Saturday, November 21, 2009

Avalanche v. Flames - Scoring Chances #21


5B. CLARK18:26662:40103:0210
7T. HENSICK5:02130:00000:0000
8W. WOLSKI16:59952:08110:0400
9M. DUCHENE14:23131:06010:2000
10K. CUMISKEY14:49111:49002:0101
16D. TUCKER14:58012:54100:2000
22S. HANNAN24:45750:31002:5801
23M. HEJDUK14:04133:02112:4310
25C. STEWART9:56210:07000:0000
26P. STASTNY18:271141:15012:2100
27K. QUINCEY22:03781:59012:4010
28D. KOCI2:29010:00000:0000
37R. O'REILLY13:36131:24001:5301
40M. SVATOS9:02342:07100:0000
41C. ANDERSON49:4113124:16116:0011
44R. WILSON15:22440:07000:0400
52A. FOOTE4:13100:00001:1500
54D. JONES15:09850:00002:0011
55C. MCLEOD13:00220:11002:1900

PeriodTotalsEVPP5v3 PPSH5v3 SH

If you watched this game, you'd never come away with the idea that the Avalanche outchanced the Flames at even strength. They were outshot 29-21. They lost the Corsi battle 55-35 and even if you take out the blocked shots they were still down 35-31. But, my goodness, that's a lot of blocked shots. And many of them happened when Calgary would normally have generated a chance. Three or four times the Flames came into the Avalanche zone 3 on 2 and ended up getting a shot blocked (one good example was with about 13:50 left in the second period). It was uncanny but I think it had as much to do with poor shot selection by the Flames as it did any superior blocking talent by the Avalanche. I mean, these are odd man rushes! You've got more guys than them! Find a lane!

Regardless, the Avalanche did outchance the Flames and played what I thought was a pretty solid game. Even though they were often playing in their zone, the Flames were rarely able to move the puck into dangerous scoring areas and although Craig Anderson had to play well to preserve the win this was game was more of a "team effort" than some of the other Avalanche wins. The team offence was, however, essentially three forwards at EV. Stastny, Jones and the wonderful Wojtek Wolski gave the Flames fits all evening long. It's only by some cosmic joke that Stastny and Wolski ended the night -1. Or at least, that's what I've decided to credit for Quincey breaking his stick on the power play in the second period.

That broken stick play wasn't the funniest of the evening however. Late in the first Quincey was playing a Flame behind the net and the forward he was defending goes down. Immediately Quincey stops playing and looks to the ref to complain about a penalty that wasn't being called. What a guy. Focus on the game until you hear the whistle, son! Just like your buddy Scott Hannan who, in the dying seconds, most definitely deserved an interference penalty. There were only two or three seconds left so Hannan, correctly, decided that the only thing he needed to do was keep the Flame forward in front of him. So he used both hands. This is truly something the NHL should look at. I myself would be very much in favour of any penalty called in the last minute of the third period or overtime resulting in an automatic penalty shot. On more than one occasion I've seen players decide that the rulebook no longer matters when protecting a lead in the dying seconds, and the unfortunate thing is that they're exactly right. It should probably be changed.

Oilers v. Blackhawks - Mark 8:1-13

In the evening a large crowd had gathered. They had no reason to be proud of their hockey team so Quinn called his players together and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have been following this team for three years and have not once tasted the playoffs. If we send them off to another summer without playoffs they may break down and start cheering for a young, better, more exciting team."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flames Chances - Games 11 to 20

For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring chance metric, a player is given a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is given a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score, just like +/-. The graph is broken down into three game states, EV situations, PP situations (excluding 5v3) and SH situations (excluding 5v3). At EV I've also included a "scoring chance percentage" which is the number of "chances for" divided by the the total number of chances for both teams when a given player is on the ice. The players are all represented by their jersey numbers and initials. Today, we're going to be looking at the Calgary Flames. Special thanks go out especially to Kent Wilson who has been counting the chances are every Flames game this year as well as Dennis King for starting the scoring chances trend last season and Vic Ferrari for creating an application that makes the game-to-game tallying much easier. Below I'll present the raw data for games 10-20 and then 1-20 (for those interested, I also did an analysis of games 1-10 earlier in the season):

(Missing Game 14 at St Louis)

The Flames have fallen back to the rest of the Northwest division over these last ten games. I haven't yet tallied up Minnesota's chances but if their first ten games were any indication the results won't be good. Through games 11-20 of their respective schedules the Avalanche had a chance percentage of 46.0% while the Oilers were at 42.5%. The Flames are currently in the lead at 46.2%. The Northwest is not a very good division this year and may, in fact be the worst division in the NHL. Where we once has the SouthLEAST I think we may now have the NorthMESSED. I'm so clever. Anyway, because of this situation Calgary has a very good chance at taking the third playoff seed with a club that's played pretty poorly over the first quarter of the season whether their performance improves over the rest of they year or not.

