Tracking Malkin: Part One

After a convincing 5-1 win over the Boston Bruins, the Penguins continue to show the importance of being a four line team.

Evgeni Malkin played just 16:53 in the victory to continue a notable trend.

“Geno” has had a pretty stellar career by any standard in any era. Heading into 2016-2017 he’d suited up in 644 regular season games, posting 295 goals and 465 assists for 760 points. That’s a 1.18 points per game average maintained over 10 seasons.

He’s only once had less points than games played, tallying 37 points in 43 games during an injury filled 2010-2011 year.

What’s remarkable is that he seems to be more productive the less time he spends on the ice. I first covered this topic for Tough Call Blog last season. Malkin Should Get Less Ice Time.

This article only covered from January 2016 to round 1 of the 2016 playoffs, so I wanted to get a larger sample and see if the stats worked the same. I took the largest possible sample, Malkin’s entire regular season career up to 2016, and crunched the numbers. Here’s what I found:

Between 2006 and 2016, Malkin had more than 20 minutes of ice time in 368 regular season games. The Penguins collected just 178 wins and 193 losses (141 regulation, 52 OT or shootout) for a not so exciting 0.483 winning percentage. Malkin himself did pretty well, putting up almost a goal per win (173) and 410 points, for 1.11 points per game. But the team wasn’t successful.

On the other hand, he skated for less than 20 minutes 312 times. The Pens picked up a dazzling 228 wins and 84 losses (66 in regulation). The winning percentage rose to 0.731, and Malkin’s PPG average increased to 1.27 on the strength of 138 goals and an amazing 397 points, or just 13 less than he had in 56 more games at 20 plus minutes.

What’s even more, in 132 of those games Malkin had less than 18 minutes of time on ice. The Penguins winning percentage increased even more to .878 with 116 wins. Only 11 of those regular season losses came in regulation. Only 11 regulation losses in 10 years when he plays less than 18 minutes! And guess what? Only FOUR of those happened when he skated for less than 17:00 (66-4-2, .909 winning % over 10 seasons).

Malkin’s individual PPG average in career games under 18 minutes played is a whopping 1.27. When he plays less than 17 minutes, it’s a mind blowing 1.47!

Based on these numbers, it stands to reason Evgeni Malkin should probably play somewhere between 15-19 minutes in order to maximize both personal and team success.

I’ve heard the arguments against this data. Basing things on Time on Ice alone can be misleading due to a lot of uncontrollable factors. This isn’t wrong, so I have some defending to do. But each week I’ll pick one of those arguments and try to show how the stats remain irrefutable.

Be sure to come along for the ride.

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