needed as the Pens work to replace the defensive system that saw Gill and Scuderi helping mop up the crease, but Fleury is full of talent and quite capable. While many other fantasy GMs are avidly trying to secure Brodeur, Nabakov or the Kippers, you can be confident in selecting Fleury as your top choice knowing he will play the majority of games and play well.

Mad Scientist: Alex Goligoski (D). Gologoski played in 45 games last season with the Pens, admirably filling in for the decimated blue line, including the injured Sergei Gonchar. He was good for about a point in every other game. Now, he will get to play with Gonchar. Goligoski is a puck-moving defenseman who will compliment Gonchar, will see power play time and will continue to improve his game at the NHL level as he shows great promise and brings with him a hard work ethic.


Will the Pittsburgh Penguins again qualify for the playoffs and try to visit the Finals again for a third year straight? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow, the Frozen Pill ends his run of four Previews in a row with the Hot Hot Heatleys warming in San Jose. Come and see, come and see!

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