These last ten games have looked a lot like the first ten games for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen. Both players continue to struggle and Jokinen continues to struggle more than Iginla. The trend for Iginla is worrying at this point though at least he has some outs. He's been taking a lot of defensive zone assignments, taking on some of the tougher competition and he's still been scoring at even strength. He hasn't been the dominant player the Flames are paying him to be, but he's still helping the team to win games. Olli Jokinen... well... not so much. He's only put up 7 points at even strength which leaves him in a tie for 140th in the league despite playing over 14 even strength minutes per game (second most among Flames forwards). Matt Fenwick mentioned that apparently Jokinen thinks he's been unlucky so far this year. Now, it may be true that he's hit some posts so far this year but his PDO number of 102.8 suggests that any regression may not help him out too much (though a lot of this is goaltending). His starting locations have also started to drift up closer to a 50/50 split between offensive and defensive zone starts without the results showing much improvement. Olli Jokinen is, to put it kindly in case his mother is reading, a complete and utter failure.

Another Flames stalwart having some difficulties over the last few games has been Robyn Regehr. In his recap of the 19th game against the Avalanche, Kent mentioned that Phaneuf and Regehr were given the tough match-ups for the first time in a while and "got their heads beat in." Now, this was certainly true of that game but that pair had also been hammered in a couple of games before that (game 15 v. New York and 17 at Buffalo) which would seem to imply that even against easier competition the pair was struggling. So is this the case? Accoring to Behind the Net (which I've relied upon a bunch throughout this piece for statistical information) Regehr and Phaneuf are in a dead heat with Cory Sarich (who's doing even worse than them... anything below 40% suggests to me that you're in way over your head) for 2nd, 3rd and 4th toughest competition among Flames defenders, well back of Jay Bouwmeester. Regehr, Bouwmeester and Phaneuf have also been Sutter's go-to options for defensive zone face-offs, and have a substantially more challenging d-zone to o-zone faceoff ratio than the other defenders. Taken together, this suggests to me that they've been logging pretty challenging minutes over the course of the season but haven't seen much success. This is fine if they're being paid two or three million bucks per season but when they're combining for over ten million per, well they need to be better.

Next up, the season results to this point:

After the first ten games I mentioned both Craig Conroy and Curtis Glencross as guys that were just dominating in this particular statistic. Although they've come back a bit since then, they're both more than 5% clear of the next closest forward (and the only comparable defender, Staffan Kronwall, really isn't playing much at all) in terms of scoring chance percentage, which, after a quarter of the season, is pretty darn impressive.

As I said at the outset, the Flames have some problems. They've spent a lot of money on a few players and a lot of those guys aren't performing up to expectations. Players like Iginla, Phaneuf and Regehr may in fact get better. Jokinen and Sarich probably need to be moved if the cost isn't prohibitive. At the very least Sutter needs to realize their struggles and move them into easier roles (he seems to be doing this with Jokinen but Olli, so far, isn't responding).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Avalanche Chances - Games 11 to 20

For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring chance metric, a player is given a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is given a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score, just like +/-. The graph is broken down into three game states, EV situations, PP situations (excluding 5v3) and SH situations (excluding 5v3). At EV I've also included a "scoring chance percentage" which is the number of "chances for" divided by the the total number of chances for both teams when a given player is on the ice. The players are all represented by their jersey numbers and initials. Special thanks are due to Dennis King for starting the trend towards counting scoring chances and to Vic Ferrari for creating an application that makes the game-to-game tallying much easier. I myself have been keeping tracking scoring chances for the Colorado Avalanche this year. The first table I'll present here is for games 11-20 and the second for the first twenty games the Avalanche have played this year. If you're curious about how the Avalanche did in the first ten games, I wrote about that earlier this year.

The Avalanche compiled a record of 5-4-1 in games 11-20 compared to a record of 7-1-2 in their first ten. Yet, the scoring chances remained about equal in both segments (46.3% in the first ten and 46.0% in the second). Thanks to some wonderful work by JLikens we know that the Avalanche haven't been doing well territorially when the game is tied. In fact, they were the worst team in the league. This tells us two things for sure. Firstly, that the Colorado Avalanche were a very lucky team in the first ten games of the season (or, if you prefer, they were riding a hot goalie and getting timely scoring, same difference as far as I'm concerned, either way, it ain't continuing forever). Secondly, that territorial advantage generally and outshooting in particular is no guarantee that you're going to win games. Still, Tyler Dellow has shown that, more often than not, the team that outshoots wins the game. The same is most certainly true of outchancing and so far the Avalanche haven't been doing much of either. Many have predicted that the Avalanche will not be able to keep up their early pace and you can count me among them. Nonetheless, I expect to see a lot of ten game segments where the Avalanche put together a record between three and six wins. The road back to the playoff bubble will likely be slow and plodding, but they'll eventually get there.

