Babcock on analytics: ‘I love the information’

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It might be hasty to call him “Moneyball” Mike Babcock, but the Detroit Red Wings’ head coach is a fan of analytics.

He told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen as much, noting that the Red Wings don’t have an analytics guy on staff yet, but also stating his belief that it’s just a matter of time.

“I love the information,” Babcock said.

The two-time Olympic gold medal-winner, one-time Stanley Cup champion and all-around decorated bench boss believes that teams will have more resources to spend on stats-minded staffers as time goes on.

Those interested in “fancy stats” will probably find themselves nodding at this statement, in particular:

Indeed, it might be a work in progress, as Red Wings GM Ken Holland seemed reluctant to fully embrace “advanced stats” according to what he said to The Hockey News.

“We’ve been talking about it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a big factor in any of our decision making,” Holland said. “Let’s say you’re Pavel Datsyuk’s linemate. You move to another team and not playing with Pavel Datsyuk is going to have an effect on your lack of success. With baseball, it’s more black and white because the pitcher is on the mound and he’s going against the batter. But in hockey, you’ve got four teammates and five opponents who are going to have some impact on what’s going to happen.”

(If you hear some grumbling, it’s likely from those who are going great lengths to account for context or merely people who note that there are other stats out there beyond Corsi and Fenwick-related numbers.)

Of course, it could also be a matter of semantics, as many simply prefer to refer to Corsi or Fenwick events as “shot attempts.”

Either way, it’s probably a step in the right direction for Babcock at least to be intrigued by it all. Red Wings blog Winging It in Motown seems excited by the potential:

Is it happening? Are the gut analyses on their way out? We aren’t too sure, but as a fan of analyzing players using advanced statistical data, I sure hope so. It shows signs of forward-looking enlightenment for a team who is in need of a new approach to player analysis. With advanced statistics, you can see that players like Luke Glendening are badly overplayed (even though it should be obvious by the common eye-test), and players like Riley Sheahan are turning to prodigious possession powerhouses. Is this it? Is it time for the advanced stat revolution in Detroit? Don’t know.. But boy oh boy, do I sure hope so.

Overall, we’ve seen some surprising revelations in teams embracing new ideas lately, maybe most shockingly in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ decision to hire Kyle Dubas as assistant GM.

If nothing else, we can all amuse ourselves imagining Babcock making these faces while pouring over a spreadsheet:

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images
source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images
source: AP
Credit: AP

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby shifts into high gear, Carlson clobbers Malkin

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You have to love when sports deliver on – if not exceed – the hype.

The second period of Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has been brilliant and nasty, possibly more than many hockey fans dreamed.

It began with the Penguins getting the big edge; Sidney Crosby scored two goals in the span of 52 seconds and Braden Holtby needed to make some tough stops to keep it at 2-0.

MORE: Video of Crosby’s hot start

That put a damper on the great crowd at the Verizon Center for a bit, but the Capitals ended up responding.

Part of that was a physical response, with Dmitry Orlov delivering a big hit on Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson absolutely leveling Evgeni Malkin. The narrative got almost too obvious moments later, as Alex Ovechkin fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-1.

Fleury made a tough stop or two of his own once it was 2-1, so while the pace is picking up, the two goalies seem like they’re alert to the challenge as well.

There was plenty of nastiness with 18.9 seconds remaining in the second, setting the stage for what could be a thrilling third period … and maybe more?

Buckle up.