Saturday, December 24, 2011

Recap: Devils 4, Caps 3 (SO)

Remember when we knew the Caps would make the game exciting? I think we're slowly returning to that form. That being said:
  • That effort in the first two periods was atrocious. Well, maybe not effort, but the team was clearly very out of sync. I really wonder what the coaches think is the issue. Is it effort? Attention to detail? Focus? Whatever it is, it should be fix-able. I mean, at least you can get back to 40 minute efforts, like in 08-09, right?
  • Mike Green is getting healthy at the right time, as Dmitry Orlov seems to have hit a rut over the past couple of games. Tonight he was taking too long to make decisions with the puck. You can't out-wait a guy like Zach Parise who will keep on hounding you until you make a decision.
  • Why can't Alex Ovechkin be like that?
  • At least he was getting shot attempts. Goals come from shots, which come from shot attempts. One step at a time.
  • I loved the look of Ovechkin-Backstrom with Carlson-Alzner. You maximize a guy's offensive abilities by playing in the offensive zone, and with two of Orlov, Wideman, Hamrlik, Erskine, and Schultz playing behind Ovechkin over the last couple of seasons (basically, no Carlson, Alzner, or Green), the Caps end up dwindling away Ovechkin's shifts in the defensive zone. Yes, the Devils sat back and sort of let up, but I think long-term, 8-19 74-27 would be extremely effective.
  • That begs the question of how to play shutdown. Hamrlik, Wideman, and Schultz all have track records of success against toughs, but none with the success of Carlzner.
  • Halpern I thought didn't have the strongest night. He plays a little differently than Chimera and Ward were used to getting from Laich, I guess.
  • Johansson needs to learn to dictate play along the boards. As a D, you can stop skating and wrap the guy up along the boards, like Schultz does so often, but as a forward with the puck or battling for the puck in the offensive zone, you need to make that extra step, get your nose dirty, and act, not react. Brouwer, Knuble, Backstrom, and Ovechkin all get in there and worry about reacting later. Johansson needs to learn to do that (and/or build up the strength to do that), especially when he's not having success carrying the puck through the neutral zone.
  • I thought Laich almost over-deked his goal. Oh well, worked out.
  • Why can't Semin handle a puck? I slapped myself in the face by accident when he got a perfect pass from Backstrom, leaving him alone in front of the net on the rush, and simply lost the puck. That's all on him. And then he turns it around and makes some nice passes in the third, helping out on two goals.
  • Jason Chimera may have scored twice, but he also lost Anton Volchenkov (?) twice on the same shift in OT, the instances within seconds of each other, as the Devils D pinched along the weak side and really would have scored if he were more competent offensively.
  • Why isn't Joel Ward on the PK?
No zone entries tonight, since I was in attendance and can't exactly re-wind the game. I plan on catching up over the next two or three weeks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zone Entries: Avalanche 2, Caps 1

Link to view.

Pretty lethargic effort from the Caps, I thought. Without the puck, it always seemed like the Caps were a step slow or a step out of position (except for when Chimera got a stick on O'Reilly, I think it was, to prevent a goal). I know the Avalanche are fast, but when your players get to within one step and then stop skating, you know something is up. It's especially annoying with Ovechkin, who loses the puck so often but then goes passive instead of hounding the player who took the puck away from him. I don't need Ovechkin to be going at 110% on defense all 200ft, like Henrik Zetterberg, but chasing his adversary for five or ten more steps, maybe 30 ft, would be nice. It would slow down the opposition, at a minimum.

I think Jeff Halpern has been a really underrated addition to this team. Not only is he a very good faceoff man (by the way, that ownage in the dot late was painful to watch), but he can do a little of the dirty work, moves plenty well, and knows how to take steps to create offense without doing too much on his own (i.e. cycling and knowing where his teammates are on the cycle).

Lastly, if you want to create room for yourself Mr. Semin, you need to force the D back by playing with speed every now and then. Look at how room as opened up for Ovechkin now that he dumps the puck in every once in a while.

Anyway, I hope for a better effort back in lower-altitude DC.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ZE Tables: Caps@Jets

Vic Ferrari's scoring chances script is handy for adding zone entries and seeing who was on ice for what. It only takes 100 at this time, so I divided the data from the Jets game into two. First part here, second here (and both copied below).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 1, Jets 0

I get really frustrated seeing this team do no better than even over long stretches of time against mediocre teams. The Jets are by no means a great possession team (their hot finish last season, possession-wise, notwithstanding). I was happy to see the Caps turn on their own jets in the final period. By my count, the Jets had the better of the play for all of two minutes (their only power play of the third). The best teams can still only muster ~55% of the shots and scoring chances at 5-on-5, which for teams like the Blackhawks means a shot differential that's in the low positives each period, but for the Capitals means a couple of even periods followed by a great period.

At least, I hope. I wouldn't be surprised if that third was a complete fluke that's more on the Jets than the Caps. Speedy Colorado will be a better test.

Caps had 83 of 173 entries, 48%, and going just 5v5 they were 75 of 156, 48% again, surprisingly 146, 51%. Anyway, here I don't think neutral zone play is the best indicator of how the game went. Caps were definitely not in there for the first (at least, not playing offense and not playing great defense), but carried the play in the second and especially the third.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Awards Watch: Dec 2011

  1. Claude Giroux--tied for fourth in goals, first in points, plays top competition in all situations. I thought he'd struggle a bit without Carter...nope.
  2. Phil Kessel--first in goals, second in points, and his zone shift is positive despite a start already near 57%, playing power-versus-power. He's taken a big step forward.
  3. Jonathan Toews--does everything against tough competition in all situations, like Giroux. I just think Giroux is more of an impact player on offense.
  4. Niklas Backstrom--Minnesota has ridden to the top of the league on crazy, timely goaltending. While Harding plays a'plenty, Backstrom is their starter.
  5. Nikolai Khabibulin--a .932 on a team that's lottery on the road and home-ice-playoff at home needs some consistency between the pipes, and Khabby provides that, strangely.


It's pretty difficult to differentiate between pair-mates (McDonagh-Girardi, Boychuk-Chara, Leddy-Keith, Hjalmarsson-Seabrook, Bouwmeester-Butler, etc), but I'll try. Also seems like a lot of these guys get serious help from great checking forwards (Callahan, Kopitar/Richards, Datsyuk/Zetterberg, Bergeron, etc), but can't do much about that.
  1.  Ryan McDonagh--he and Girardi are being matched very aggressively to top lines with Marc Staal out, and with hard zone starts, too. Still, he boasts a positive relative plus-minus and a GAON/60 of only 2.12.
  2. Drew Doughty--tough competition and a 14.3 Corsi Rel on a middling possession team, with a zone start at 53% and zone finish of 54.2%. Few defenseman can drive offense...Doughty is one of them.
  3. Nicklas Lidstrom--any way you cut it, tough competition and a 22.73 Corsi per 60 is ridiculous. Only Brent Burns--who plays 2nds, not 1sts--is better among big-minute D (minimum 15 ESTOI/gm).
  4. Zdeno Chara--top competition, 18.2 Corsi Rel despite 45.5% zone start, which he turns into a 51.4% finish.
  5. Erik Karlsson--plays shutdown in Ottawa with a 10.9 Corsi Rel, and leads all D in points. He's a terrific defenseman...and only 21. No relation to John Carlson, by the way.
  1. Tim Thomas: a .941 in 19 games is...Thomas-esque.
  2. Brian Elliott: a .944 in 19 games is...Thomas-esque.
  3. Henrik Lundqvist: the Rangers were a bad team in the early going, and Lundqvist make them look good. His .931 is 6th overall.
  4. Jonathan Quick: see Lundqvist, but the Kings haven't picked up their play yet.
  5. Jimmy Howard: the Wings have been great, just not scoring. Luckily, Howard is keeping pucks out of the net.
  1. Joe Pavelski--first in the league in quality of competition and a 11.7 Corsi Rel.
  2. Anze Kopitar--second in quality of competition, 13.9 Corsi Rel.
  3. Joe Thornton--third on his team in quality of competition, but with a ridiculous 20.1 Corsi Rel.
  4. Jonathan Toews--the man, the myth, the legend-in-the-making does it all.
  5. Tom Pyatt--get this: 29.5% zone start, fifth on his team on quality of competition, and only a -3.9 Corsi. That's really, really good.
  1. Ryan-Nugent Hopkins: leads the scoring race among rookies easily, over a point-per-game. Yeah, he does a lot of it on the PP, and yeah, he'll likely cool off pretty soon, but still pretty impressive for a kid that's really thin.
  2. Adam Larsson: he may not be Tyler Myers, but Larsson is logging huge minutes on a good New Jersey team and putting up great offensive numbers for an 18-year old.
  3. Gabriel Landeskog: once the Avs start scoring, he'll really be on the radar. For now, his 17+ Corsi Rel will have to suffice.
  4. Craig Smith--the Predators' scoring leader.
  5. Adam Henrique--just behind Patrik Elias for the Devils' scoring lead.
  1. Mike Yeo, Minnesota--at least, while the Wild are atop the league. They've ridden hot goaltending to this point, though. Not a good ES team, but hey, whatever works, right?
  2. Kevin Dineen, Florida--again a great possession team. Somehow, making sure Fleischmann isn't a liability and working strong special teams (which really, really hurt the Panthers last season).
  3. Dave Tippett, Phoenix--who's Ilya Bryzgalov?
  4. Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis--I think they would have righted the ship, anyway, but Hitch made the Blues even better. They were already a top-5 Corsi team last season; couple that with above-replacement-level goaltending, and voila.
  5. Mike Babcock, Detroit--these Red Wings are closer to the 07-09 dominant, dominant possession teams than the 09-11 excellent-but-not-outstanding ones. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg have ridiculous possession numbers.
  1. Phil Kessel, 18
  2. Milan Michalek, 18
  3. Jonathan Toews, 17
  4. Claude Giroux, 16
  5. Steven Stamkos, 16
  1. Claude Giroux, 37
  2. Phil Kessel, 36
  3. Joffrey Lupul, 33
  4. Daniel Sedin, 33
  5. Jonathan Toews, 32

