Marshall: The metrics behind Crosby’s MVP case


Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.



It’s easy to point to Sidney Crosby as the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy, an award presented annually to “the player judged to be most valuable to his team,” simply because of his 17-point lead over Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf in the NHL scoring race.

But there’s more than meets the eye to Crosby’s 102 point season, especially when you dive into advanced metrics to see how he’s impacted the offensive production of the Penguins as a whole.

Let’s start at even-strength, where the Penguins have scored 157 goals this season. Crosby has been on the ice for 67 of those even-strength goals. Almost half (42 percent) of all the goals scored by the Penguins.

Out of Crosby’s presence on the ice for those 67 goals, he’s registered a point on 57 of them. So not only has Crosby been on the ice for nearly half of the teams even-strength goals, he’s registered a point on 85 percent of all the goals he’s been on the ice for, a number that is tops for the Penguins roster this season.

But let’s dive into these numbers even further. Out of Crosby’s 57 even-strength points, 45 of them are defined as primary points. A primary point is a goal or first assist on a goal. This isn’t meant to diminish the second assist, which is more important than ever in today’s NHL, but it’s a testament to the direct impact that Crosby has on his club. In fact, of Crosby’s 102 total points this season, 68 of them are goals and primary assists. If you took Crosby’s second assists out of his point totals, he’d have the same number of points as the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews and would still be in the top 20 scorers in the NHL.

An important distinction to make in evaluating these numbers is Crosby’s quality of competition this season. In looking at the possession-based metrics of Crosby’s opponents, one thing is clear: coach Dan Bylsma has never put Crosby in more difficult situations than he has this year. Crosby is only starting 50 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, a number that is about 4 percent down from his yearly averages. Also, he’s facing competition that is roughly 30 percent more difficult than he’s ever experienced in his career based on shooting attempts alone.

Not only has Crosby produced offensively, he’s been just as potent defensively. The Penguins have allowed 148 goals against at even-strength this year, with Crosby only appearing on the ice for 50 of those goals against for 33 percent total.

The Penguins also face less shots when Crosby is on the ice, a testament to how well his line as possessed the puck this season. The Penguins average 24 shots against per 60 minutes that Crosby is on the ice. With Crosby averaging just over 21 minutes at even-strength per game, that equates to about 7.8 shots every three games. Only one Penguin is better in that regard; Matt Niskanen falls in at 23.3.

With the Stanley Cup playoffs slated to start in a week, Penguin fans can rest easy knowing that the Crosby show can continue for at least a first round performance. And if the regular season is any indication, the MVP-like performance should continue when the games really count.


Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof