Tag: nerdy stuff

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders

Evaluating Buffalo’s slim playoff chances


The Buffalo Sabres absolutely throttled the Boston Bruins last night, but as entertaining as the rivalry has become, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll see each other in the playoffs.

Still, the 6-0 win likely stirred that thought in some of us, so how about we break down Buffalo’s chances in a variety of ways?

The odds

Going by Sports Club Stats’ numbers, the Sabres are teetering on the edge of playoff irrelevance. The well-respected resource gives Buffalo just a 3.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, ranking them second-to-last in the East.

What they’ll need to do to beat those odds

According to Sports Club’s numbers, Buffalo will probably need a record of 18-8-3 (64.9 percent chance to make it), 18-7-4 (80.3 percent chance) or better for a good chance to play beyond 82 games. So the question is: can they earn 39-40 points in those 29 games?


Schedules can often make or break these situations. Buffalo plays seven of its next eight games at home, including matches against fellow East contenders. Getting regulation wins in that span would improve their outlook, but surviving a flip-side stretch of seven of eight road games will be just as crucial.

Overall, the Sabres will play one more road game (15) than home contest (14), but the other big factor is that they have five back-to-back sets left. Looking at those numbers, one would say that Buffalo’s schedule is a wash – at best.


The most obvious plus is Ryan Miller’s recent play. Much like his team, Miller is 4-0-1 in his last five games. Miller has allowed just five goals in those five games – including a shutout in a shootout loss.

On paper, Buffalo might be the most talented bubble team aside from the Tampa Bay Lightning, which could play out on the ice even if it hasn’t so far. Spending money to improve that situation could be key, too. Terry Pegula’s deep pockets could swing things against lower-budget teams like the Panthers and Islanders, if it comes down to a trade deadline deal.

(If he hasn’t soured on putting up big bucks after Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff’s disappointments, that is.)


Buffalo made an impressive late run to the playoffs last season, but I’d say they hit the “snooze” button one too many times on this wake-up call. What do you think, though?


* – You can break down the East bubble teams into three different groups. (Note: ranks based on Sports Club’s numbers, not on current standings.)

Teams expected to make it
6) Toronto – 86 percent
7) Washington – 79.2 percent
8) Florida – 67 percent

Half-decent contenders
9) Ottawa – 40.1 percent
10) Winnipeg – 16.4 percent

Long shots
11) Montreal – 8.2 percent
12) Islanders – 5.4 percent
13) Tampa Bay – 5.3 percent
14) Buffalo – 3.2 percent

Bruins still have no answer for the Hurricanes

Cam Ward

To most teams, the Boston Bruins are an uncontrollable hockey locomotive. That train seems to hit a wall Wile E. Coyote-style when they face the modest Carolina Hurricanes, however, as their 3-0 shutout gives the lowly team a sweep of the defending champions.

(That’s the first time the Canes swept the Bruins in their franchise history – and that includes the Hartford Whalers era.)

Immediately after the sweep, my first instinct was to say that perhaps the Hurricanes’ traditional attacking style explains why the Bruins struggle so much against Carolina. Looking at the numbers, however, the catalyst for the sweep and the driving force behind Thursday’s game is the same:

The Bruins have no answer for Cam Ward.

The one-time Stanley Cup winner won all four of those games this season, but he really put an exclamation point on that sweep with a 47-save shutout tonight.

Looking at his split stats, Ward has only allowed five goals in those four games against the Bruins, turning aside a stunning 139 out of 144 shots. The Bruins sent 47, 35, 42 and 28 shots in those games but couldn’t even manage a single standings point as every game ended in regulation.

Bigger picture view

Ultimately, this season series only changes so much, but it does bump the Bruins down and give the Canes a little bit to build on. Boston has actually been stumbling a bit in general lately, going 5-4-1 in its last 10 games. Carolina is tied for last place in the East with 47 points and only has 29 contests remaining, so it’s very much a long shot, but the Canes have made some crazy runs before.

If nothing else, they can hang their hats on dominating one of the NHL’s most dominating teams in 2011-12.

Assessing Erik Karlsson’s Norris Trophy hopes

Erik Karlsson

The 2012 All-Star weekend was, in many ways, a celebration of Daniel Alfredsson’s career with the Ottawa Senators.

Obviously, he wasn’t the only Senators representative in the event, though. Bruce Garrioch indicates that it was something of a coming out party for budding star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who might still seem like a relative unknown to many media members despite being far and away the leading scorer at his position.

That’s what happens when you’re in your third NHL season on a team that fell off the radar a bit after a tough 2010-11 season. Garrioch argues that Karlsson strengtened his Norris Trophy argument this weekend, so I thought it might be fun to break down how he compares to his peers in more traditional stat categories (sorry Corsi lovers).


Karlsson is a gifted point producer, starting with his assists. He has 40 in 51 games, which places him eight points ahead of Brian Campbell – the only other blueliner with more than 30 helpers at the moment. In fact he’s second in the entire league in assists.

His seven goals ties him for ninth amongst defensemen and he’s firing a ton of shots. In fact, he’s also first overall in shots on goal with 168; Dan Boyle is second with 157. Karlsson’s 4.2 shooting percentage could rise a little bit, too, although D-men generally pile up low-quality shots as they often aim to create dangerous rebounds in many cases.

