Penguins Notebook: This season's leaders are ...
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PHILADELPHIA -- The most important number to come out of the Penguins' season, of course, was their 47-27-8 record, which is good for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
But every season generates a considerable number of statistics, and the Penguins' leaders in various individual categories in 2007-08 were:
• Goals: Evgeni Malkin, 47.
• Assists: Malkin, 59.
• Points: Malkin, 106.
• Winning goals: Ryan Malone, 6.
• Plus-minus: Sidney Crosby, plus-18.
• Penalty minutes: Georges Laraque, 147.
• Shots: Malkin, 272.
• Hits: Brooks Orpik, 239.
• Blocked shots: Hal Gill, 143.
• Faceoff percentage (over 300 taken): Crosby, 51.4 percent.
Being a healthy scratch for the Penguns' 2-0 loss to Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center cost Crosby a chance to have the highest points-per-game average in the NHL.
Crosby finished the season with 24 goals and 48 assists in 53 games, an average of 1.358 points per game.
Had Crosby played and recorded two points, it would have upped his average to 1.37 and nudged him past Washington left winger Alex Ovechkin, the NHL scoring champion, who averaged 1.365.
In addition to Crosby, the Penguins scratched forwards Jeff Taffe and Tyler Kennedy, defenseman Darryl Sydor and goalie Dany Sabourin.
Left winger Gary Roberts, who missed the previous 43 games with leg and ankle injuries, returned to the lineup, as did center Kris Beech, who hadn't played in 19 games because of a broken wrist.
Roberts logged 12 minutes, 31 seconds of ice time, including 4:24 on the power play, while Beech played 8:39 and was on the ice for both Flyers' goals.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's strong play after returning from a high ankle sprain helped to make the Penguins' Atlantic Division championship possible, and one of the most striking improvements in his game has been in his puckhandling.
Fleury still doesn't pass the puck as efficiently as, say, Martin Brodeur of New Jersey, but he has gotten better at moving it to -- or setting it up for -- his defensemen, which makes their jobs a lot easier.
"He's starting to learn, as a goalie, that most [opposing] forwards aren't going to hit you [when you're holding the puck], because they're going to get a penalty," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "He's learned to have a little more patience with it. He's also making good decisions with the puck. You don't need a guy throwing 60-foot passes to the forwards in the neutral zone."
"I just wanted him to listen to us, and that's something he's gotten better at over the course of his career. Sometimes, he'd be a little nervous with the puck, maybe fire it around the boards. Now, he'll listen to what we want him to do. That's helped our transition game tremendously."
The Penguins finished the regular season with 2,269 shots on goal, an average of 27.7 per game.
Coach Michel Therrien acknowledged they sometimes are guilty of overpassing the puck instead of putting it on goal, but was quick to add that maintaining control of the puck isn't necessarily a bad play.
"We're a team that likes to manage the puck really well," he said. "Yes, there are times that we're thinking we could take more shots. But there are times you've got to manage the puck, work for your changes. You don't want to take high-risk plays.
"There are times to shoot the puck and there are times not to shoot the puck, try to control the play. With the type of players we've got -- you've got Malkin who likes to control the puck and has a great shot, you've got Crosby, you've got [Marian] Hossa -- those are the type of players who like to control the puck and work for their chances."
First Published April 7, 2008 12:00 am