Zone Entries: Caps 4, Leafs 2

Caps were 75 of 163, 46%, not terrible considering they were leading for most of the game. Of that, they were 67 of 146 at even strength (5v5 and 4v4), 51.8%, which is solid considering score effects. One would like to see a goal at ES, though.

Locker was spot on during the game, as the Caps did not get an entry for a four minute stretch early in the third (nine straight by Toronto, and for you math geeks, that's nearly 30 seconds between entries, so not all entries for the Leafs were one-and-dones).

PP was good, ES play still not completely up to par. This team is still a rushing team, and it's good to see Hunter's system able to generate rushes.

Ovechkin finally working off the rush, just need to shore up the backside pressure and focus, but it's finally looking like it's coming together for this team. No more worries from me that they'll miss the playoffs, especially since Vokoun is back on track.

Wasn't keeping tabs on who got the entries for Toronto, but I don't think Kessel got more than six entries for Toronto. Carlson and Alzner did a good job. 

I missed one entry by Toronto around the 11:45 mark of the 2nd period, but I noted that it exists, just not the type.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zone Entries: Panthers 5, Capitals 4

Remember, Caps fans, this time is getting some bad luck right now. Luck can mean many things. Here, we saw a combination of bad bounces, saves that are made 95% of the time without issue not made, and only one power play drawn, for example. Things are going to get better.

It's not a good feeling to be the underperforming team, like St. Louis and Florida last year, or Columbus since Steve Mason's rookie season, or Calgary since Kiprusoff became average at best, or the Rangers last year. But if you ever wished that opponents wouldn't take the Caps as seriously come playoffs, well, you got your wish.

I don't really feel like tallying up the entries in any detail here. With big margins, you're going to see queer score effects. Anyway, Caps had 79 of 154, 51.3% (remember that Florida had six power plays and the Capitals only two).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 3, Senators 2 (OT)

Link to the spreadsheet (cells also posted below)

  • Clean breakouts and zone entries
  • A good mix of dumps and controlled entries
  • Discipline
  • Generating chances in transition
  • Alex Ovechkin (by my count) using five different moves on the rush, and using the cut-to-the-middle only twice.
  • Pressure in the defensive zone, regaining possession of the puck
  • Getting 87 of the 167 entries, 52.1%, despite holding a lead for about half the game (the first and half the third) and against an underrated possession team (last year they were about 49% in Fenwick, but got terrible, terrible goaltending).
  • Neuvirth finding his game.
  • No Semin, know win. Know Semin, no win.
  • Sitting back a bit much with the lead, and getting hemmed in for about three minutes after Michalek tied the game.
  • Getting a slumping goalie to play well.
  • This was Ottawa, after all. And we haven't seen coaches really plan for Hunter, yet. His true test will be how he adapts.
  • Getting 67 of 141 entries at even strength, 47.5%. A little more sitting back in the third than I would have liked to see.
  • Troy Brouwer with a team-worst -9 Fenwick, -11 Corsi.
  • Erik Karlsson's +12 Fenwick, +17 Corsi, despite playing plenty against Ovechkin. Just copy how teams play against Green and use that against Karlsson, who looks to me like he's ahead of where Green was at the same age.
All in all, the bottom six seems to have their game, and we're waiting for the top six to find their game. Slowly but surely, it seems like that's happening at last. Florida will be a nice follow-up test.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Zone Entries: Blues 2, Caps 1

I know St. Louis is an elite possession team, and Hitchcock is one of the best coaches around, but getting murdered in Corsi (worse than -20), especially when trailing by 1 for about half the game, is absolutely inexcusable.

That being said, there are some positives. The Caps were improved in the neutral zone, at times actually making it difficult for the other team to enter the zone. On the game, the Caps were 87 of 172, which is slightly over 50%. The Blues clearly sat back in the third, but the entries were 28-28 (including power plays). I guess work in all score situations remains to be done.

Now, cleaner break-outs and better coordination and communication between players in all zones--notice how infrequently a Blue made a pass to nobody in particular, and how often the Caps did--and this team should be set to go.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zone Entries: Devils 3, Capitals 2 (SO)

Much will be made about the Caps' low shot totals. Low shot totals almost always indicate that a team is hardly able to enter the offensive zone. That was most certainly not the case Saturday night, as the Capitals had 86 of 167 (51.5%), including 57 of 104 (54.8%) over the second and third periods, 44 of 76 (57.9%) at 5v5. Sure, you'd like more shots, but at the end of the day, you want to see your team doing what is going to win the most games in the long run, and I think the Capitals were playing a style that will win a lot of games in the long run.

Let's not forget that New Jersey is probably one of the best possession teams in the league (they were last season, and essentially added the league's second-best wing in Zach Parise) and are perfectly capable of dictating the pace of the game. On poor ice (there was a Georgetown game earlier in the day), the Caps dictated the game for long stretches (the second half of the third, for example) against a very good team.

When you have a lead, conventional wisdom says you want to slow the game down, and the Caps did that. When the score is tied, you attack, and the Caps did that. Maybe this is really selective memory on my part--I guess we'll know when we get a glimpse of scoring chance numbers--but if the Caps play like this against Nashville, they'll likely win.

I guess I just want to say that don't take that SOG total for what it's not. Here, it's not an accurate representation of possession here. No need to fret. Flukes happen.

Someone please teach Alex Ovechkin how to shoot past a defenseman again. Dan Girardi, Roman Hamrlik in Montreal, Mike Weaver, Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill, Anton Volchenkov, and Mark Fayne now joins the club. What was actually surprising is how often I was actually able to see Ovechkin get a chance off the rush...thank you Joel Ward.

I'm hoping Alexander Semin has a hand injury, because he's been pretty bad, not even able to make those clean saucer passes he's been able to execute with ease in the past, and the refs aren't giving him any sort of break, either. I don't care all that much about production in short samples as long as there's something the guy is doing right, but since about the third or fourth game of the season, he hasn't been doing much right.

At least Jason Chimera is doing his best to prove to me that he's actually a useful player outside of the fourth line.

Recap: Caps 3, Devils 1

It felt good to see a Caps game in-person again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Zone Entries: Stars 5, Caps 2

Ugly, ugly, ugly. Caps were 98 of 188 in entries, 52.1%, which when you're trailing for much of the game is worse than they should be (their Corsi should be minimum 55% down 1, 60% down by more than that). Benn's line ate the Caps alive, and with a quiet night from Ovechkin, well, that's the story right there. Kari Lehtonen was solid, but did not need to be spectacular.

Spreadsheet is giving me trouble right now, so here's a direct link.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Awards Watch: November

The absence of #fancystats in this post is because, well, Corsi isn't very useful until we start approaching the midway point.


