Empty Netter Assists - 10-21-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-So far, so good for Christian Ehrhoff (above).

-Welcome back Robert Bortuzzo ... to practice.

-Andrew Ebbett and Scott Harrington were assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-EN Says: With neither player appearing in a game and the rest of the Penguins' roster getting healthier than it was during training camp, there really wasn't any reason for either of them to be on the NHL roster. Being assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they can get some ice time.

-After struggling on the third line last season, Brandon Sutter is digging life on the second line.

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-Today would've been the 65th birthday of former Penguins forward Michel Briere. A third-round pick in 1969, Briere's brief NHL career amounted to 76 games, 12 goals, 32 assists and 44 points with the 1969-70 Penguins. His assist total set a franchise record at the time. During that spring's playoffs, Briere appeared in 10 games and scored eight points. One of his points was an overtime goal in a 3-2 win in Game 4 in a quarterfinal series against the California Seals. It was the first playoff series win in franchise history. In the offseason, Briere suffered severe injuries in a car wreck in Quebec. Despite multiple surgeries, he died as a result of his injuries, April 13, 1971. In response, the team retired his No. 21. To date, only Briere and Mario Lemieux have had their numbers retired by the franchise. Today, the team's rookie of the year award is named after him.

-Happy 55th birthday to former Penguins goaltender Vincent Tremblay. Acquired in the 1983 offseason, Tremblay's entire Penguins' career amounted to four games, a 0-4-0 record, a 6.00 goals against average and .831 save percentage. While Tremblay's numbers with the Penguins are the furthest thing from being remarkable, his presence led to the most important move in franchise history. Late in the 1983-84, the Penguins suspiciously demoted respectable goaltender Roberto Romano to Baltimore of the AHL and recalled Tremblay, a career journeyman, late in the season "to see what he can do." All Tremblay could do was lose his four appearances for the Penguins to "help" them finish in last place and "earn" a chance to draft Mario Lemieux with the first overall pick in the 1984 draft. Tremblay was released in the 1984 offseason.

-After the Jump: Kings defenseman Slava Voynov is suspended after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.

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Fun with math, standard deviation and James Conner

Written by Sam Werner on .

This was originally going to be part of my Virginia Tech breakdown post (which is still coming later tonight or possibly tomorrow morning), but I ended diving into it deeper than I thought I would, so I thought I would break it out into it's own post.

James Conner looked a lot better in Pitt's 21-16 win against Virginia Tech Thursday night than he did during the three-game losing streak, but was he back to his pace from the first three games? His yards per carry was back up to 5.3 after being at 4.0 in the last two games, but there's something that felt off in this game, though, and a deep dive into the numbers confirmed it for me. Hold on, it's about to get real math nerdy.

I felt like Conner was much more boom-or-bust against Virginia Tech than he was early in the season, and the numbers confirm that. If you take his carries and throw out the shortest and longest ones to control for extremes, the standard deviation from the mean on his carries was 5.82 yards.

(Note: For anyone who forgot high school math, standard deviation is a measure that determines, on average, how far away each number in a set is from the overall mean of the set. A high standard deviation means a widely varying set, while a low standard deviation means a more clustered set of numbers.)

I did the same for every other game this season and, sure enough, this was the highest standard deviation in a set of carries for Conner this year (with the extremes thrown out). Here are the results:

Opponent Standard deviation (yards)
FIU 4.61
IOWA 5.50
AKRON 3.42

In the first three games, his standard deviation ranged from 4.61-4.96 yards. The only game that came close to Virginia Tech in this measure was Iowa, which came in at 5.50 yards. That makes sense, since Conner was so effective in the first half of the Iowa game, but essentially hit a wall in the second half.

Basically, the takeaway from this is that while Conner did look better against Virginia Tech, it wasn't really a return to the style and numbers he was putting up earlier in the season. The higher standard deviation implies that he had some big runs, but also got stuffed at the line a bunch. A look at the raw numbers back that up, too. Conner had four of his 16 carries go for 13 yards or more, but also eight (half of his total) go for two yards or less. It's much better for Pitt's offense is Conner is gaining 5-6 yards consistently, rather than going zero yards, zero yards, 15 yards.

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Playing on second line has 'been awesome' for Sutter - 10-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Last season, anytime center Brandon Sutter generated some chemistry with a new winger, an injury or some other factor would force a change in linemates for him. As a result, the third line failed to contribute much sustained offense in 2013-14.

This season, injuries have in part made it necessary for Sutter to man the second line with Pascal Dupuis and Evgeni Malkin on his wings. During Thursday's 3-2 home loss to the Stars, that line had generated a few scoring chances from down low in the offensive zone.

Then once again, a injury forced a shuffling of linemates for Sutter.

Just past the midway point of that game, with the Penguins up 2-1, Dupuis was injured when he was struck by a shot puck in the neck. Dupuis would leave the game on a stretcher and be replaced by Blake Comeau. That line did not pose as much of a danger with Comeau and eventually, the Penguins lost after allowing two goals in the third period.

Thankfully, Dupuis was not seriously injured and was back in the lineup the next game against the Islanders Saturday where he was back on the second line with Sutter.

Recently, Sutter was asked about centering the second line and playing with steadier linemates:

Dupuis can play both wing positions. How much of a luxury is that?

