Kasperi Kapanen has been lighting the world on fire for the Penguins as of late.
Since being benched on February 20th in the Penguins’ 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, Kapanen leads the Penguins with 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in their past nine games. On the season, Kapanen has 17 points (7 G, 10 A) in 22 games and is producing at a higher rate than he ever has in his career. Just one of his points came on the powerplay.
At even strength this season, Kapanen has been on the ice for 13 Penguins goals, good for the team lead. Though it is a bit early in the season to give a whole lot of weight to statistics like goals above replacement (GAR) due to the limited sample size, it’s still noteworthy that Kapanen ranks second in the entire NHL in even strength offense (EVO) GAR, per Evolving Hockey.
EVO can be inflated by puck luck or shooting percentage benders, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news (no I don’t), but the Penguins’ success putting the puck in the back of the net with Kapanen on the ice is due for a stern regression.
With Kapanen on the ice at even strength this season, the Penguins are converting on 16.7% of their shots on goal. That number alone screams that the lamp-lighting is due to dry up, but when you look at the quality of offense the Penguins create with Kapanen on the ice, it becomes even more apparent.
The Penguins are scoring 4.5 goals per hour at even strength with number 42 on the ice, but are creating just 2.2 expected goals per hour. Though Kapanen and his center Evgeni Malkin are above average finishers and will likely continue to exceed their expected goals totals, it is out of the question to assume the Penguins will find the back of the net at such a gaudy rate with Kapanen on the ice for the remainder of the season.
Thanks to Hockey Viz, we get a look at the Penguins’ offense with Kapanen on the ice at 5v5. The Penguins are getting very few looks in the most dangerous areas of the ice and have been settling for a flurry of shots from the top of the circles and the point.
This isn’t a doom and gloom article suggesting that Kapanen has been horrible. He hasn’t been, but expectations should be tempered moving forward. Aside from a very strong play-driving season in 2018-19, Kapanen has a history of being a slightly below-average offensive generator despite his decent finishing impacts.
Enjoy the hot streak while it lasts, but don’t fool yourself into thinking the Penguins don’t need any more flare up front.
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Data via Evolving Hockey
Visualization via Hockey Viz