  1. Nikolai Khabibulin: has allowed 8 goals in 8 games. Edmonton can't score, but they're still one point out of the league lead thanks to hot goaltending.
  2. Phil Kessel: leader in points, goals, plus-minus. He's been on fire.
  3. Jonathon Quick: see Khabibulin. It's just that the Oilers are four points ahead of the Kings, and Quick's stats are slightly worse.
  4. Claude Giroux: I thought Giroux would struggle a bit without Carter, but with Jagr and van Riemsdyk by his side, he seems to have actually gotten better.
  5. Marc-Andre Bergeron: Tampa is not playing good D, but they are scoring, thanks in large part to Bergeron, who leads all D in even-strength points and total points. Yes, he's logging only limited minutes, but he's been very productive in those minutes.
  1. Marc-Andre Bergeron: not going to be inconsistent here. MAB's been fantastic offensively and thankfully, for his sake, hasn't needed to play much D yet.
  2. Kris Letang: been logging over 26 minutes per game and top 5 in D scoring. If Weber doesn't win the Norris this year, it's gonna be Letang.
  3. Dion Phaneuf: seems to have taken a big step forward. Playing big, hard minutes, and successful.
  4. Dennis Wideman: this pick you'll really only understand if you watch the Caps a lot. He brings a different dimension to each facet of the game than what the Caps get from Green and what the Caps have gotten from Carlson this season (he seems "off"). Strong point totals as well.
  5. Nicklas Lidstrom: may as well. Tough to really get a grasp on the Norris race at this point.
  1. Nikolai Khabibulin: 1 GA per game. Edmonton allows plenty of shots, NK stops 'em.
  2. Jonathon Quick: similar to Khabibulin
  3. Kari Lehtonen: I don't think Dallas really deserves to be leading the West
  4. Pekka Rinne: three shutouts already?
  5. Marc-Andre Fleury: no stinkers yet.
Selke: some top penalty killers and great Corsis with high quality of competition ratings. Tough tot tell at this point.
  1. Marian Hossa
  2. Mike Richards
  3. Frans Nielsen
  4. Jonathan Toews
  5. Radim Vrbata
  1. Adam Larsson: already the leader of an underrated Devils defense corps.
  2. Sean Couturier: the only guy that might be trusted more, defensively, than Larsson.
  3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: lighting it up, even if just at home.
  4. Luke Adam: nearly the scorer Nugent-Hopkins is.
  5. Gabriel Landeskog: a nice two-way forward already. Admittedly more based on observation than stats, here.
Jack Adams:
  1. Glen Gulutzan: the Stars may actually be better this season than last.
  2. Paul Maclean: Ottawa is playing surprisingly good hockey all-around.
  3. Tom Renney: don't look now, but the Oilers are just out of the NHL lead in points. He's paying more attention to line matching and such, and it's paying off.
  4. Ron Wilson: wasn't Toronto supposed to be terrible?
  5. Dan Bylsma: he's made us forget about Sidney Crosby.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zone Entries: Canucks 7, Caps 4

Link. Ugh. Amidst the diving, dirty play, and at times poor reffing (which goes hand in hand with embellishing), the Caps got their asses whipped. They were only 77 of 170, 45%, despite trailing by multiple goals for a significant portion of the game. I don't even want to restrict myself to ES data only--something tells me that would be even worse.

Defensive breakdown after defensive breakdown...and that wasn't even the biggest problem. The Canucks waltzed through the neutral zone all the time. They always have puck support from their defenseman, so if one guy is blocked, he can make a short pass to another player, who the Caps often left open. I'd love to see the Caps pick up on that.

Oh, and I hope Mike Green will be good to go soon.

On a side note, I haven't recorded ZEs for all the games so far in October, yet, but here's a link to the spreadsheet of the ones I have done. In this game I missed about 45 seconds of game time, 6-5:15 left in the second, so I'll get back to that in a bit.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Zone Entries: Oilers 2, Caps 1

Well, it was bound to happen at some point. Regression to the mean after a hot start and shelling Detroit. Oh well. Not outplayed since the first couple of game of the season in my mind.

Link. Caps got 73 of 144 entries, which is 50.7%, but restrict yourself to full and even strength and we've got 51/99, 51.6%...ehh, still not all that great. Even strength was 57/109, 52.3%. The Capitals could have been better--they had some short lulls here and there and didn't really dominate for an extended stretch or several stretches--but I'll take the effort nonetheless. Mike Green is also kind of a big loss in all situations.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 7, Red Wings 1

Link. I have no idea how this happened, but I'm happy. The Capitals I thought had a couple of lulls in their play, when the Red Wings essentially controlled: late in the second and early in the third. I think that may be chalked down to score effects (close enough that the teams would remain interested, far enough to tilt the ice quite significantly). Once the Capitals got that 5th goal, though, the Red Wgins' interest seemed to wane.

Capitals overall were 77/151, 51%, including 9/17 on special teams, leaving 68/134 at 5v5 (51%). Yes, the Red Wings were coming off a game last night, but we'd expect heavy score effects, at for the most part we didn't see that. I'm satisfied with this performance. There's still some work to be done, but I think that's more the top line getting back in shape than anything else.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 5 @ Flyers 2

Direct link. Some observations:

Mike Green and Joel Ward I think have been noticeably good each and every game thus far.

Matt Hendricks: +13 Corsi. Mathieu Perreault: +13. Jeff Halpern: +11. Yeah, they had a good night.

Jason Chimera: -8. Brooks Laich: -13. Joel Ward: -4. Could be better, but that's only because my expectations are so high to begin with. Jeff Schultz was a team-worst -14 and Dennis Wideman was a -9. I'm a little confused on Schultz. My rule of thumb is the less you notice him, the better, and I wasn't aware he was playing until he handled the puck in the second. I think those five got caught a few times getting shelled, but as far as I could tell they kept the shots to the outside, so all is good.

Philadelphia is probably one of the best possession teams in the league (they have been since 08-09 and I don't think that will have changed, even with losing Carter and Richards). The Capitals led for over 40 minutes of the game, including by two or more for most of the third, and were only -2 in Corsi. Nice.

Ovechkin was only involved in five entries all game: twice making a pass and thrice carrying the puck into the zone. You could say Timonen, Meszaros, and company did a good job not even letting the rush get started.

Say what you want about Sean Couturier, but a guy who, after being drafted, can immediately step into the lineup of one of the NHL's top-ten teams and be one of the most trusted defensive forwards despite playing behind several more proven players (and one who I think will win the Selke in short order in Claude Giroux) is pretty rare. He deserved to go top-3. I can see Nugent-Hopkins and Larsson above him, but not the others.

I counted 172 entries, with the Caps getting 84, 49%. There was a noticeable lull for the second half of the second and the Caps more or less going into a shell for the final half of the third, 24 of 78 from 12 minutes left in the second to the end of the game at full and even strength. At 5v5, the Caps got, per my quick count, a pretty unimpressive 57 of 136, however (all those power plays boosted the totals). That's only 42%. Even with a lead, I'd like to see closer to 46 or 47 (then again, the difference is only a handful of entries going the other way).

I hope Troy Brouwer isn't turning into Eric Fehr (promising career but a shoulder injury or two sets back his development quite a bit).

Marcus Johansson outmuscled someone along the boards in the third (I want to say it was Jakub Voracek). That would not have happened last season. He still got beat a few times along the boards, but he's noticeably stronger on the puck and along the boards.

Tomas Vokoun, eh? When was the last time he had a four goal lead to defend? When was the last time his team was 6-0?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 3, Panthers 0

Direct link. Some observations:

60 minute effort, more or less.

This was the type of game you'd expect from a good team against a bad team. The Capitals were never on their heels for more than a minute or two and dominated significant stretches of the game. The only effective line for Florida was the Weiss line, but Weiss is one of two or three solid top-six forwards Florida has (Versteeg and Booth), so it's not like losing to him is embarrassing in any form.

Ovechkin is getting better each game. I think Brouwer has been getting better as well. As for the "Ovechkin needs to let Backstrom carry the puck more" crowd, Ovechkin only carried the puck into the offensive zone three times. What I find very worrisome is that he really wasn't all that involved in entries, period. It's as if "he just doesn't care" in the neutral zone. I have him as carrying the puck in thrice, receiving a pass five times, and dumping the puck in once. Compare to fifteen total for Backstrom. It's only a one game sample, but it's the impression I've gotten from the other games as well. I don't want Ovechkin turning into Kovalchuk, Kessel or Gaborik, being a finisher and not much more. Anyway...

I think Laich brings the meat, so Ward and Chimera bring potatoes.

I can't believe people thought Vokoun was being sheltered in Nashville and Florida and would collapse in Washington. Seriously. At this rate he won't need 60 starts to win the Vezina.

Knuble, Semin, Carlson, and Schultz were the only Caps with a negative Corsi. Green and Hamrlik were each +12 (Green was particularly good), Ovechkin-Backstrom-Brouwer +9. The goals will start coming in torrents soon enough with more performances like this.

I don't think Hamrlik has been playing all that poorly, but maybe that's just me. He's been asked to handle the puck an awful lot and maybe more than he's comfortable with in the offensive zone. It's certainly easier to make the short breakout pass to the deep backchecking forward than to your winger fleeing the zone at full speed. Regardless, he's been able to make those small short plays that are crucial to keep possession in the offensive zone. At least my lying eyes tell me so. It's not like the alternative--Mike Green making his partner look good--is plausible at all.

Weiss, Fleischmann (?! even with 7 more defensive zone draws than offensive zone draws?!), Versteeg, and Campbell were the only Florida players in the black in Corsi. Weiss: want.

155 entries total, 135 at 5-on-5. Caps had 71 at ES (53%, not bad considering they had the lead almost the entire game and a two-goal lead for nearly 20 minutes), 78 overall (50%). Not bad at all. CSN had a giant scoring chances disparity (something like a 3:1 ratio).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps @ Pens

Direct link.

