Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yet Another Look at Alex Ovechkin's Scoring

Thanks to behindthenet, I compiled some of Alex Ovechkin's stats.

Contribution percentage is a measure of with what frequency a player has a point when he is on the ice for a goal (points divided by goals for). You can read more about it here, here, and here.

Ovechkin's zone starts are far from his normal rate and his on-ice shots for are down by about 2.5 per 60 minutes. Note the extremely low "true" shooting percentage (goals divided by shots plus missed shots). He was able to counteract two other seasons of low "true" shooting percentage with a massive amount of shots. This season, though, he's only on pace for 227 5-on-5 shots.

The power play is probably the biggest issue. After always threatening 20 power play goals a season, this year Ovechkin is on pace for less than four. That can't last.

It looks to me like if we tweak Ovechkin's percentages to his career levels--well, his personal 5-on-5 shooting percentage and his total power play goals--then he'd be around 28-30 goals and on pace for close to 50.

Further reading: Behind the Net (Ovechkin's usage), Behind the Net (Ovechkin's shooting), Puck Daddy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In Defense of the Devils

(I wish I'd finished this post before the Devils caught fire)

The NHL's most disappointing team thus far this season has to be the New Jersey Devils.

After winning their division in 2010 and then adding Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, and Jason Arnott, while losing a good defenseman in Paul Martin (who hardly played anyways, due to injury), they were probably penciled in by most as a solid playoff team, behind Pittsburgh (thanks to Shero's aggressive July 1 which landed Pittsburgh Zbynek Michalek and Martin) and Philadelphia (the defending Eastern Conference Champions, who solidified their third pair and added Nikolai Zherdev, losing Simon Gagne who'd missed 20+ games with injury).

With the Devils now sitting in lottery position, most people would say they are a terrible team. Hopefully after reading on, you won't be one of those people anymore.

The Tikkanen Conundrum

You, dear Caps fan (or not), have probably thought once "What if Tikkanen made the shot?"

Well, Tikkanen didn't, and I guess to many a Caps fan that means he "choked" at that moment.

What if he put that shot home? Would he be labeled as a "clutch" deadline acquisition who had the guts to deke and got himself an open net in which to score? What if he shot and was stopped by Vernon's aggressive goaltending? Would he be labeled a choker? I think so.

That got me thinking about Alexander Semin's playoff performance.

Love to Hate

A few days ago, I got finished playing possibly the best basketball game of my life. I relish the physical play. Even though I'm not too tall (5'8" according to the doctor, though I think I'm almost 5'10") I end up having to play power forward since I'm the second tallest student at school. I was scared going into the game, though, since every starter on the other team was taller than me and one was taller than our tallest player. Yikes.

I figure that if I can't beat the guys I have to defend and/or attack physically, I try and beat them mentally. I don't think I was Sean Avery, but I could definitely feel the Dustin Brown or David Backes. When I realized the ref wasn't calling many fouls, I started fouling when playing defense, and got away with a lot of them too. I pushed a lot, boxed out before shots came (putting my elbow in others' stomachs), blocked people's paths to the net, got in the way as they were driving, and jumped and made contact as they were shooting. I made sure to give each defender a shove to let him know I was there when trying to get around the guy. I pick-and-rolled to intentionally block the defender's path, too, and luckily the refs weren't calling moving pick fouls on me.

I don't consider myself dirty. I certainly don't try to hurt (too much). But borderline? Sure. Whatever gets the other guys off their games.

The other day, it worked pretty well. I could tell I was frustrating a few of those guys, who tried to push me back instead of continuing to battle for position under the net. On defense, they'd try and get on the opposite side of the half-court so as to avoid me (I hope). On offense, I'd get focused on--ironic, since I'm a terrible ball handler and panic when shooting in a game situation--and that would leave our star players open right next to me. If nothing else, I helped distract the other team's big guys from their defensive assignments. As such, while I only got around 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals (actually, a great game for me), the person playing center (right next to me) for most of the game got around 35 points and 15 rebounds, I reckon.

I can't help but wonder if the Caps could use such a player, the type of player who other teams' fans will call various derogatory nicknames (laced with expletives) but whose own fans will, while admitting he may cross the line, still love him.

The very best of the "agitators" or semi-agitators will draw lots of penalties, take some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, frustrate opposing stars, play with a lot of energy on the forecheck, and just overall make a nuisance of themselves. Matt Cooke was a great player in this mold that McPhee picked up at the 2008 deadline, but the organization has been lacking such a player since. Jason Chimera and Matt Hendricks are gritty forwards, but not the sort I might like to see. Stefan Della Rovere is one prospect who might be such a player in the future, but McPhee traded him over the summer for now-useless DJ King (remind me again why McPhee didn't simply keep Della Rovere and sign Zenon Konopka? Not as if GMGM was doing anything else on July 1...). In terms of GVT or Corsi I don't think agitators show up well, but they're a rare breed who, I think, can influence "luck" to turn in your team's favor more often than not, and seeing as they generally can actually play decent hockey, they won't be giving it back at their own end.