As for some of the specific players, I noted in my first overview that John-Michael Liles isn't a very good hockey player. He only played four games in this segment and he probably was not fully recovered from his injury but that 20% number is just comically bad. If the Avs could pick one contract to jettison surely it would be the one they've given to Liles. The rest of the defenders had a pretty good time of things. Kyle Quincey's numbers aren't particularly good but he has been taking on tough opposition for the first time in his career so some struggles are understandable. Ryan Wilson has been playing well in a depth role which bodes well for his future and Adam Foote had a very nice bounce-back performance from the first segment.

After a strong first segment, Matt Duchene really tailed off here. His season so far reminds me a lot of watching Sam Gagner's first year with the Oilers. A legitimately good start that quickly faded into poor play because he simply isn't ready for the NHL. There's enough skill that he's able to make a breathtaking play every now and again but, for the most part, the kid gets clobbered by players who are bigger, stronger and just plain old better than anything he's seen to this point in his hockey career. He'll be a fantastic player one day, but that day isn't today. Or tomorrow. Or, if he's anything like Gagner, probably not for a while after that.

Ryan O'Reilly also came back a little bit, but not nearly as much as Duchene. Of the two players, I think I've been most impressed with O'Reilly though the junior results and the draft pedigree lead me to believe that Duchene will have the better career. Regardless, what a fantastic draft for the Avalanche this past June.

A lot of the data here is very similar to what we saw in the last ten games. Ryan Wilson is showing promise while John-Michael Liles is showing just how bad a well-paid NHLer can be at EV. But my goodness look at Wojtek Wolski. According to Behind the Net he's faced the fourth toughest competition among Avalanche forwards (although Vic Ferrari has recently given us some helpful reminders about how these numbers can sometimes trick us) and he's been starting pretty consistently in the defensive end of the ice (at the time of writing he has been on the ice for 26 more D-zone draws than O-zone draws which is the second toughest differential among Avs forwards). And he's just ripping the cover off the ball. The best scoring chance percentage on the team, the second best Corsi rate (-6.52/60... my goodness the Avalanche are bad) and tied for 7th in the league in even strength points. That is one very good player.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oilers Chances - Games 11 to 20

For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring chance metric, a player is given a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is given a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score, just like +/-. The graphs are broken down into three game states, EV situations, PP situations (excluding 5v3) and SH situations (excluding 5v3). At EV I've also included a "scoring chance percentage" which is the number of "chances for" divided by the the total number of chances for both teams when a given player is on the ice. The players are all represented by their jersey numbers and initials. All of the players are organized by both jersey number and first and last initials. Special thanks are due to Dennis King for counting all of the scoring chances for the Oilers and to Vic Ferrari for creating an application that makes the game-to-game tallying much easier. The first table is for the Oilers in games 11-20 while the second is the Oilers over the first twenty games. I did an earlier post on games 1-10 earlier this year.

There isn't exactly a lot to like here. 42.5% for the team is truly awful and other than the trio of Hemsky-Horcoff-Penner it was truly a team effort with some guys really standing out and given the Oilers record over these ten games I don't mind bringing some guys out for flogging. Part of the reason for the decline is the split of home and road games. In the Oilers first ten game segment they played three games on the road and seven at home. In this ten game segment that's reversed with seven road games and three at home. But that doesn't excuse some of these numbers.

In the last ten-game segment I noted that Ladislav Smid's improved performance may have had something to do with being partnered with Lubomir Visnovsky. Now, Visnovsky was off in the last few games in terms of chances but nothing compared to Smid. In the two games that Visnovsky missed in this segment Smid's scoring chances were +3 -17. Now, it's just two games but that's pretty bad. I am now in "wait and see" mode with Smid but I've come to the firm conclusion that if the Oilers decide on a defender to trade they should make sure to pair him with Visnovsky for twenty games (or even longer if possible) before making the deal. They could probably use Visnovsky to sucker someone into believing that one of their young D is much better than he actually is. Pump and dump baby.

Fernando Pisani is done. He looked done in training camp and although the colitis is apparently flaring up, his performance in the six games he played this season wasn't any better than camp. He's not coming close to breaking even. A sad story to be sure, but I think we may be in Fernando's final season as an NHL player.