Some observations:

The most striking thing about the Penguins' entries in this game was how often they'd switch the flank of attack. If the player did not have a clear lane to get into the offensive zone with control, he'd throw it across the ice either right before or right after crossing the blueline, and there was always another Penguin there ready to pick up the puck. Malkin carried the puck into the zone an awful lot.

The Pens don't dump and chase as much as I'd thought, at least not in this game.

I thought the Penguins played a lot like Detroit, just going back to the points for lots and lots of shots with traffic in front.

Of 177 entries I tallied, the Pens had 107 of them, 60.5%. They dominated the first and the middle of the third.

The most exciting thing as a Caps fan? That's the sort of performance I can expect form Tomas Vokoun every start.

I missed the 2nd and first half of the third period in the Tampa game, so that's why I didn't post ZE for that game. I'll get around to that game eventually.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 4, Canes 3 (OT)

A few notes on what I've done here, inspired by Flyers' SBN site Broad Street Hockey:

I recorded the time of the zone entry--the puck crossing the blueline from the neutral zone into the offensive or defensive zone--as well as the method of entry (Carry, Dump-in but not counting dump-and-changes, Pass, Tap-in, and other, noted as X). I noted the players involved for the Capitals, but not for Carolina. I was doing these real-time, so I may have made a mistake here or there, especially with dump-ins, but I think I got almost all of the players correct. Timings may vary by a second or two from actual time (though it's not like official scorekeepers get those exactly right, either). I also noted whether the rush was an odd-man rush; I included only clear-cut breaks here, where there was no equalizing backchecker within two strides of the final attacking player. In this game, there were a couple of 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s with one breakaway.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Awards Watch: Pre-Season

With most rosters final or close to final, here's how I see the races. This is basically anybody I feel might deserve the award or would ride to contention based on reputation (or both). Sorry if I missed your favorite player.

Hart Trophy

Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Steven Stamkos

"Needs some help"
Sidney Crosby: he needs to get healthy
Evgeni Malkin: the longer Crosby out, the more opportunity he has
Marc-Andre Fleury: since the media thinks the Penguins are talent-less aside from Sid and Geno
Carey Price: few in the MSM appreciates the talent Price plays behind, so Price can take credit
Ryan Miller: the American media has a collective boner when he steps on the ice
Jonathan Toews: got some favorable bounces last season; can that continue?

"Should be in there, but won't get enough credit"
Eric Staal: a great power versus power outscoring center without much two-way help on his wings
Jonas Hiller: the Ducks have a top line, a second line, a top four, and a bunch of AHLers players.
Ryan Getzlaf: great per-game stats, but of course will be in Corey Perry's shadow
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg: there are no better options to throw out there against the other team's top line. And putting up above average first-line counting stats? These guys are amazing.

Corey Perry is so special he gets his own category. I don't think Perry is going to score 50 goals next season, and I'd be surprised if he hits 40.

Ok, maybe Thomas gets in there too. I would've given him my Hart vote five months ago, but I highly doubt either he or Rask can put up that sort of season anytime in the future. It's just that Thomas' season was underrated to begin with. He didn't win the Hart in his historic season, so I don't see him as a real contender.

Norris Trophy
Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom, Duncan Keith, Mike Green, Drew Doughty

"Needs some help"
Mark Streit: health
Andrei Markov: health
Lubomir Visnovsky: did you see last season? He needs that much help again
Kris Letang: needs some oh-fense in front of him

"Should be in there, but won't get enough credit"
Ryan Suter: I think he's better than Weber, but the physical presence overshadows
Matt Carle: he was more effective without Pronger than with him and led NHL D in ESP
Dan Boyle: who in the East realizes who the shutdown pair in San Jose is? Boyle gets little credit.
Victor Hedman: he's grown very quickly so far, so this type of season wouldn't surprise me.

The voters aren't actually that terrible here. I think Pronger is in decline more than people realize, though, but small sample caveats on that. I'm not sure Brent Burns is in for a Norris-worthy season like people seem to think he is, either, considering he's still behind Boyle offensively and won't take toughs like Boyle and Murray, either. Ditto with Ehrhoff.

Vezina Trophy

Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne

"Needs some help"
Carey Price: some good luck, and his hype will carry him a long way
Antti Niemi: see Price
Tim Thomas: he'd better hope he can hold up and that Tuukka Rask doesn't catch him
Semyon Varlamov: a lot of good luck and he'll put up those stellar numbers in more GP.

"Should be in there, but won't get enough credit"
I'd pick Jonas Hiller over any other guy in this section. And Vokoun, since his success will be attributed to the Capitals' great defense...wait, what?

Miikka Kiprusoff has been declining for awhile.

Selke Trophy

Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Jordan Staal

"Needs some help"
Henrik Zetterberg--Datsyuk's shadow is big
Marian Hossa--he needs to bounce back in a big way
Jonathan Toews--needs some good luck so his counting stats are elite again

"Should be in there, but won't get enough credit"
Anze Kopitar--not with Richards there, too
Ryan Callahan--seriously, he's really good. Just no elite numbers
Frans Nielsen--see Callahan.
Jay McClement: what does it mean when I began typing in "McClement" instead of "Selke?"
Joel Ward--see Callahan
Eric Staal--no one watches the Hurricanes, so no one realizes that Staal plays top lines
Tomas Plekanec--no Americans watch the Canadiens, so they don't realize how good Pleks is
David Legwand--see E. Staal, but substitute "Predators" for "Hurricanes"
David Backes--see Legwand, but with "Blues"
Manny Malhotra--see Backes. LeBrun was the only guy with Malhotra over Kesler on his Selke ballot.

There are a lot of underrated defensive forwards. It's tough to know who is actually the best, because they all seem to have help--Datsyuk/Zetterberg Lidstrom, Toews/Hossa Keith, Kopitar Doughty, etc.

At least they pick guys who are great defensively. I'd put Kesler here, though, because he likely won't have a really high qualcomp this season.

Calder Trophy

Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Brayden Schenn, some random goalie

"Needs some help"
David Rundblad--needs some offense in front of him
Ryan Ellis--needs to prove that he doesn't need to develop as slowly as Weber or Suter
Nino Niederreiter--currently doesn't have a spot in the Isles' top-six
Zac Dalpe--he's more of a two-way forward, but needs to put up big numbers to get attention
Andrei Loktionov--see Niederreiter, but for the Kings, not Islanders
Sean Couturier--he needs to get ahead of all the Flyers' talented incumbents for offensive ice time

"Should be in there, but won't get enough credit"
Tim Erixon--defensive maturity...but he should get out of the AHL first
Erik Gudbranson--I have a feeling he'll have a good year, but he's already prowled off the radar.

Can't think of anybody here

Jack Adams Award


"Needs some help"

"Should be in there, but won't get enough credit"

None. It's an open field, as always

Richard Trophy

Alex Ovechkin, Daniel Sedin, Steven Stamkos

"Needs some help"
Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sidney Crosby

Corey Perry, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Kesler

Art Ross Trophy

Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Steven Stamkos

"Needs some help"
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Martin St. Louis, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Toews

Corey Perry

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

I was only in third grade. What had happened was alluded to over morning announcements. I think the teachers understood. My teacher told us what happened, but didn't tell us about the number of fatalities, or that the third plane, headed for the Pentagon, may have even flown over us that morning. People started getting taken out of school one-by-one, but I think eventually the principal ordered that no one else leave (a lockdown, effectively). When I went home only then did I learn that thousands had passed away, New York City was a giant cloud of dust, and that there was a fuselage sticking out of the Pentagon.

I don't think that getting rid of Al-Qaeda or whomever is going to fix this problem. It seems to me like the the real issue is that the West (or rather, the more developed world) has taken the "invader" or "imperialist" stance several times towards the Middle East, which some smooth talkers like Osama bin Laden can misconstrue into an attack on Islam or whatever. You have Lawrence of Arabia, the English and French post-World War II, the creation of the state of Israel (and its inevitable backing by the West, even in light of frequent questionable actions), the Gulf War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and so on. It doesn't help that some of Western culture (clothing and sexuality are the two most obvious examples) goes against Islamic teachings.

A friend of my father's phrased their motivation nicely: "greed for good deeds." In Islam, the ultimate good deed is dying while fighting for Islam--martyrdom. Martyrs are guaranteed heaven. Thing is, there isn't always a martyr-inviting situation ready. So the terrorists fabricated one. In Islam, it is forbidden to kill innocents, and killing a Muslim is explicitly referred to as comparable to having "killed all of humankind." Obviously, they feel like their supposed martyrdom carries more weight than the heavy sins of murder (or maybe they don't even understand what the Qur'an says, Greg Mortensen suggests). If that is what the Qur'an truly means, that's fine. But I have a hard time thinking that this was any sort of "holy war" at all. There is no physical war on Islam, and there hasn't been since the caliphate. Thanks to my basic education in a Western school, I know that. I guess the mountain-billies hiding in caves who've been planning these attacks don't know that.