I'm certainly not advocating that the Capitals go out of their way to try and trade for a Steve Ott or David Backes-type of player. There aren't many good agitators who are good people off the ice as well (not-Sean-Averys), and they come a bit expensive. But I do want the Capitals to play with much more of an edge. And that starts with the captain, Александр Михайлович Овечкин.

Preview: All-Star Game

Because nothing is more fun than predicting a game that's unpredictable.


Clearly Lidstrom's team is going to have several full-time centers on the wing.

Head-to-head, with me having taken the liberties of assigning some centers to wing:

The 2nd-from-right column is which team in my opinion has the advantage in real hockey, the rightmost the advantage in all-star game terms. The D were too close for me to tell (Lidstrom is stronger at the top, I think Staal has a bit more depth). The goaltending is pretty lopsided.

I'd pick Lidstrom to win this one.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some Brooks Laich Advanced Stats

Until very recently, Laich was 1st in Corsi Rel.

Maybe keep these in mind when you read this piece. The second row of mouse-written numbers is Laich's rank among the 10 Caps forwards with at least 30 games played this season--Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks, and David Steckel.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Couple of More Charts

Stick tap to JLikens again for Corsi% and Fenwick% numbers.

While the correlation is good, there's some significant deviation from the line. I don't think it's safe to infer that year-to-year it's not possible, at the team level, to systematically be above the line, even when the missed shots distribution is what we'd expect from luck alone, because teams that lead a lot (like the far right team below the line, Vancouver) will get outshot, usually.

Check out the previous post for an updated spreadsheet.

Some Charts

Corsi%, Fenwick%, and Shot% numbers thanks to JLikens of Objective NHL, and shot differential numbers thanks to Everything is from this season.

The team that's way above the line, around +6 shots/gm? San Jose.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why It's Okay to "Carry" Your Partner

Carlson leads his Washington team with a +12 +/- rating.  Washington has been using John Carlson and Karl Alzner as their number one shutdown defensive line.  It is Carlson that is carrying the load on this line.  Alzner has spent the last two seasons splitting his time between the AHL and NHL and has not shown the same NHL skillset as Carlson. 

John Carlson is playing a significant defensive role and he is doing it very well.  He is carrying a lesser defence partner as he does this.  He is also putting up a respectable offensive showing.  This makes John Carlson the leading rookie this season.  He should be considered the Calder Trophy leader at this point, but his lack of a high point total has largely left him overlooked.
--The Puck Stops Here, Kuklas Korner.

There are two things being said here: one, that John Carlson is a stud (but we already knew that). The other is that perhaps Karl Alzner is a bit in over his head at this point. That's what Corsi indicates: before being paired with Alzner (this season), Carlson was still handling the toughs and had a Corsi Rel close to ten. Since being paired with Alzner, Carlson's Corsi Rel has fallen into the neighborhood of five, and Alzner has been hovering around zero or in low positives all along. And that's when Alzner has been getting the better teammates by Corsi Rel QoC (or at least better-performing teammates). It certainly seems like Puck Stops Here was right.

But that's okay.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Preview: Capitals @ Panthers

Data is from Objective NHL,,, and Left Wing Lock.

Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers

Washington: 24-12-6, 54 points
Leading scorers: Alex Ovechkin (15-29-44 in 42 GP), Nicklas Backstrom (11-27-38 in 42), Alexander Semin (18-27-35 in 39)
Goalies: Michal Neuvirth (14-6-3, 2.56, .911 with .912 at ES), Semyon Varlamov (8-4-2, 2.08, .928 w/ ES .936)
Shot differential/game: +3.9
5-on-5 shot differential/game: +3.7

Adjusted Fenwick%: 59.9% (13th)
Notable injuries/illnesses: RW Alexander Semin, W Matt Bradley, C Boyd Gordon, W DJ King
Player to watch: G Semyon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth

Florida: 18-20-2, 38 points
Leading scorers: Stephen Weiss (13-13-26 in 39 GP), Michael Frolik (8-18-26 in 39), David Booth (11-12-23 in 40)
Goalies: Tomas Vokoun (15-15-1, 2.55, .922 with .922 at ES), Scott Clemmensen (3-5-1, 2.48, .921 w/ ES .932)
Shot differential/game: -0.9
5-on-5 shot differential/game: 0.0

Adjusted Fenwick%: 51.6% (10th)
Notable injuries/illnesses: none
Player to watch: C Stephen Weiss

The Caps won the last meeting a few days ago, 3-2.

1) Ovi...f'real? I hope that beauty, streaking down the left wing, is a sign of better things to come from Ovechkin. Maybe some empty netters would help.

2) Seminal defense. If Semin decides not to do much offensively again, I hope he decides at least to contribute defensively. That goes for the entire team, actually. I'm a broken record in praising the Panthers, who have all season had good scoring chance, Fenwick, and Corsi ratios. Shutting them down will be key, as their 5-on-5 offense is decent enough around 2.7 goals per 60.

