The unofficial second half of the season is about to get underway and despite an injury riddled first half, the Pittsburgh Penguins somehow managed to put together one of the best records in the NHL. At 31-14-5, the Penguins sit 2nd in the Metropolitan division and 4th overall. All this despite 10+ game absences from Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Nick Bjugstad to name a few. In the 37 games Malkin has played, he’s been brilliant scoring 50 points and goaltender Tristan Jarry has been a rock in goal, earning an All-Star appearance with his stellar play.
However, the most impressive performance has been a team performance, not an individual one. A commitment to defense that was absent for much of last season and in the Penguins short-lived playoff run. The Penguins, who’s Achilles heel was limiting quick-strike offense last season, have done a complete 180 and have been one of the best teams in the NHL at stopping rushes before they begin. Pittsburgh is denying opponents entry into their end at the highest rate of any team in the league and are subsequently allowing the fewest scoring chances against off-the-rush. This commitment to team defense has helped them to a top-10 ranking in goals against.
So, how exactly have the Penguins gone from allowing a ton of chances against off-the-rush to the fewest in the NHL?
With the help of Sportlogiq data, Mike Kelly and Scott Stevens broke it down recently on NHL Network.