Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014-15

Joseph SykesContributor IIIAugust 26, 2014

Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014-15

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Penguins may be one of the best teams on paper, and skaters ranging from Sidney Crosby to ex-Penguin Matt Niskanen posted some of their best numbers last season.

    While obviously winning the Stanley Cup is of the utmost importance to these players, they probably would like to be the leader in each stat category not only on their team but in the entire league in 2014-15.

    In this slideshow, we’ll go over the different stats and make educated guesses as to who will lead the Pens in each of them by the end of the 2014-15 regular season.

Goals: Sidney Crosby

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    2014-15 Count: 42

    This one wasn’t a very hard decision. Out of the past five seasons, Crosby finished atop the goals-scored category three times for the Penguins. It’s also fair to say he could have made it five in a row had he not missed 60 games in 2011-12 due to concussion-related symptoms and only played in 36 games in 2012-13 due to the lockout.

    As the best player in the world, you are expected to be in the running for the lead when it comes to stats like points, goals and assists. Crosby did just that last year, finishing seventh in goals in the league and first on the Penguins with 36. And don't forget, he was also first in both assists (68) and points (104) in the entire league.

    After coming off such a successful season in which he won the three of the most coveted awards that the NHL can bestow on a player (Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Hart Memorial Trophy), Crosby will not be slowing down.

    He won’t hit the 50-goal mark because he will still be getting used to the new look on offense, but he will get closer than he did last year thanks to some weak competition in the Metropolitan Division. It is safe to say, however, that he will lead the Penguins once again in the goals category.

Assists: Evgeni Malkin

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    2014-15 Count: 60

    Second-line center Evgeni Malkin is destined for another breakout year. It may not be as dominant as the 2011-12 season when he netted 50 goals and 59 assists for 109 points, but he will be dangerously close to hitting the 90-point mark thanks primarily to the number of apples he will post this year.

    He will be playing on an overhauled second line, which may not make any sense that he gets this award, but hear me out. 

    Steve Downie, who could potentially flank Malkin on the left side, is a gritty, in-your-face forward who works well with superstars. Patric Hornqvist, on the other hand, is a more all-around player than the man he will be replacing, James Neal, at right wing. Malkin would work well with both men, and we should see a lot of points scored by both Hornqvist and Malkin.

    Give Malkin a little bit of time to get to know his new teammates and expect sparks to fly. This upgraded roster will be an exciting storyline to watch this year as everyone is expected to produce a lot of points.

Plus/Minus: Pascal Dupuis

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2014-15 Plus/Minus: Plus-28

    If Niskanen were still a member of the Penguins, I would probably give this honor to him but he isn’t. The now-Washington Capital led the Penguins and the NHL for a good deal of the 2013-14 season in the plus/minus category and would eventually finish sixth in the league and first on the Pens with a rating of plus-33.

    This is a hard statistic to forecast because it usually is a player from the best performing line on a team, and that in itself is difficult to determine. So for now, I’m giving the award to Pascal Dupuis if he ends up playing on the first line with with Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

    Dupuis was sidelined last December due to an ACL tear and only ended up plus-six when he was on the top line. The top line always has the most on its shoulders heading into a season.

    In 2012-13, he put up a great plus-31 rating, which was the best that year for the team. If he can still pump out one more year of solid play on the top line, which could be tough after coming off such a bad injury at his age, the 35-year-old could finish once again as the team's plus/minus leader one more time around.

Penalty Minutes: Steve Downie

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    Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

    2014-15 Count: 120

    Bringing in Downie was a great signing as it gave the Pens a huge boost in the toughness department. The winger logged 106 PIMs with both the Colorado Avalanche and the Philadelphia Flyers last season, which wasn't nearly as much as the league leader, Tom Sestito (213), but it was still a lot. 

    For the Penguins last year, Tanner Glass led them in the department with 90 PIMs with the next player being Robert Bortuzzo, who had only 74. Glass is not the same type of player that Downie is though. Glass was a liability who had little offensive talent. He technically was the team’s enforcer, but in reality, he never really struck fear into the souls of his opponents.

    Downie, on the other hand, is a hard-hitting forward who can work well with a team’s top players. He is a threat in more ways than one on the ice, according to this scouting report by The Hockey News: “Assets: Is extremely disruptive for the opposition. Hits like a truck and displays decent hockey sense with the puck. Has two-way ability and can compliment skilled forwards rather nicely.”

    His flaws include taking bad penalties due to his “kamikaze style” as the scouting report states, which could be a difference maker in certain games. As he matures, he will start to calm down and see the great opportunity he has now as a Penguin. 

Points: Sidney Crosby

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2014-15 Count: 98

    Once again, Crosby will lead the Penguins in points, but there will be other stars around the league looking to dethrone him as the NHL points leader.

    While he still does have the chance to get quite close to last year’s points total, players like Ryan Getzlaf and Steven Stamkos are always a threat to knock the past winner down a peg.

    It will be interesting to see how Crosby builds off of his phenomenal performance from last year, but of all the Pens, he will be the least concerned about his stats this season. All he cares about is captaining his club to its fourth Stanley Cup.