3) Careful with bottom-6 matchups. Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera aren't great Corsi players, and Bruce Boudreau if he accidentally leaves them out against Weiss...that could be a disaster. It's not as bad to leave out the 4th line, but losing Matt Bradley, an excellent 4th liner, certainly hurts. I think power versus power would be best, and honestly that's likely what DeBoer would do too with the last change, I figure.

4) Backstrom. Shots. Goals. Wins. #needsmoreLars

5) Cycle. Cycling is the best way to stop a team from playing offense while still generating good chances of your own, I would think, especially against a team like Florida which knows how to get decent scoring chances and limit them at the other end. Exchanging chances in transition moreover just makes this game Florida's goalies versus Washington's goalies, which are more-or-less a push and could go either way.

I'm convinced the Caps are better than the Panthers, even if the Panthers have a better adjusted Fenwick. While the Panthers' PK is solid, their PP is terrible, or at least has been, and I think that'll be the difference. I just hope the team doesn't look ahead to an important matchup with Tampa Bay tomorrow night. Capitals 4, Panthers 2.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Awards Watch: January

I guess shifting to the middle of each month means that this post will be due just as the season wraps up. I'll adopt this timing from now on.

Hart Trophy:
  1. Sidney Crosby--leads the league in points and goals, plays tough minutes and out-Corsis them, etc etc. You've heard the story. Sid has a point on 66 of Pittsburgh's 136 goals thus far, almost half.
  2. Tim Thomas--I made a mistake in removing Thomas before. Boston once again is leading the NHL in GA, and is one of three teams that has yet to allow its 100th goal on the season (Boston 91, Nashville 97, Vancouver 99 right now). His save percentage at .946 beats 2nd-place Ondrej Pavelec by .012. Wow.
  3. Ondrej Pavelec--Atlanta is 24th by adjusted Fenwick. They're 10th overall. Why? Pavelec has been almost as good as Thomas.
  4. Kris Letang--this dude has been a monster this season (yes Pierre, I am a fan. At least when you're on TSN). He's fourth in points among defenseman, 3rd in plus-minus, and 1st in assists. Like Crosby, Letang is killing those tough minutes. Well, killing the tough minutes, but not before they kill Brooks Orpik...yikes, man. I'll dock him a bit because if he weren't there, Paul Martin can pick up the slack pretty well.
  5. Jonas Hiller--I think this is the year of the goalie. Hiller flies under the radar a bit, but consider GVT and save percentage--then the defense in front of him--and he should be considered. Seriously, it looks like only Tony Lydman and Lubomir Visnovsky even deserve ice time. Anaheim is only in 6th in the West right now because of Hiller (and extra games played).

Just missed: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis (they hurt each other, and this Hart list is very strong), Dustin Byfuglien, Daniel Sedin, Cam Ward

Learning Not to Care About Awards

I started closely following the Capitals in 2003, I'd say. Since then I've been hit with a slew of Caps vying for individual awards at the end of the season.

Robert Lang that season was leading the Art Ross race before being traded to Detroit. Coming out of the lockout, Alex Ovechkin won the Calder and has been a perennial contender for the Ross, Richard, Pearson/Lindsay, and Hart Trophies ever since. Bruce Boudreau won the Jack Adams and Nicklas Backstrom was a Calder finalist in 2008. Mike Green has been a Norris finalist twice and may very well be again this season. John Carlson looks like a Calder finalist this season, and Semyon Varlamov looks like a future Vezina winner. So yeah, I've almost always been rooting for one or more Caps to win an individual award.

More recently, though, I've found that I've stopped caring. Why? Simple. Aside from Carlson, no Capital this season is even in the running for an award at this point.

Ovechkin won't be winning anything in all likelihood. Green will need a monster second half to get in the Norris race, and even then, Dustin Byfuglien's shiny boxcars and reputation as an elite two-way defenseman (you'd think, since obviously because he has a championship he's an elite defensive player who takes all the tough assignments) as well as early season luster will likely see him through. Couture is ahead of Carlson right now and at this point deserves the Calder over Carlson. Varlamov won't be winning anything while sharing time in goal with Michal Neuvirth. And so on.

I've pretty much conceded that individual awards are based heavily on who gets lucky in a given year, and that the good players will win their awards eventually. Backstrom has 15 years to win a Selke, Smythe, Ross, and/or Byng, I'd say. Green has slightly less (I think, because of the beating he takes from forecheckers) time, but still a lot, to win a Norris or two. If everyone's percentages were at career averages Crosby and Ovechkin would be neck-and-neck for the Ross and Richard again. Varlamov will get over his injury troubles eventually and with each passing game looks more and more like an elite goalie.

I guess this is what other teams' fans feel regularly. I'd been regularly spoiled with all the talent McPhee has assembled. Now, with no Capital really in the running or deserving any award, I--and hopefully, the players, too--can simply focus on winning the Stanley Cup.