Mar 11, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing James Neal (18) breaks up ice with the puck against the Washington Capitals during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center.The Penguins won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Charting Chances: Pittsburgh Penguins Jump On Washington Capitals Early

Beyond keeping their noses ahead of Boston for the Eastern Conference catbird seat, the Pittsburgh Penguins severely injured the Washington Capitals’ playoff chances by sweeping their division rivals in this week’s home-and-home series.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Caps have just a 6.4 percent probability of making the postseason after losing 2-0 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. As for the Pens, their three wins in a row have given them an even 50-50 shot at claiming home ice advantage through the East playoffs and an outside chance at the President’s Trophy.

More importantly, the Penguins seem to be getting gradually more cohesive with new additions Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc in the lineup. Both trade acquisitions have played four games in black and Vegas gold.

Looking at last night’s scoring chances, Pittsburgh enjoyed a vast edge early but couldn’t put a second puck behind Jaroslav Halak until the closing minutes. (For an explanation of how a chance is defined, refer to this previous post.) The Capitals gained strength late, but it wasn’t enough to have the overall advantage in the dangerous areas of the ice:

Scoring Chances
First Period
Second Period
Third Period
Capitals338 (4 PP)14 (4 PP)
Penguins58 (2 PP)4 (1 PP)17 (3 PP)

For the first time since I started the Charting Chances project a couple weeks ago, the Penguins didn’t get a ton of good looks on the power play. That may be simply because they had just two opportunities, but it bodes well that the Pens were able to create quite a bit at even strength.

Here’s the individual chart:

Chances Taken
Chances Created
James Neal415
Sidney Crosby314 (2 PP)
Matt Niskanen224 (2 PP)
Lee Stempniak213
Brian Gibbons213
Brandon Sutter123
Evgeni Malkin112 (1 PP)
Taylor Pyatt112
Jussi Jokinen112
Rob Scuderi011

James Neal makes his second appearance atop this list, although as usual he was the beneficiary of some high-quality setups. Glancing beyond the typical Sidney Crosby brilliance, Matt Niskanen continues to be opportunistic on the offensive end, no matter on the power play or at even strength.

The aforementioned Stempniak was at his most noticeable, picking up another assist to give him three in two games on the top line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Stempniak appears to gel well with the high-tempo games of Nos. 87 and 14.

Also, third-liners Brian Gibbons and Brandon Sutter combined to create a pair of scoring chances, and Taylor Pyatt‘s name keeps showing up on the chart. Maybe that’s why Dan Bylsma has given Pyatt some shifts with Evgeni Malkin and Neal in recent days.

The Penguins get some much-needed rest after traveling to six cities in the past 12 days. They’ll get back to game action Saturday in Philadelphia.

Tags: Analysis Charting Chances Pittsburgh Penguins

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