In their 2022 opener and the first since Dec. 19, the Pittsburgh Penguins withstood a furious San Jose Sharks rally, coming out victorious after a crazy 8-5 affair. With the win, the Penguins move up to 18-8-5 this season and maintain their solid grip on the main wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Here are three takeaways from the Penguins’ impressive eighth straight win.
Rodrigues’ hat trick continues the breakout season
If anyone had Evan Rodrigues nearly tying his previous career points record at the start of the season, talk about it now – I need to know tonight’s lottery numbers. With his first career hat trick, Rodrigues is second in team scorers (26 points) and again takes his personal best to 13 goals this year. In addition, he led the team in every offensive department against the Sharks, surveying the Penguins in shots, scoring chances, individual expected goals and high danger opportunities in all situations.
It’s also not like he’s relying on an unbearable finish streak to boost his numbers, as his individual (SH%) and on-ice (OiSH%) shooting percentages typically hover around his career standards. Rodrigues converts over 10 percent of his shots, slightly more than his career conversion rate of almost eight percent. The real indicator is his five-on-five OiSH%, which takes into account the marksmanship success of all of his teammates with whom he shares the ice, not just his own results. His 7.64 percent isn’t even the highest of his career, and it’s less than half a percentage point higher than last season’s mark.
Notably, Rodrigues generates the highest shooting chance and individual scoring rate of his career at five-on-five, meaning there is a tangible process underlying his high production. While the eventual return of Evgeni Malkin may relegate Rodrigues to a lower role in the roster, there is no doubt that the 28-year-old has won the unexpected jump in raw tallying stats.
Dominant win demonstrates the Penguins’ full potential
It’s easy enough to point out the Penguins’ impressive number of goals during the day and call it a day, but they continued to dominate the flow of the game in line with previous results this season.
At five-on-five, the Penguins controlled 59.6 percent of shooting attempts (CF%) and over 70 percent of scoring chances and high-risk chances, a resounding feat against their opponent in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Even though the Sharks threw a four-goal rally that brought them close to one goal, Pittsburgh has never dipped below 50 percent in shots or chances in the game. ‘a whole period. Considering the often overwhelming wave of scoring effects in hockey, this is an admirable feat in itself.
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Over the season, the Penguins rank among the NHL’s most dominant possession teams five-on-five, consistently maintaining a full territorial advantage over their opponents. Their sparkling shot (fifth), scoring chance (sixth), and expected share of goals (third) give them a big buffer against the common swings of puck luck over the course of an entire season, and it has come true. shown Sunday afternoon.
Now they’ve beaten the Middle Sharks, who sit in the bottom half of the Pacific Division. But a convincing victory is better than a victory over the skin of the teeth. Forward and up, as always.
Rust shakes rust with Hat-Trick performance
After an injury-ridden start to the 2021-2022 season, Bryan Rust had just nine points in 12 games heading into Sunday’s game against the Sharks. In response, the 29-year-old winger scored five points on the back of a hat trick to match that produced by Rodrigues, ringing the New Year with vengeance. He took five shots on goal and finished second for the team in individual expected goals, underlining his vast influence on the day’s result.
His pre-explosion scoring rate of five points had been one click lower than his previous two seasons (0.88 points per game to 0.75), but the improved health and consistency of the alignment should allow Rust to return to peak production.
Highlighting his offensive explosion is the fact that Rust enters 2022 without a contract beyond this season, and the debate over keeping the winger in tow is sure to intensify as the date draws near. limit of exchanges. Rumors abound around management’s desire to part ways with several forwards amid breakout seasons experienced by the team’s depth pieces. Does the surprise campaign from someone like Rodrigues inspire president of hockey operations Brian Burke and general manager Ron Hextall to test commercial waters for Rust? Based on Sunday’s performance, management would have no choice but to walk the contractual tightrope to ensure the best chances of winning another Stanley Cup.
Next game: January 5 vs. St. Louis Blues (19-9-5)
The Penguins now look to the next game on the schedule, an interconference affair with the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have won seven of their last 10 games and lead the NHL Central Division with 43 points this season.
The Blues are not a strong possession team, controlling just 48.4% of all five-on-five shooting attempts. The Penguins could find some success against a St. Louis team that concedes 2.7 goals per 60 minutes (xGA / 60) five-on-five, the third-worst rate in the NHL. As a result, the Penguins generate a constant stream of quality opportunities, which translates into the 2.62 xGF / 60 they have posted so far this season (seventh in the league). If the officials put the whistles away, it should be easy for the Penguins to create an offense in a tied game.
However, the game could be defined by special teams, with the Blues’ power play and Pittsburgh penalty spot ranking some of the best in the league. The Penguins’ disciplined approach saw the team called for the lowest penalty minute rate this season, which could stifle a reliable source of offense for St. Louis. Either way, it promises to be a hotly contested affair.
Data courtesy of Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick.
Marko is an aspiring sports writer with a passion for creating stories while using a combination of eye testing and analysis (shivers), complemented by a college education in criminology and political science.
When not covering the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins for Hockey writers, he can also be found spending countless hours on various sports video game franchises, indulging in sci-fi novels, and running long runs around his neighborhood.
Marko can be reached through his personal blog at inattendugoals.ca, and you can yell at him by by following him on Twitter and other social media seen under posts like this.