Pittsburgh Penguins: How Can Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin Get Back To Scoring Goals?


Nov 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins

Evgeni Malkin

(left) and

Sidney Crosby

(middle) congratulate left wing

Blake Comeau

(left) after Comeau scored the game winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime at the CONSOL Energy Center. Crosby assisted on the goal to record his 800th career NHL point. The Penguins won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers are getting downright strange.

Over the Pittsburgh Penguins’ past 12 games, dating back to Dec. 12, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined to score two goals each. That’s well off the career goal-scoring pace for both, as Crosby has netted a goal every 0.49 NHL games, while Malkin is just behind at 0.46.

Zooming out to capture the season to date, Crosby has a mere 11 goals in 36 games (0.31 goals per game) and Malkin has 17 in 39 for a 0.44 per-game average. Malkin’s goal output certainly is in the ballpark of what he’s done in the NHL, although Crosby’s red-light generation this season is well off his usual pace.

But going back to this current drought for Nos. 71 and 87, the Penguins are 6-4-2 since the goals dried up for their star centers. The Pens have earned 58 percent of the available points over this stretch, compared to 68 percent (24-10-5) for the entire season.

Clearly, Pittsburgh has sagged since Malkin and Crosby stopped beating opposing goaltenders. The question is: how can that usually-dynamic duo get back on track in the goal-scoring department?

No. 1 on the list of possible solutions is to increase shot volume. Malkin (3.59) and Crosby (3.35) have each launched well over three shots per game in their NHL careers, but both are lacking in that area this season. Malkin is at exactly 3.00 shots on goal per contest in 2014-15, with Crosby lagging even further behind at 2.97.

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For comparison’s sake, both gentlemen have never averaged fewer than 3.09 shots per game in 19 combined NHL seasons. (Malkin has even topped four shots per game three times.) You can’t score if you don’t get pucks to the net, which Crosby and Malkin have discovered over the first three months of the schedule.

The second solution for Sid and Geno is for the Penguins to get more skilled players back in the lineup. Blake Comeau and Patric Hornqvist have missed the past six and four games, respectively, hamstringing coach Mike Johnston in terms of options.

Getting Beau Bennett and Chris Kunitz back on the ice has aided the team’s forward depth, although those two have played together on the “third line” in recent games. The trade acquisition of David Perron from Edmonton last week gives Crosby a running mate, and Johnston moved Bennett to Malkin’s wing in Tuesday’s practice, so the cavalry could be on the way.

Just honing in on the past 12 tilts, the Penguins have scored 2.50 goals per game, compared to their 2.97 average for the season. Admittedly, goals per game is a rather blunt instrument, as it’s subject to luck and other fluctuations, but in this case it effectively illustrates what the team is missing as its winning percentage has flattened out.

For comparison’s sake, Pittsburgh has allowed 2.33 goals per game in its first 39 games of 2014-15. What’s the Pens’ goals-against average in the past 12? 2.33.

In short, offense is where the Penguins have been lacking, so it doesn’t take a hockey genius to see that Malkin and Crosby need to score more than they have recently. (In fact, Crosby’s goal-scoring decline has been a season-long issue.)

No matter whether Malkin and Crosby look to shoot more or they get surrounded by better linemates, it’s necessary for the Penguins to get more from their best two players.

Even with Perron and Hornqvist on the ice, this team isn’t deep enough to contend for a Stanley Cup without the big boys chipping in goals regularly.

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