Statistical slices on the Pittsburgh Penguins:
• Let it rip, Geno: Despite averaging more than a point per game (1.06) in 2018-19, Evgeni Malkin had a relatively down season that was often defined by ill-timed giveaways and long stretches of lukewarm five-on-five play. He also scored just 0.31 goals per game, which is the second-lowest rate of his distinguished career (he had 0.29 per game in 2012-13). Whether he didn't trust his shot or whether he just didn't get the same caliber of scoring chances, Malkin didn't show the same level of aggression in terms of firing pucks at the net. Malkin averaged 2.75 shots per game this past season, by far the lowest rate of his NHL tenure. His career average, by contrast, is 3.4 shots per game. Malkin is at his best when he's slashing toward the net and taking lots of short-distance shots. The Penguins need Malkin to rediscover that aggression -- and make fewer misguided passes -- in 2019-20.
• Exceeding expectations: Matt Murray enjoyed a resurgent season, raising his save rate from .907 in 2017-18 to .919 in 2018-19 while also carrying a heavier workload down the stretch. And Murray, 25, in line to receive a long-term deal that could pay him $6-plus million annually, turned away plenty of difficult shots that other goalies would have let slip past them. Murray allowed 84 goals during five-on-five play in 2018-19, according to Natural Stat Trick. His expected goals allowed total -- which adjusts for the shot quality, shot location and game situation -- was 93 during even-strength situations. Murray ranked second among all net minders in goals saved above average, placing just behind the Stars' Ben Bishop. In 2017-18, by contrast, Murray allowed 98 even-strength goals but was expected to allow only 84. The Penguins are fighting against Father Time and are facing a borderline identity crisis in terms of playing style, but Murray's re-establishing himself as an upper-tier goalie was a huge win for the franchise.
• Breaking through: After being traded from the Panthers to the Penguins, Nick Bjugstad became more of a scoring threat. Bjugstad averaged nearly three shots per game in Pittsburgh (2.94) after unleashing less than two per game in Florida (1.88), and he raised his goals per game total to 0.28 (0.16 with the Panthers). After the trade, Bjugstad did a much better job of getting his shots on the net. According to Hockey-Reference, 73.4 percent of his shot attempts with the Penguins reached the goalie. In Florida earlier in the season, that rate was just 57.1 percent. Bjugstad actually had the highest rate of shot attempts that reached the net among all Penguins who skated in at least 30 regular-season games. If Bjugstad gets back to scoring 20 goals per season, it would take some pressure off an aging roster that relies so heavily on its stars.
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