Killing them is only going to encourage more young boys and girls to join their cause, as they see friends and family die, of whom many are innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, given time, the presently-dysfunctional governments all over the Middle East can get these lawless areas under some more control and educate their people.

May God protect us from those loons.

(If you think this is a hateful or bigoted piece, send me an email and I'll explain to you why it most certainly is not)

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Thought on Competition Metrics

There are three available from QualComp, Corsi QoC, and Corsi Rel QoC. All are calculated in the exact same way (the average of opponents' ratings, weighted by ice time), save for the base statistic. With QualComp, that basic statistic is relative plus minus (on-ice plus-minus per 60 less off-ice plus-minus per 60). With Corsi QoC, it's Corsi On (on-ice Corsi per 60). With Corsi Rel QoC, it's relative Corsi (on-ice Corsi per 60 less off-ice Corsi per 60).

I get the feeling that if you want to see who faced top scorers, you use QualComp. QualComp puts "rating" (relative plus-minus) into context, but not so much Corsi. If you want to see who faced the tougher competition, use Corsi QoC. If you want to see who the coach intended to take the toughest competition, use Corsi Rel QoC. The last two match up most of the time, but due to opponents faced differences, not always.

All comparing intra-team, obviously. Inter-team is a whole 'nuther ballgame.

Semin's (Regular) Inconsistency, Part 1

I looked at these basic numbers for Alexander Semin (courtesy of Hockey Reference) over the regular season. The list of data is here. I made two charts.

This shows 10-game rolling averages over Semin's post-lockout games played. As one would expect, for the most part, Semin was getting more shifts when he was shooting a higher percentage. The penalty minutes line paints a very interesting picture, and perhaps one fans might expect: when Semin's shooting percentage has its peaks, his PIM totals have their nadirs, and when shooting percentage falls sharply, PIM totals rise. I'm not quite sure how definitive of a trend that is, but it certainly does suggest Semin gets frustrated when he cannot convert, but when he is converting, he doesn't take those silly "HHT" penalties.

To normalize (no pun intended) the scales a little, I calculated z-scores for each point and plotted those against one another.

Aside from one point about 1/6th of the way through the graph, we see shift totals and shooting percentage follow each other. It also seems like Semin has lower PIM totals when he has lower shift totals, perhaps because he "gets the message" that he's being partially benched. Similarly, it looks like higher PIM totals are accompanied by higher shift totals, and although more TOI = more PIM, we're talking a couple of minutes here and there for the most part. In short, I give much more credence to the idea that Semin's mental state affects his play on-ice to a pretty significant extent.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Breakout Candidates

A few players per team who up to this point have been a little off the radar but from whom I'm expecting big years.

Anaheim: Luca Sbisa. He's the one young player on that team who has yet to establish himself.

Los Angeles: Andrei Loktionov. He's a complete prospect, right up there with the Schenns and Halls of the world, and should be able to post strong numbers now that he's healthy and can soak up soft minutes that Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar will leave for him.

San Jose: Martin Havlat. Feeding pucks to Logan Couture and other San Jose snipers should boost his counting stats.

Phoenix: Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With Jovanovski moving on, OEL should see an increased role, and coupled with general development curves and his raw tools and I think he'll be a solid offensive option behind Keith Yandle. Recent acquisition Daymond Langkow and Martin Hanzal should benefit from each other as well, since they can split tough minutes now.

Dallas: Jamie Benn. Under the shadow of Brad Richards no longer, Benn is a young power forward who drives Corsi, like Eric Fehr but younger, more durable, and "toolsier." I think he'll emerge as the best forward on that team.

Calgary: I'm at a loss. Poorly run organization. Backlund, maybe.

Edmonton: Several options here. Jeff Petry has lots of potential. Taylor Hall looked like he'd finally figured out this NHL thing just before he got hurt. Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark didn't get favorable percentages, but assuming those rebound, they develop, and Eric Belanger helps out that line could actually be very strong both ways. And Jordan Eberle keeps defying the odds.

Vancouver: Gotta go with Cody Hodgson here. He's reaching that age, around 22-24, when many offensive players hit their first peak.

Colorado: Semyon Varlamov gets very little respect for how good he can be. If I had to pick one goalie for a game tomorrow, there isn't more than a handful of goalies I'd take ahead of him. What I think will help him most is the huge contrast I'm looking for between his numbers and those of JS Giguere, who may next season be the worst goaltending partner Varlamov has ever had.

Minnesota: Pierre-Marc Bouchard is finally healthy after missing over 100 games with concussion-related issues. He'll play with one or more of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, the best scorers he's had since Marian Gaborik.

Chicago: Michal Frolik. He shot an atrocious percentage for no discernible reason last year, and playing with a dominant possession team like Chicago should boost his numbers through the roof.

Detroit: Look for Ian White or a young player like Brendan Smith to step into the lineup and make an impact. I think Detroit's NHL roster depth is pretty overrated, but their prospect pool is the best there is.

Columbus: Derick Brassard had a strong showing his first year, struggled the next, but returned to form last year. He'll get softer minutes as Carter can step in and beat toughs singkehandedly.

St. Louis: T.J. Oshie was on track to post over sixty points before breaking his ankle. Patrik Berglund took the proverbial next step, nearly hitting sixty points last year after only getting 34 the year before. Both look like they'll improve some more, and as St. Louis looks like it'll be a better squad this year, btw are set for some strong counting stats. As is Alex Pietrangelo, who is nipping at Tyler Myers' heels for second best defenseman drafted in 2008 but is only nipping at Vyacheslav Voynov's heels in terms of hype among 2008-drafted D.

Nashville: Easy choices here--Ryan Ellis and Jon Blum. Ellis had the first 100 point season by a defenseman in the CHL since the mid 90s, while Blum took the next step and became a top-4 defenseman on that Predators team.

Boston: Another easy pick here with Tyler Seguin, who had a very disappointing rookie season.

Montreal: PK Subban was a top pair defenseman outscoring toughs by year's end. With Markov due to return and Gorges stepping into Hamrlik's spot, Subban should see more favorable ice time and post great numbers.

Buffalo: I'm going to switch this around a bit and pick who I think is due for a big regression. Sorry, Pegula and Regier, but Ville Leino isn't all that good. He's Tim Connolly but more durable, and played with noted playoff scorer Daniel Briere.

Ottawa: David Rundblad might have posted the best season by a defenseman in the SEL ever last season, considering he was only 20 (point pet game). I honestly expect him to QB their PP and beat soft minutes and be a Calder finalist.

Toronto: It's Nazem Kadri time. Carl Gunnarsson is easily the second best defenseman from 2007 behind Karl Alzner and is reaching the age where physical maturity will play in his favor.

Philadelphia: Brayden Schenn is the best player outside the NHL and James van Riemsdyk is entering his third season, which seems to me when power forwards start showing off their potential.

Pittsburgh: James Neal got a lot of press after being traded, and the media must like him considering the "Crosby needs a winger" talk died down thereafter, bugi still think he has much more than he's shown us thus far. Malkin and Crosby (and even Staal) are the best enters he's ever had.

New Jersey: I think Mattias Tedenby will end up playing with Kovalchuk and Elias, which makes for a very deadly combination, especially considering the inevitable regression in shooting percentage.

New York Rangers: Artem Anisimov is already 2C caliber and is due for a huge season. Similarly, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, and Tim Erixon are all top four and probably capable of playing top lines.

New York Islanders: I would like to pick Nino Niederreiter, but I don't see his spot in the top six. John Tavares should challenge forty goals and Mark Streit will remind everyone that he's a legitimate 1D who can play at a Norris level.

Carolina: Alexei Ponikarovsky is one of the best tough minutes wingers in the game, and may very well find himself next to Eric Staal.

Florida: Let's go with Tomas Fleischmann here, but in the Buffalo sense. I wouldn't even pay him $1.5 million, let alone $4.5 million.

Winnipeg: Andrew Ladd will get much more press thanks to CBC and TSN, and Evander Kane is entering his third season and is set to shine.

Tampa Bay: Everyone had forgotten about Victor Hedman. While he had a "meh" rookie season, everything clicked for him in his sophomore season as he went from being killed by first-toughs to killing second-toughs. With Lundin moving on, Hedman should figure more prominently in every situation, and more ice time equals more points. 

Washington: Easy choice for me here with Marcus Johansson, though, like with Anaheim, it's more because I don't really see anyone else. Maybe Tomas Vokoun.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Five Teams to Keep Tabs On

As a Caps fan, one per division. The Southeast, obviously, is covered.

Central: Nashville. Their situation with Suter, Weber, and Rinne looks like Carlson, Alzner, and Neuvirth in a few years, with a great shutdown pair and good goalie with depth coming up the pipeline in net all going FA around the same time. Certainly bears watching. If any gets to July 1 unsigned, the Capitals should look into signing 'em, obviously.

Ryan Ellis also looks like a guy that bears watching. As a fellow undersized 2011 World Junior All Star puck moving defenseman from the 2009 second round who boasts a cannon of a shot but a fringe physical game that features only a nice hip check, he may very well give us some insight into how Dmitry Orlov will adapt to the NHL.

