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Penguins' record boosted by soft schedule

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 10:50 p.m.

The Penguins have bolted out of the gate, boasting an 11-5-0 record entering play Saturday night that matches last year's mark through 16 games.

Fueled by points leader Sidney Crosby and a resurgent Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pens are outclassing the new-look Metropolitan Division and are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs for the highest point total in the Eastern Conference.

However, are the Penguins a Stanley Cup-caliber club or merely a good team beating up on the league's also-rans?

Penguins opponents this season have collected slightly more than half of their maximum points possible, well below the NHL average for points percentage in 2013-14. Only the Devils, Capitals and Islanders — fellow members of the Metropolitan Division — have enjoyed a softer schedule thus far.

Weak in, weak out

Team Opp. point % Rank

Devils .506 30

Capitals .507 29

Islanders .510 28

Penguins .513 27

Lightning .532 26

2013-14 NHL Avg. .556 ---

Source: ESPN.com

By comparison, Penguins opponents had a .555 winning percentage last season while playing in the three-division-per-conference alignment.

One of two teams with a winning record in their new division, the Penguins are dominating Metro foes (outscoring division opponents 26-15) but only pulling even against outsiders (23-23).

So far, this Penguins squad is arguably the least impressive squad of the Dan Bylsma era, according to Simple Rating System (SRS), which ranks teams by their goal differential and strength of schedule. SRS is expressed as a number of goals above or below average per game, with zero being average and a positive number meaning a team is above average.

Year SRS Rank

2008-09* 0.28 7

2009-10 0.17 10

2010-11 0.43 4

2011-12 0.71 2

2012-13 0.91 2

2013-14 0.30 12

*Bylsma took over as coach with 25 games remaining in the regular season

Source: Hockey-Reference.com

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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