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Updated 16 minutes ago
The Schultz Show
The most impressive interpretation of defenseman Justin Schultz's 39 points in 53 games this season comes through in his production relative to his ice time (1,026 minutes through Friday).
Dating to the 2007-08 season, on just 30 occasions has a defenseman in the league averaged more than 2.0 points per 60 minutes of ice time with at least 250 minutes logged, according to www.Corsica.hockey. Schultz's rate this season, 2.29, ranks 11th among those 30.
Kris Letang, for comparison's sake, averaged 2.12 points per 60 minutes of ice time in 2015-16 when he tallied a career-high 67 points in 71 games and 2.59 per 60 during the lockout-shortened 2012-13.
Unlike Letang, whose points-per-game rate (1.09) in 2012-13 ranked as the best in the past decade by an NHL defenseman with at least 20 games played, adjusting the point production for ice time is instructive in Schultz's case.
If judged strictly by points per game, Schultz's rate this season, 0.74, ranks 45th among defensemen with at least 20 games played in a season dating to 2007-08.
Prospect Oskar Sundqvist has been the victim of some terrible timing this season.
When he was tearing up the AHL to the tune of 14 goals and 30 points in his first 28 games this season, the Penguins were healthy up front.
When the NHL club finally had some injuries and needed reinforcements from Wilkes-Barre, Sundqvist slipped into a scoring slump that has seen him record no goals and three assists in 15 games since New Year's Eve. He also missed about two weeks with a concussion.
The Penguins remain bullish on his future.
“He's worked on his offensive game, yet he's not cheating at all,” associate general manager Jason Botterill said. “He's still strong, two-way, excellent on the PK, excellent in front of the net. It's got us excited. We see more offensive potential in him when he gets to the National Hockey League level. He could easily be playing games for us down the stretch.”
— Jonathan Bombulie
Twice since Jan. 18, the Penguins put together three-game streaks in which they did not surrender a power-play goal. But since the end of their bye week (Jan. 8), they also have had streaks of five and three games in which they allowed at least one power-play goal in each outing.
Several members of the Penguins, including coach Mike Sullivan, said earlier this week they see recent results as a sign of progress for the penalty kill.
A multitude of shot and goal-projection metrics beg to differ. During four-on-five short-handed situations, the Penguins allowed shots and attempts at higher rates during the past two months than during October and November, according to www.Corsica.hockey. And their rates since the end of the bye week are higher than from December.
Sullivan indicated the search for lasting solutions to the penalty kill's troubles continues.
“I think we're using more people, and part of the rationale there is to have more energy, to apply more pressure to certain areas of the rink,” Sullivan said.
Short-handed time-on-ice totals have noticeably dwindled for Eric Fehr, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino, though all three remain relied upon. On the flip side, Chris Kunitz and Tom Kuhnhackl entered the regular penalty-kill rotation in the past two months.
A COACH'S LIFE
Tampa Bay assistant coach Rick Bowness broke an NHL record previously held by Scotty Bowman last week when he spent his 2,165th game behind the bench, whether as a head coach or assistant coach.
Penguins assistant Jacques Martin isn't far behind. An unofficial count has Martin at 1,856. That's more than his Penguins coaching counterparts Mike Sullivan (738) and Rick Tocchet (625) combined.
— Jonathan Bombulie
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