Pacific: San Jose, for obvious reasons. Can they finally win the Cup? Three years from now, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle will go UFA, among other Sharks. Win in the next three years or bust.

Northwest: Colorado. We do hold their first, after all.

Atlantic: Pittsburgh. They are the best team in the East outside of Washington, and it's not close. Prepare for an ECF date with the Pens.

Northeast: Ottawa. They'll be selling, and have several useful players, notably Alfredsson and Phillips.

The Power Play Paradox

With Neil Greenberg and Peerless having chimed in on Alex Ovechkin's chances at fifty goals next year, I think it's time I give it a go.

I've been a firm believer that the biggest source of Ovechkin's "down season" was the Caps' poor power play performance (I'll look at zone starts in the near future, once I get settled after moving into NY). The numbers bear that out, to an extent: Ovechkin was top three in even strength points, but well down the list in power play points.

There are two main theories as to why the Caps' power play went from first to seventeenth: puck luck and strategy. I think it's a bit of both. The puck luck element no one can control, but thankfully we can expect the Caps' power play to be above average, even if not much, based on regression to the mean alone.

The strategic part, on the other hand, one can control, and it poses a problem for Ovechkin. I think what we've learned over the past couple of years is that the Caps' offense runs through Ovechkin much more than we'd realized. Neil had a nice post earlier in the year illustrating how Ovechkin's set of shots on the power play was from further out than in past years. In other words, teams were actively taking away any ability he had to get shots from the slot on the power play, and it worked wonders.

The easy way to fix the issue, obviously, is to run the power play through someone else. Backstrom, Green, and Semin are all great passers as well. But then how does Ovechkin rack up the big power play goals numbers he needs to hit fifty? In order to fix the power play, they'll need to show an aversion to using Ovechkin, to open him up a bit more. Even if it's just for twenty games, that's four or five potential power play goals lost for Ovechkin right there.

Flip it around now: run the power play through Ovechkin. It continues to not generate all that much, and he suffers as a result. Maybe he gets a point on 80% of on ice goals for, but if that is only thirty goals total, well... (to compare, the Young Guns were all in the mid 60s during the 09-10 season in terms of percentage of goals for in which they received a point; during that season Ovechkin had "only" 13 PPGs, down from 19 in his 56 goal campaign and 22 when he torched for 65)

And that, I feel, is going to hinder Ovechkin the most in his quest for 50-in-82. You can't simultaneously be the centerpiece of the offense all the time and expect to be successful. Not when you're "already" 26 (in three weeks). Not in today's NHL.

Given even odds and an over/under line of fifty goals for Ovechkin next season, bet the under.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Standings Predictions 11-12

The Hockey News is doing their series, so I'll do mine.

Eastern Conference

1. Washington: again?! Yes. A very strong team in a weaker division than the main competitor.

2. Pittsburgh: might be stronger than Washington, but play in a much tougher division.

3. Boston: I think they got better.

4. New York Rangers: I think their situation at every position is pretty predictable and stable, unlike for the rest of this list.

5. Philadelphia: they got lucky in net last year, but Bryzgalov should be able to keep it up.

6. Tampa Bay: assorted growth and aging.

7. Buffalo: they made some pretty bad moves, but they had money to spend. No move made them worse. So I bump them up from their seventh place finish last season.

8. New Jersey: they were an elite possession team last year...without Parise. Yes, no Lemaire, but even Maclean coached a 51% Fenwick team.

9. Montreal: they got worse, but not too much. Getting Markov back helps a bunch. I don't think Price will be that good again, though.

10. Toronto: they got a bit better, but I don't know about their situation in net.

11. New York Islanders: I think they're really underrated. Mark Streit is a top notch defenseman, and with the continued growth in their lineup I see a good season ahead.

12. Carolina: just outside the playoffs again.

13. Atlanta: they relied heavily on hot percentages and great goaltending last season.

14. Florida: lottery, and no surprise.

15. Ottawa: see Florida.

Western Conference

1. Chicago: they were almost the best team last year and got better.

2. Vancouver: I think Vancouver is in line for some shooting percentage regression.

3. San Jose: either them or LA and I'll play it safe.

4. Los Angeles: I love their depth at center, and with so much youth they're getting better.

5. Detroit: Lidstrom is on the decline and they aren't deep on the blueline and are simultaneously reluctant to promote prospects from their top notch farm system.

6. Nashville: stable for at least one more year, and the other teams don't make me feel awed.

7. St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak will bounce back in a big way, I think.

8. Columbus: why yes, I did just pick the Central to make the playoffs. Jeff Carter is a two way force.

9. Calgary: I think losing Regehr will hurt quite a bit.

10. Phoenix: big downgrade in net. Dave Tippett will have his biggest challenge yet.

11. Anaheim: they were a terrible possession team last year and continue to be very thin among skaters.

12. Edmonton: the seasons Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi had last year make me optimistic they'll be better. After all, Devan Dubnyk looks like a good goalie, and they have firepower up front.

13. Colorado: I've seen this story before, on Long Island. Their goalies likely won't stay healthy.

14. Dallas: I don't know, I not feeling it. They are thinner down the middle and weren't a good possession team to begin with.

15. Minnesota: the last team left. I think their goaltending should be alright but I continue to fail to see the goals.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scouting the Enemy: Northeast Division

Reverse order of finish (predicted).

Ottawa Senators
Notable additions: none
Notable losses: none
Outlook: lottery

Craig Anderson is an upgrade in goal, Chris Philips is a top pair defenseman, and David Rundbland could step right into the top four. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson make for a legit top line as well. Other than them, Ottawa is a mess. With guys like Mika Zibanejad, Nikita Filatov, Robin Lehner, and Erik Karlsson improving every day, the future looks bright. Just not the present.

Season series gameplan: just go out there and play

Playoff series gameplan: good thing I don't have to worry about this section

Toronto Maple Leafs
Notable additions: Tim Connolly
Notable losses: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Outlook: lottery

I'm not convinced Reimer is the real deal. And if I'm right, Toronto is in trouble. Their defense is okay, forwards thin but getting better, but again, goaltending.

Season series gameplan: don't be afraid to shoot, and keep your head up.

Playoff series gameplan: same

Montreal Canadiens
Notable additions: Erik Cole
Notable losses: Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski
Outlook: borderline playoff team

The Habs are a mixed bag. You have aging veterans like Hal Gill, young players like PK Subban and Lars Eller. I think losing a top pair D in Hamrlik and losing Wisniewski cancels with gaining back Markov and improvement among skaters. I'm not sure Price can replicate what he did last year, though.

Season series gameplan: navigate matchups to get Ovechkin and Semin against checkers, not Plekanec or Gomez.

Playoff series gameplan: same. And get those darned special teams working. Montreal annually has strong units.

Buffalo Sabres
Notable additions: Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff
Notable losses: Tim Connolly
Outlook: playoff team

Ryan Miller had a down year last year. Meanwhile, Leino is a more durable version of Connolly, they should get back Roy, Ehrhoff is the puck mover they needed after losing Tallinder, and Myers will get better percentages. They are still over the cap, however.

Season series outlook: attack. The Sabres among skaters should be able to play any style well, but not great, so may as well do what the Capitals do best. Attack.

Playoff series gameplan: same.

Boston Bruins
Notable additions: Joe Corvo
Notable losses: Tomas Kaberle
Outlook: Cup Contender

The Bruins of course just won the Stanley Cup, and got better. Corvo is an upgrade over Kaberle, and young guys like Marchand and Seguin should improve. Losing Recchi and not being able to bank on a generational season from Tim Thomas hurts, but I'm a believer in Tuukka Rask.

Season series outlook: like with Montreal, avoid the checkers, here Krejci and Bergeron. The Bruins defense isn't all that good, so patience is key. Quality over quantity.

Playoff series outlook: that, and try to get on special teams. The Caps had two top six units by shots last season, while the Bruins were  mediocre.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Scouting the Enemy: Southeast Division

Again, reverse predicted order of finish for the not-quite-weakest-but-close Southeast.

Florida Panthers
Notable additions: Kris Versteeg via trade, Tomas Fleischmann, Jose Theodore, Ed Jovanovski, Brian Campbell via trade
Notable losses: Tomas Vokoun, Rostislav Olesz via trade
Outlook: losing streak away from lottery

I think of Dale Tallon's handiwork in Florida this way: downgrading from Vokoun to Theodore is about twenty goals lost, going by GVT. I think their additions will make that up, as Versteeg and Campbell are worth more than half that combined, but their net improvement isn't much.

Season series gameplan: just make sure one offensive star, minimum, is both producing at that point in the season and gets away from the vastly underrated shutdown pair of Garrison and Weaver.

Playoff series gameplan: I'm not really sure one is needed. Just the standard stuff will result in a sweep for Washington.