There’s little reason to expect Karlsson to slow down much offensively as Ottawa plays in high-scoring games. Karlsson had 26 points in 60 games in his rookie season and 45 last year, so it’s clear that the 21-year-old is still improving in an already strong area.

Time on ice

It’s not like Karlsson is just swooping in on the power play and doing nothing 5-on-5, either. (Although his 4:06 minutes of PP time per game ties him for eighth overall with Ryan Suter.) Karlsson is 10th overall with 25:27 minutes per game, ranking him slightly ahead of Dion Phaneuf, Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty.

The one area that hurts him – in my eyes, anyway – is that he’s not killing penalties. He only averages 41 seconds of PK time per contest.* If you ask me, a Norris-worthy blueliner should be a team’s go-to guy in nearly every situation.

Team success

Fair or not, my guess is that the Senators need to make the playoffs for Karlsson to have a real shot to win. I’d say that Ottawa is in the “second tier” in the East with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers as team’s who might fall short of division titles but should be safe for a postseason run as long as they avoid a total meltdown.


Overall, I think Karlsson has a solid Norris argument, with competitive total ice time, unparalleled offense and a respectable +5 rating. (I don’t like plus/minus, but voters do.) I’d probably lean toward a do-everything guy like Chara or Shea Weber instead, but wouldn’t be offended if he lands in the finalists group.

Where do you think Karlsson falls in the Norris argument right now?

* – Only Cam Fowler’s 35 second average (24:05 minutes per game for 20th place) and Dustin Byfuglien’s 43 second of shorthanded time per game (2:38 minutes per game at 30th place) compare to Karlsson’s scant PK time for top-30 time on ice guys.

Is this Evgeni Malkin’s best work yet?

Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin is one of the league’s most irresistible forces right now – even back-to-back games can’t slow him down for good.

After scoring the last two goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big win against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Geno erupted in the third period to help his team overcome a 4-2 deficit against the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin scored the game-tying goal on a laser beam of a shot and then collected the shootout winner as Pittsburgh topped the Habs 5-4 (SO).

Tonight’s goal ups Malkin’s league-leading points total to 55, which is especially impressive because he’s played in just 40 games. (Current runner-up Henrik Sedin has 52 points in 47 contests.) You can break up Geno’s recent work into scary-good chunks, but I’d say going back to Nov. 20 is a solid idea:

Malkin in the last 27 games: 20 goals, 21 assists for 41 points with a +10 rating and 132 shots on goal. Most recently, Malkin has eight goals and 10 points in his last six contests.

That’s some ridiculous stuff, prompting onlookers to boast about his swagger and forcing me to wonder: where does this rank with the gifted center’s all-time best work?

source: API asked folks on Twitter how “2011-12 Malkin compares to Art Ross Malkin” and those who responded ranked his best runs in an interesting way.

1. “Conn Smythe Malkin.”
2. “Current Malkin.”
3. “Art Ross Malkin.”

Malkin earned the Art Ross and Conn Smythe in the same world-beating 2008-09 season, but for the sake of fun, let’s look at those “three Malkins” through the simplest of stats.

“Current Malkin”: 40 Games Played: 25 goals, 30 assists for 55 points (1.375 per game)
“Art Ross Malkin”: 82 GP: 35 goals, 78 assists for 113 points (1.378 per game)
“Conn Smythe Malkin”: 24 GP: 14 goals, 22 assists for 36 points (1.5 points per game)

Seriously, Malkin scored 1.5 points per game in the playoffs that year.

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that Malkin is approaching the level that some worried he’d never reach again after he struggled a bit with fatigue and injuries 2009-10 and 2010-11. Then again, context – minus Sidney Crosby, plus James Neal – could prompt some to believe that he’s at a new level of excellence.

However his work stacks up to his greatest hits, most hockey fans have been delighted to watch Malkin return to his superhuman form of old – unless he’s rumbling down the ice against their own team.

Ilya Bryzgalov admits his game isn’t quite ‘there’ yet

Dustin Brown, Ilya Bryzgalov

The Philadelphia Flyers suffered a tough loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals, but their wild off-season experiment has largely been a success. That being said, the biggest bit of mad science still has its issues, as Ilya Bryzgalov is struggling to get his game together.

That fact hasn’t been lost on Breezy, who told Sam Carchidi that he’s still adjusting to his new team.

“I’m happy with the team overall, but not with my performance,” Bryzgalov said. “It’s still not there. Some parts of my game, I’m still trying to find.”

“Something is missing, and I cannot understand what exactly it is. I can’t explain it, but only I know what it is.”

The natural assumption is to say that he’s struggling to make it on his own after leaving the cocoon of Dave Tippett’s defensive system. That might be a questionable hypothesis when you consider the fact that Bryzgalov carried that team, though; that supposedly stout Phoenix Coyotes system allowed the third most shots per game last season.

Looking at his split stats, Bryzgalov’s most obvious problem area is the penalty kill. He allowed six goals on 35 shots during the PK, which makes for an ugly .829 save percentage. Goalies naturally struggle more shorthanded, but those stats need to improve – even if the Flyers’ penalty kill personnel isn’t what it was last season.

Bryzgalov’s numbers are outstanding at even strength, so at least he’s dealing with isolated issues at the moment. Knowing how eccentric Breezy can be, it wouldn’t be surprising if the problems he was really just talking about his pre-game meal or something totally arbitrary, though.