Speaking of bad the Moreau-Stortini pairing is a black hole of suck. On top of getting completely mauled in the chances department they've also both taken quite a few minor penalties, more than one every two games between them. It is just so bad. That the center on their line doesn't win faceoffs just adds to the carnage. One guy some observers have liked is Gilbert Brule but he's another guy under the 40% barrier. And these guys play every night! This team needs to get some forward depth that can actually play in the NHL. I realize that you shouldn't expect your third and fourth even strength lines to be breaking even but these guys aren't even close. We. Need. Help.

On to the season totals for the first twenty games:

That's a lot of bad right there. Say what you will about Mike Comrie, there aren't too many guys on this list that crack 50% and he's finding a way. My guess is that he's got a knack for finding scoring areas and getting unblocked shots toward the goal. Getting him back from illness should help this club.

Jason Strudwick's expanded role at even strength hasn't been a good idea. He was bad last year and he's done even worse so far this season. Some of that is his being forced into more difficult ice time, some of it is being put with a rookie for almost all of it but a lot of it is that Jason Strudwick isn't a good enough hockey player although, judging from his four game call-up, Theo Peckham is actually even worse.

Certainly one of the issues facing the Oilers is health. Through the first twenty games only six players actually played in all of them: Gagner (who has since sat out), Cogliano, Penner, Stortini, O'Sullivan and Gilbert. That's a ton of regulars sitting out and no team is going to deal perfectly with that. That's really the only encouraging thing to say. The team is playing with a depleted lineup and getting smoked. I personally don't believe that they'll be a good team when the players get healthy but, right now, mediocre would be a substantial improvement.

Oilers v. Avalanche - Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

This is what I have noticed about what transpires on the ice:
The game is not always given to the fast
and victory does not always present itself to the strong.
Wise management is not always rewarded
and strong underlying numbers do not guarantee a win.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Avalanche v. Canucks - Scoring Chances #20



5B. CLARK10:57264:55403:5300
8W. WOLSKI12:56254:40600:2500
9M. DUCHENE12:31234:41200:0000
10K. CUMISKEY13:31252:55202:5800
15M. HENDRICKS7:34250:04003:1700
16D. TUCKER11:51154:45600:0000
20T. PREISSING10:07243:00400:0000
22S. HANNAN16:42440:19004:3301
23M. HEJDUK11:24424:28201:4001
25C. STEWART9:02021:05100:0000
26P. STASTNY11:25445:08202:3701
27K. QUINCEY16:01264:51402:0201
28D. KOCI2:01020:00000:0000
31P. BUDAJ14:46542:11403:0301
37R. O'REILLY10:12263:05205:0200
40M. SVATOS9:57253:10400:0000
41C. ANDERSON25:463117:33405:1600
52A. FOOTE14:30450:15003:1700
54D. JONES11:55330:31001:4200
55C. MCLEOD10:22230:48101:5000

PeriodTotalsEVPP5v3 PPSH5v3 SH

Well, this was yet another slow start for the Avalanche. The Avalanche were outchanced badly at even strength in the first period and the second wasn't much better. They came out hard in the third but after narrowing at 4-0 lead to 4-2 the Canucks were able to score on the power play to make it 5-2 only 25 seconds later. The Avalanche didn't get a single scoring chance after that point. They tightened things up in the third period once the Canucks decided not to go for any offence but that shouldn't be much consolation (for more on how the Avalanche and other times have done with the score tied, check out this post by JLikens). The one bright spot may have been special teams which were good again tonight, although the PK again got burned by a pass through the seam for a one timer. They're going to need to take a look at that because one timers coming across the ice around the faceoff dot are not easy to stop.

I didn't much care for the way the Avalanche were responded to getting down early. Kyle Quincey took a bad penalty in the first with Colorado down three and then Adam Foote basically mugged a Canuck player while short-handed. I thought he was very lucky not to put his team down two guys (he definitely deserved an extra penalty). The officials actually made a couple of other odd calls. When Alex Burrows clipped Craig Anderson and Anderson went down the refs need to call a penalty. With a fall like that it's either tripping or diving but it isn't nothing (it was tripping in this case). Then, at the end of the second period Cody McLeod slewfoots his man off the faceoff and ends up with a scoring chance. That was just a terrible non-call.

Funniest moment for me was Kevin Weekes commenting on a Milan Hejduk (a nice first game back for him, not so much for Tom Preissing and Darcy Tucker continues to suck) shot from a bad angle: "Sharp-angled shots are hard for goalies to save." And that's why Kevin Weekes is a commentator instead of an NHL goalie this year. Weekes also mentioned (a few times!) that the Avalanche just needed to play with more desperation in order to be successful. Judging from how often they've won games so far this season what they really need is either better goaltending or better luck.