Winnipeg Jets
Notable additions: Eric Fehr via trade
Notable losses: Brent Sopel
Outlook: miss playoffs

The Atlanta Thrashers last season were a poor possession team who overachieved for the first half of the season, in my mind. Andrew Ladd is a solid all-around player, but aside from him up front Winnipeg is pretty thin. On the blueline, Dustin Byfuglien should have more trouble finding success joining the rush as teams wisen up to that tactic, as they did with Mike Green after 08-09. Zach Bogosian is starting to look like he'll end up as unfulfilled potential, and Ondrej Pavelec needs more than one good season to convince me that he's the real deal.

Season series gameplan: slow the game down. Winnipeg has more than enough depth with regards to puck-moving defensemen and too much of Byfuglien, Enstrom, and company joining the attack will lead to Jets victories.

Playoff series gameplan: um...don't let Evander Kane burn the team again. Keeping Ovechkin away from Ladd should help a'plenty as well.

Carolina Hurricanes
Notable additions: Tomas Kaberle, Brian Boucher, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Notable losses: Joe Corvo, Erik Cole
Outlook: borderline playoff team

That list of additions and subtractions should explain my prognostication for this team. They downgraded from Corvo to Kaberle, upgraded to backup goalie Boucher, and Ponikarovsky is a great tough minutes player who won't replace Cole's offense. Net, give some room for growth to guys like Sutter, McBain, and Skinner and I think they'll be a little better but still a reliable tough minutes forward and defenseman short. By my count I got three and one, respectively, which is just too little.

Season series gameplan: just control the puck. The way Carolina is going to win is with their forwards controlling the game down low. Lose some of the riskier plays in lieu of safer ones. This is a little tough to execute considering the speed of Hurricanes forwards, but with five defensemen I trust withandling the puck I think the Capitals will be alright.

Playoff series gameplan: again, methodical puck possession. It's important not to let Cam Ward get hot, too, so quality over quantity.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Notable additions: none
Notable looses: Sean Bergenheim
Outlook: playoff team

Tampa Bay was the fourth best team in the East last year by score-tied Fenwick%, behind Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. I can't see them having such poor performance in net again, and improvement in performance there--which doesn't have to come from better personnel, just better luck--should offset, roughly, decline from Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St Louis, Eric Brewer, and Mattias Ohlund. I'm not sold on Stamkos being a top player in the game yet, as I see one and a half years of good play followed by a year of outstanding play, then a regression back to merely good, but it's safe to predict he'll become better, as should Victor Hedman. Net, I see a slight improvement.

Season series gameplan: like with Carolina, patience. If you haven't read the Japers' Rink post entitled "The 411 on the 3-1-1" I suggest you read that now.

Playoff series gameplan: accept the power versus power challenge--mutually canceling top lines is better than mutually canceling Washington's top line with Tampa's third.

Washington Capitals
Notable additions: Tomas Vokoun, Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern
Notable losses: Eric Fehr via trade
Outlook: Cup Contender

I'm cautiously optimistic. I'll pencil in the Caps as favorites in the East if they're able to post strong possession numbers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Scouting the Enemy: Atlantic Division

Sorry for any funky format. I'm trying posting via email.

Either the Atlantic or the underrated Central will be the best division next
> season.
> In reverse predicted order of finish:
> New York Islanders
> Notable additions: Brian Rolston via trade
> Notable losses: Trent Hunter via trade
> Outlook: borderline playoff team
> The Islanders are a young team on the rise. They have had bad luck with
> injuries year after year, but look to be in good shape for next season. Mark
> Streit may not be the Norris caliber defenseman he was two years ago, but
> he's a legit 1D. Macdonald and Hamonic make a strong second pair, and
> combined with the Nielsen-Grabner-Okposo line they can outscore any top line
> in the league. Tavares also has an outside shot at 40 goals.
> Season series gameplan: Work hard. The Islanders always play the Caps well
> because they work hard, like the Caps under Hanlon. But there is still a big
> gulf in terms of talent.
> Playoff series gameplan: same. And push the pace against their inexperienced
> blueline.
> New Jersey Devils
> Notable additions: none
> Notable losses: none
> Outlook: playoff team
> The Devils had a crazy last season. I think they are closer to the Lemaire
> team than the Maclean team, though. They were a 51% Fenwick team under
> Maclean and about 55% under Lemaire, but of course had much better puck luck
> the second half of the season. We cannot expect Brodeur to play below
> replacement level for forty games again, and along with the return of Zach
> Parise I see this team as a low playoff team.
> Season series gameplan: push the pace and attack. The Devils have a young
> blueline that, aside from Volchenkov, Tallinder, and Greene, is very
> unproven.
> Playoff series gameplan: same. I would also slot Brouwer on the top line to
> hit Volchenkov, who is not especially durable.
> Philadelphia Flyers
> Notable additions: Jakub Voracek via trade, Brayden Schenn via trade, Wayne
> Simmonds via trade, Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Bryzgalov
> Notable losses: Jeff Carter via trade, Mike Richards via trade, Brian
> Boucher
> Outlook: playoff team
> Much has already been written about the Flyers' offseason makeover. I'd just
> like to add that now at least one of Schenn, Briere, or Voracek will need to
> play toughs. The first may be too inexperienced, the latter two not ideal.
> Giroux is still good enough to stabilize the forward corps, but not enough
> to make them elite, I think: he did have Carter on his wing, after all.
> Season series gameplan: attention to line matching. Philadelphia probably
> doesn't have the forward depth to handle two strong scoring lines.
> Playoff series gameplan: that plus playing very physically on Pronger and
> Timonen to wear them down.
> New York Rangers
> Notable additions: Brad Richards, Tim Erixon via trade
> Notable losses: none
> Outlook: playoff team
> The Rangers were already decent. They've added the best UFA and one of the
> two best defensemen in the world not already in the NHL (along with fellow
> Swede David Rundbland), and coupled with growth from Artem Anisimov, Mike
> Sauer, and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers should win plenty of games and
> challenge for home ice.
> Season series gameplan: offense versus offense. Richards and Gaborik should
> be the most vulnerable line defensively. Furthermore, given how sound the
> Rangers defensemen are in their zone--I'd take their top five defensemen
> over all save Philly's for pure defense--I think the Capitals defensemen
> need to be aggressive in joining the rush. With Green, Wideman, Carlson, and
> Hamrlik all better puck movers than any Ranger D, therein lies the Caps'
> biggest personnel edge. Offense from defense.
> Playoff series gameplan: same.
> Pittsburgh Penguins
> Notable additions: none
> Notable losses: none
> Outlook: Cup Contender
> There are still question marks surrounding this team. How will Malkin fare
> coming off a serious knee injury, one which typically sets a player at
> reduced effectiveness for a year or two? When will Crosby come back, and
> will he feel like Eric Lindros, who said that after the Stevens hit he
> actually had to think about what he was doing with the puck? Will Fleury
> build off his strong last season, or will he regress to his prior, league
> average self? Will James Neal figure it all out?
> Nonetheless, this is the best possession team since Bylsma took over, and I
> expect that strong play to lead them to a division title. Only their strong
> division prevents me from penciling them in as the East top seed.
> Season series gameplan: slow the game down. Prevent the Penguins from
> getting their forecheck going.
> Playoff series gameplan: any strategy I can think of is a mixed bag. Just
> win. If I had to choose I'd like to see the Capitals open it up, move the
> puck up the ice quickly, and exert a physical toll on the Pens top four,
> upon which Bylsma will rely upon heavily. I don't necessarily want run and
> gun, but this Capitals team thrives off the rush--did they even score five
> goals in the playoffs off an in-zone possession?--and playing a neutral zone
> game neutralizes the Caps transition game and puck moving blueline
> advantage.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eastern Conference Top-Six Reliance

After seeing this post on the Western Conference Teams, I decided to do the same exercise for the East. Here are the results, sorted by most reliance on top-6 (by TOI...yes, that is a bit of circular reasoning) forwards:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tomas Vokoun's 2010-2011 Goals Against

As I was going through Tomas Vokoun's goals allowed with the Florida Panthers last season, I realized there could be very good reasons for his bit of a "down year" last season. Not all fill me with optimism.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ducks' Super Line

While perusing, sometimes I come across what I like to call "super lines." They are groups of 3-5 players who play together extremely often, and, like with defense partners who almost always play together, these players are extremely effective together, but it's difficult to ascertain who is driving the play and who is just along for the ride (if anyone). The Bruins had Krejci-Horton-Lucic and Bergeron-Recchi-Marchand. The Canucks had Sedin-Sedin-Burrows (the latter of whom can certainly carry his weight in his own end). The Red Wings used to have Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom-Lidstrom-Rafalski. The Capitals often have Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin-Green. The Maple Leafs have Kulemin-MacArthur-Grabovski.The most prominent example I've ever seen, though, is on this season's Anaheim Ducks: Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry-Visnovsky-Lydman.

