Penguins Notes: On Marchands, Trends and Steigerwalds

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 5: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins lands a right to the head of Matt Niskanen #2 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during a second period fight on December 5, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Last night, perennial pest Brad Marchand caught Matt Niskanen with a slew-foot behind the net and, minutes later, started a fight with the Penguins defenseman. Today, John Beattie wrote on www.nesn.com that, despite the nefariousness of Marchand's initial slew-foot, the fight was a testament to his character. That fighting Niskanen, who held a 3-inch, 17-pound size advantage on Marchand, was a selfless act of making things right.

He called it a "classy move" and said:

The fact that he offered the (much larger) Penguin a chance to fight should put a smile on my fellow old school hockey fans' mugs. That's hockey.

Here's the slew and the fight:

Niskanen isn't a fighter. He's a puck-moving, non-physical defenseman. He hadn't taken a penalty in eight games for this, a number that would be nine had a fight not been picked with him. He lost a fight last year to Sidney CrosbyRemember?

Marchand, meanwhile, seemingly found his pesty pedigree in last year's playoffs, where he was interminably effective producing and agitating for the Stanley Cup champions.

Let me throw out another example. What if Marchand slew-footed Sergei Gonchar and then got in a fight with him? Gonchar is even bigger than Niskanen, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing about 20 more pounds. Would that have been honorable? 

Not in the slightest. Only in the screwed up mind of some NHL observers is slew-footing someone and then fighting him an act of honor. 

*The Penguins had one of their rougher games of the year last night in their loss against the Bruins. That's to be expected when you're missing three starting defensemen, in Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Deryk Engelland

The Trib's Josh Yohe mentioned the sloppiness of the Penguins' play in his game story last night.

The Penguins acknowledge that Boston is playing terrific hockey, but were disappointed with their own play. Aside from the power-play issues, the Penguins looked sloppy throughout. They finished with seven giveaways and misfired on 10 shot attempts.

The only problem is that the stats included don't paint a picture of the Penguins' sloppiness. 

The Penguins recorded 46 shots on goal last night, only scoring on one. By missing 10 shots, they attempted 56 shots in total total, meaning they missed the net on about 18-percent of their shots.

In perspective, the Penguins have averaged about 34.3 shots on goal per game, second in the NHL, and average missing the target 13.4 times per game. They've missed more shots than any other team in the league.

On average, the Penguins attempt 47.7 shots per game, and miss the net 28-percent of the time. In terms of shots on goal, it was actually one of the Penguins' more accurate games. The Bruins, on the other hand, had 27 shots on goal, but also recorded 22 shots off target, well, well worse than their season average.

As for the seven giveaways, the Penguins have averaged 6.5 giveaways per game this season. NHL.com has the Penguins as only committing six giveaways, but those numbers could've changed after Yohe submitted his story. Either way, the Penguins operated around their average in this department.

So, yes, it was an obviously poor game by an injury-depleted squad against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. But, in this case, if the stats show that they were sloppy yesterday, they've been sloppy all season.

*Traveling horror show John Steigerwald ran an opinion column in yesterday's Washington Observer Reporter. In it, he laid out why he believes Alexander Ovechkin was a steroid user.

As Charlie posted earlier, Steigerwald is essentially a professional troll, who delights in sharing contrary, logic-defying opinions at times. He will forever be remembered as the guy who called out San Francisco Giants fan Brian Stow for wearing a Giants jersey to Dodger Stadium the day he was beaten into a coma.

On Ovechkin and steroid use, well, he's right that there have been whispers about him using spread, even within earshot of my non-insider, auditory senses. Speculation is one thing, but speculation without any basis in fact is another. Even when you add in the caveat that it's only your opinion.

Have a beer at the bar, share that thought. But, even as a columnist, not an investigative journalist, be a little more careful. This is not the same demon as bemoaning the Steelers' play calling in the same piece. We know what plays they called, in what situations they were in. This is fact. We can agree or disagree upon whether they were called right.

In the article, he incorrectly connected Ovechkin with a doctor known for distributing steroids, something Steigerwald weakly owned up to yesterday. He also assumed that his shot and goal numbers dropped because of a lack of steroids, though this is a very meek correlation without definitive causation.

Puck Daddy's Ryan Lambert took Steigerwald to task, picking apart a number of things got wrong. Steigerwald didn't like it, and brought Lambert onto his TribLive Radio broadcast today

I could write more on the encounter, but I highly encourage giving it a listen, only because of how maddening the whole thing is. And for the fact that he implies Ovechkin's mother was on steroids, and can't disprove Lambert's assertion that Sidney Crosby is a vampire.

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