ShareThis Page
Penguins

Penguins Prediction Rewind: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin still eat up ice time

Jonathan Bombulie
| Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, 5:03 a.m.
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby kiss the Stanley Cup after beating the Predator in the Stanley Cup Final Sunday, June 11 , 2017 at Bridgestone Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby kiss the Stanley Cup after beating the Predator in the Stanley Cup Final Sunday, June 11 , 2017 at Bridgestone Arena.

Note: Last summer, beat writer Jonathan Bombulie made a series of predictions leading up to the start of the 2017-18 season. Some of them were hilariously off the mark. In this series, Bombulie will explain what he was thinking and where his logic went off course.

THE PREDICTION

Unlike last season, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin won’t both average less than 20 minutes of ice time per game.

THE RATIONALE

— Crosby and Malkin are both on the other side of 30 now, but their play hasn’t slowed down appreciably. Crosby’s goal total of 44 last year was his biggest since 2009-10. Malkin’s total of 33 was his largest since 2011-12. Both players still prefer more ice time than less and they’re physically capable of handling it.

— Coach Mike Sullivan could afford to roll four lines fairly evenly in the past largely because of the quality of his third- and fourth-line centers, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen. With Bonino and Cullen gone via free agency, his bottom two lines will be centered by Carter Rowney, Jay McClement or a third-line player GM Jim Rutherford acquires in a trade. It seems likely Sullivan will be more tempted to double-shift Crosby and Malkin in big spots more than he has in the past.

READER REACTION

In a Twitter poll, 70 percent of voters thought Crosby and Malkin would both average less than 20 minutes of ice time per game. A comment from Facebook:

“The really scary scenario is Malkin or Crosby being out for several games. Then you might see two lines centered by McKegg and McClement, neither of whom is the real McCoy.”

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

The specific prediction – “Maybe Malkin plays fewer than 20 minutes per game, but Crosby probably won’t” – was right on the money.

Crosby’s ice time went up to 20:41 per game after sitting at 19:53 the previous season. Malkin’s ice time went up slightly, from 18:37 to 18:59.

The Penguins’ depth chart at center changed dramatically throughout the season. Carter Rowney and Greg McKegg centered the bottom six on opening night. They were pushed out of the lineup by trades for Riley Sheahan in October and Derick Brassard in February.

The trades didn’t have an appreciable impact on Crosby’s minutes. In fact, he averaged 19:54 before the Penguins added Sheahan, 20:21 after the Penguins added Brassard and 20:56 in between.

The biggest reason his ice-time total went up from the previous season was probably Sullivan’s penchant for using Crosby to take important defensive zone draws, especially late in games. He didn’t do that as much when Cullen and Bonino were on the roster.

THE FLAWS IN THE LOGIC

The logic wasn’t flawed, per se, but the whole discussion was unnecessarily complicated.

For as long as his star centers hold up physically, Sullivan is going to play Crosby around 20 or 21 minutes per game and Malkin around 18 or 19. Deviation from that standard will be measured in seconds, not minutes, and will probably be due to circumstances more than a grand plan involving elaborate double-shifting scenarios.

LESSONS LEARNED

For a coach, handing out ice time is more an art than a science. When making predictions, it’s probably best to discuss such topics in broad strokes.

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me