Making this "super line" realization relevant were Visnovsky's and Perry's candidacies for major awards. Just like with the 07-08 Red Wings (Lidstrom taking the Norris, Datsyuk winning the Selke and Byng, Zetterberg 3rd in the Selke voting and the Conn Smythe), it's tough to know who's really pulling the weight when the players in question play so much together. Over the years, we've found out that all three of those Red Wings are the top two-way talents at their respective positions. With the Ducks, though, the situation is a bit different. Visnovsky has the reputation of a Mike Green, but without the generational offensive talent. Meanwhile, Perry has a reputation of a Matt Cooke, but with all-star ability at both ends of the ice, just not superstar ability. "Breakout seasons" at Perry's (nearly 27) and especially Visnovsky's age (nearly 35) suggest that luck was a huge factor. Looking at how they needed the other members of their "super line," I think that's the right conclusion for Perry, but maybe not for Visnovsky.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The 11-12 Caps, like the 11-12 Flyers

The shower is really a great place to come up with ideas for posts.

Semin: Best a Stopper?

Even if playing Semin in a defensive role sacrifices his even strength offense, he's one of the best two-way players on the team. Reduced offense should, furthermore, lower his cost, which could mean he could stay with the team past 2011-2012 for much less than the $6.7 million hit he'll put on the cap. Moreover, style aside for a moment, using Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Backstrom as the statistical examples of Semin's ideal linemates, Laich better matches Fedorov's ability to "tilt the ice" (good relative Corsi with not-so-easy minutes) and put up points at 5v5 (a little under 2 pts/60) than Marcus Johansson, who would presumably center Semin if not Laich.

This all made me think of whether Semin is best suited to be a "heavy lifter." Playing him for offense may lead to some issues. For one, playing him on the 2nd line means the team has two lines for offense without enough offensive ice time to go around (one of the two will have to take mediocre or poor zone starts, one of the two will have to take moderately difficult ice time thanks to time-on-ice distribution patterns--opposing poorer, lower-TOI players won't be out there enough for both Ovechkin and Semin's lines) to use their abilities to the fullest. With Laich the next best forward on the team, then, it makes sense to play Laich and Semin together. Since Laich (and any other option to play with Semin) lacks that high offensive production ability, and since Semin's game translates better between offense and defense than for other Caps forwards (except for Backstrom, I'd say), why not play them in a role that forces them to play both offense and defense? And if your third forward is probably going to bring much more defense than offense, why not skew their usage to favor defense? It will also free up the top line to get ice time more like the Sedin twins than like Ryan Kesler.

I'm not sure I'd do it, but that sort of split would definitely be on my radar if I were coaching the team. Then again, if I knew anything about the game I'd be in it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goal Scorers Are Not Created Equal

Goal scorers are not all the same. Many fans I've come across don't realize this (what I see as obvious) fact.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ovechkin: Three Seasons

Again, "Team" is without Ovechkin on the ice. We see Ovechkin (and Backstrom) with a pretty bad stretch about a quarter of the way through the season, then his Corsi% (along with the team's) pick up during the losing streak, to stay high for the rest of the year. Ovechkin seems to have had a good start to the year, a bad stretch, and then a good stretch from game 50 onward, at 5v5 at least.

I like that Ovechkin's final half of the season was pretty strong here (aside from that blip in the 60s, which coincides with when Backstrom was hurt), but not how that seems to have come at the expense of the rest of the team. I suppose Ovechkin getting the prime offensive ice time is better than, say, Jason Chimera, but I'd like to see the rest of the team at least break even consistently (see "Corsi Off" on behind the net) as they have in previous years.

WOWY, all scores:

Wow (-y). Only four players show up with negative Delta1s (how much better their Corsi% is with Ovechkin than without Ovechkin), and only one has a positive Delta1 under 5%. Seven of the 20 players here have a Delta1 of at least 10%. The "w/Ovechkin" looks pretty stellar across the board, except for Schultz (~50%, "only"). That's odd, considering the next chart.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On Tom Wandell

I'd noted way back at the deadline that this dude on the Stars, Tom Wandell, looked very, very good by his Behind the net profile. To recap:

Middling competition. Best relative Corsi rating. Middling zone start. Cheap and young. Will get better as he gets better at faceoffs.

Looking at his WOWY, nothing stands out until the columns 15, 16, 17, and 29--Jamie Langenbrunner, Adam Burish, Toby Petersen, and Steve Ott, respectively, with ~20% Delta1s in their columns (Wandell was ~50% with each of them, ~43% without each of them). Either when these checkers played together they got some easier minutes, or they just played decent, break-even territorial hockey, which happened to be well above the normal caliber of play Dallas was getting last season.

Green Carries Himself

A quick look at Behind the Net leads to an interesting observation regarding Mike Green. The only Capitals defenseman within earshot is John Carlson, and all his most frequent defensive partners are well below him, three in the negative relative Corsi range. He must have been some sort of stellar, right?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Growth of Nicklas Backstrom

Here are some of his important "underlying" numbers:

At first glance, I see increasing defensive responsibility for the young Swede, coupled with superior possession play. Backstrom may have topped out his offense, more-or-less, but with his ever-improving defensive play I think he may age like Saku Koivu (who, this last year at 36, was still taking tough assignments, along with Selanne), but with a bit more offense. If Backstrom and Ovechkin age like that, I'll be ecstatic.

It is a little troublesome to see how he seems at the mercy of his teammates and the percentages on the power play. I guess Jacques Martin had it right--the Caps' PP does truly revolve around Ovechkin.

And rolling Corsi segments, 10 games each in length:

Apologies on the messed-up x-axis scale. They are the segment-ending game numbers, 1 to 81 (the game sheet for the shutout win over Carolina early in the season for whatever reason wasn't published online).

We can see that in the middle of the season and towards the end were when Backstrom was strongest. In the middle of the season, though, we likely have score effects inflating Backstrom's ratio--he'd see a lot of ice time with the Caps trailing, which would be often when you lose 8 in a row--whereas score effects have the opposite effect at the end, deflating Backstrom's numbers. He fell off a bit around Game 70, which is around the time of his thumb injury.

Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, the Caps as a team had their strongest possession weeks before the system change, and despite Backstrom (and likely Ovechkin as well) not exactly dominating territorially (I think much of the Caps' success can be attributed to their newer defensive look, which teams were not prepared for, and more favorable percentages). The aggressive "run-and-gun" seemed to deteriorate over time, on the other season Boudreau will truly test Boudreau's mettle in terms of making adjustments, as other teams have now had the time to prepare for every look he's given them.

On a side note, the Caps' Fenwick and scoring chance ratios look stronger than Corsi ratios. The Caps went on a tear post-deadline in Fenwick. I just opted for the larger-sample Corsi metric.

Corsi Rankings

Just a data dump. You can access the lists here as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More on Hamrlik and Halpern

En Attendant Les Nordiques was kind enough to publish scoring chances (top left, link to a Google Doc spreadsheet), though at this point it's only updated through ~60 games.

I looked at MTL's scoring chances with either on the ice at 5v4, 5v5, and 4v5. Like the data at, this includes empty-net situations (e.g. 6v5 is counted as 5v5).

Link to my spreadsheet. For the 5v5 scoring chance WOWYs, I included only players with at least 50 chances with Hamrlik/Halpern. The dataset for scoring chances is unfortunately about only half as big as that of Corsi.

I'll assume that the Habs' TOI distribution on special teams stayed constant throughout the season, since I only have data until the end of winter.

Per the data, the Canadiens had 171 5-on-4 scoring chances for, 212 4-on-5 scoring chances against. Hamrlik was +79, -73, while Halpern was +2, -80. Per BtN, the Habs spent 443.7 mins at 5v4, meaning they averaged a scoring chance every 2.59 minutes. They spent 518.7 mins at 4v5 (the most in the league), which means a scoring chance against every 2.45 minutes. Again, this is full-season: it's not the Habs' true rate (which was higher, as they gave up that many chances over 3/4 of the season), but the comparison between Hamrlik's rate and the team rate should hold true if my assumption is correct.

Hamrlik clocks in with 201.45 minutes played at 5v4 (roughly), meaning the Canadiens with old #44 on the ice were creating chances at one every 2.55 minutes: a hair above average on that team. Halpern played only 9.36 minutes at 5v4, 4.68 minutes per chance, below average in small sample. He also played 165.6 minutes at 4v5, giving us 2.07 minutes per chance against. Competition and zone start don't exactly give him an excuse for such poor numbers compared to his team (though in a small sample they aren't that reliable; aside: Gionta with a 4v5 zone finish above 50% is spectacular). Hamrlik played 143.78 minutes at 4v5, at 1.97 minutes per chance. Above average. Looks like he'll be a legitimate option on the power play and can eat minutes on the Caps PK, given the team's rotation. I'm not so sure Halpern can take minutes on special teams, which means more PK time for the rest of the group in order to make up Gordon's PK time.

One more note on the PK--winning the draw may not be that important. If the coaches and management realize that, the PK shouldn't miss a beat without Gordon.