That’s got to be kind of tricky. You have to be comfortable handling pucks on your backhand as much as on your forehand. That’s kind of a tricky part of the game but he’s pretty good on that side too. I’m sure whatever side he goes to, he’s comfortable with.

Your line created a few scoring chances down low before Dupuis left the game.

"Up until he got injured, I thought that was probably the best game we played for the most part for sure. It felt like we had the puck pretty much the whole time. That’s a good feeling, especially that second period.

Having someone like Malkin on the wing has to be nice.

It’s been fun. It’s been good. He’s pretty creative with the puck obviously. It takes a bit of getting used to. For the most part, it’s been pretty good. I’m just trying to kind of read off him. It’s different than guys I played with in the past so it take some getting used to. Communicating has been good. He’s been pretty good on the ice talking too and working through stuff. It’s gone well so far.

After all the changes on the third line last season, you have to be pretty happy on the second line.

"It’s been awesome. It’s been fun. It’s an opportunity. It’s something that I haven’t had a chance to play with a guy like the last couple of years. I’m excited to get the chance to do it."

Maybe being a winger on your line is a curse with regards to injuries.

(Smirking) "Hopefully not."

(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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My 2014 AP ballot: Week 8

Written by Sam Werner on .

Each week, I'll go through my AP Top 25 ballot and give a few thoughts on how I voted and how it compares to the overall poll results.

No major shake-ups at the top of the poll this week. The one game that was supposed to provide some sort of separation (Florida State/Notre Dame) didn't really, since the Seminoles and Irish basically went toe-to-toe with one another and, while Florida State now has a very clear inside track to a playoff spot, it's hard to ding the Irish too much for being one play away from knocking off the defending champs on their home turf. I do think there are some clear tiers starting to develop, but this feels like a season where things are going to start getting messy real soon (basically, as soon as one of the Mississippi schools loses). With that, here's this week's ballot...

  1. Mississippi State
  2. Ole Miss
  3. Florida State
  4. Auburn
  5. Alabama
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Oregon
  8. Michigan State
  9. Georgia
  10. Baylor
  11. TCU
  12. Arizona
  13. Kansas State
  14. Arizona State
  15. Ohio State
  16. Oklahoma
  17. East Carolina
  18. Nebraska
  19. Utah
  20. Marshall
  21. Clemson
  22. West Virginia
  23. UCLA
  24. USC
  25. Duke

- I kept my top three the same as last week. Florida State had a chance to move up to No. 2 if they had beaten Notre Dame convincingly, but that didn't happen, so the Seminoles stay at No. 3. Really, Ole Miss and Florida State are virtually neck-and-neck for me (and not that far behind Mississippi State). Both are excellent teams with some noticeable flaws, particularly in the run game. Those three teams are a pretty clear top tier to me right now.

- The second tier of teams is the trio whose only losses came on the road to those top three teams, so I basically have a mirror image in Nos. 4-6. Auburn lost at Mississippi State, Alabama lost at Ole Miss and Notre Dame lost at Florida State.

- I did think long and hard about sliding Oregon up into that group, particularly since the Ducks' win against Michigan State is arguably more impressive than anything Auburn, Alabama and Notre Dame have done. If you have the Ducks up there, I wouldn't fault you. Ultimately, though, that loss at home to a good-not-great Arizona team knocks them down just a peg.

- Really, I think you could make an argument for any order between 7 and 15. All of these are good one-loss teams that are still very much in the playoff discussion. I tried to stick to head-to-head results, where applicable, but there are some cases (such as Arizona vs. Oregon) where the overall resume is very different, so the Ducks go higher. I was particularly impressed this week with Georgia, Kansas State and TCU. The Bulldogs beat a dangerous Arkansas team, Kansas State won in Norman (and got back some field goal karma from that loss to Auburn earlier this year) and TCU demolished a really solid Oklahoma State team.

- Stanford and Texas A&M both dropped out of the rankings. The Aggies, in particular, are interesting to me because the further they fall, the more we need to remember to devalue Mississippi State's and Ole Miss' wins against them. I still think the Mississippi schools deserve the top two spots, but those wins don't count for as much anymore.

- I have Marshall at No. 20 this week after the Herd obliterated FIU this weekend. Unfortunately, Marshall's schedule just isn't close to good enough to justify them earning a playoff spot, even if they keep blowing everybody out. That said, the race for the "Group of Five" New Year's bowl spot will be interesting between Marshall and East Carolina. At first, I thought the Pirates might have to lose for the Herd to pass them, but now I'm not so sure. If Marshall and Rakeem Cato keep this pace up, I could see them passing ECU even if the Pirates finish with just one loss. Regardless, like I said, Marshall's schedule isn't good enough to warrant serious playoff discussion, but the Herd are doing just about everything you could ask against the weak slate.

- West Virginia enters the poll at No. 22 after their win against Baylor. The Mountaineers came close against Oklahoma and Alabama, and finally got that big win this weekend. They could end up being a factor in the Big 12 title race.

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Empty Netter Assists - 10-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Andrew Ebbett (above) patiently waits for a chance to play.

-The Penguins mad a few changes with their defensemen on the penalty kill.

-Per Evgeni Malkin's Twitter account, the Penguins had an early Halloween:

-After the Jump: Frederik Andersen makes some history.

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