Tag: stats

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game Three

Shooting percentages show that Kings’ luck turned around in playoffs

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Many statheads were probably already aware of this before, but the Los Angeles Kings were particularly unlucky during the regular season, especially when it comes to their league-worst 6.4 shooting percentage at even strength. Jeff Z Klein puts those stats in a digestible format for the New York Times, showing that Los Angeles went from the NHL’s most snake-bitten shooting team to its third “luckiest” once the postseason rolled around.

It strengthens the on-paper-based arguments that the Kings were a much better team than their eighth seed suggested.

What does 1.9 percentage points below the N.H.L. median mean over the course of an 82-game season? Quite a bit, as it happens – 38 goals.

The Kings were taking 30.7 shots per game while skating five-on-five in the regular season. Scoring on 6.4 percent of them translated to an average of 2.0 even-strength goals per 60 minutes. Had they been striking at the median rate, they would have scored not quite 2.5 goals per 60 minutes, or 38 additional goals over the course of the season.

That’s a lot of goals, and probably a fair number of extra victories and regulation ties – worth somewhere in the vicinity of 10 to 19 points. That would have made the Kings not a mediocre 95-point eighth seed, but one of the top three teams in the Western Conference, somewhere next to the 111-point Canucks or the 109-point Blues.

Yup, 38 goals would be a pretty big difference – that’s just a little shy of one goal every other game.

During the playoffs, Klein points out that the Kings’ even strength shooting percentage jumped to 9.3, which was the third-best rate in the postseason. That might not sound like much, but when you consider the fact that one could differentiate a great goalie from a mediocre one by a percent point or two, those numbers really add up.

If nothing else, this study indicates that the Kings might just have the kind of team that could contend for quite some time. Sure, their postseason shooting percentage will “regress to the mean” at some point, yet they survived the worst mark and throttled people with one of the best success rates. If the truth is somewhere in between, Los Angeles could very well become a fixture in the West.

Fun with stats: Who’s leading the 2012 playoffs

Philadelphia Flyers v Anaheim Ducks

Every year, the playoffs provide small sample sizes that delight fans – particularly those who love surprises – and antagonize stat nerds. With between four and seven games to go in the 2012 Stanley Cup finals and some time off, this seems like a perfect time to take a look at the postseason stat leaders.

Most points: Ilya Kovalchuk (18 in 17 games played)

Kovalchuk also leads all postseason scorers with 11 assists. If the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup, he might just get his name on the Conn Smythe Trophy, which would really make a lot of people look silly for questioning his “clutchness.”

Most goals: Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere (eight apiece)

Despite missing a full round and only playing in 11 games max – Giroux actually missed one because of that suspension – the two Flyers’ forwards still are tied for the playoff Richard Trophy (so to speak). Giroux also only has one fewer point (17) than Kovalchuk. Those Philly forwards should be usurped soon enough, however, as Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac are all tied for second with seven goals each.

Plus/minus: Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar (+13)

I’m not a huge fan of the plus/minus stat, but if nothing else, it’s another example of how dominant a one-two punch the Kings’ top forwards have been so far. Brown had a +18 all season long while Kopitar was at a +12 so they tend to win matchups anyway, but not to this extent.

Most points for a defenseman: Dan Girardi (12 points)

Bryce Salvador leads active blueliners with 11 points while Drew Doughty tops the Kings’ side with 10. Salvador got to that point in 18 games while Doughty only needed 14 to score 10 points. My money’s on Doughty finishing with the most points among playoff defensemen.

Most penalty minutes: Zac Rinaldo (48 PIM)

The Kings and Devils aren’t likely to fill the penalty minutes category. Dustin Penner leads active players with 26 PIM while Dustin Brown is right behind him with 24. David Clarkson has 20 to top the Devils. It will likely take the two teams a while to generate sincere hatred, too.

Florida Panthers reaped referees’ rewards the most this season

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers

Along with celebrating goals, making fun of opposing and “bandwagon” fans and eating greasy, overpriced food, there’s one activity that tends to bond fans of all 30 NHL teams: mercilessly booing officials. Chances are, every fan base has cursed a ref for (what’s usually) a human mistake while fastening a tin foil hat of suspicion.

It brings up an interesting question, though: which fans are most justified in their (assumed) metaphorical fashion statements? Following in last year’s footsteps, I decided to use NHL.com’s team stats to find out which squads have benefited and lost the most from the referees’ whistle.

(Key: “PP Opp” = power-play opportunities, “TS” = times shorthanded and net chances represents the difference between the two.)

Team PP Opp TS Net chances
FLA 286 239 47
SJS 270 225 45
CHI 277 233 44
CBJ 317 274 43
CAR 294 252 42
TOR 267 242 25
DET 298 274 24
NYR 280 260 20
PIT 289 270 19
PHI 335 319 16
NJD 267 259 8
NYI 243 236 7
NSH 250 244 6
PHX 251 249 2
VAN 288 286 2
BUF 258 257 1
LAK 289 293 -4
CGY 260 268 -8
BOS 250 260 -10
ANA 271 283 -12
STL 270 282 -12
MTL 301 315 -14
TBL 269 284 -15
WSH 245 266 -21
MIN 258 285 -27
EDM 262 296 -34
OTT 270 310 -40
WPG 251 292 -41
COL 223 277 -54
DAL 244 303 -59

Some observations

As you can see, the Florida Panthers didn’t just have charity points on their side this season – they also drew 47 more power plays than penalties received. Meanwhile, Dallas Stars fans will nod their heads sadly when they notice that their team went on the PK 59 more times than they had man advantages. That’s essentially an extra penalty to kill in two out of every three games.

You only need to reach down to the fourth-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets to see the first team that couldn’t take advantage of such a disparity. One cannot help but wonder if the Blue Jackets could make a huge turnaround next season if they receive the same advantages (317 power play opportunities!), which is obviously no guarantee. Yet with a potentially luckier James Wisniewski and a full season of Jack Johnson in tow, you never know if they did generate a lot of 5-on-4’s in 2012-13. The Carolina Hurricanes also failed to take advantage of penalty perks by missing the postseason. (Toronto rounds out that group, but they didn’t have quite as much of a dramatic advantage.)

Meanwhile, the five teams that received the worst “treatment” missed the playoffs, while sixth-worst Washington (-21) barely squeaked in as the seventh seed.

Coming soon: A look at which teams benefited or suffered the most from officiating since the lockout.

Breaking down Blues’ rare power play success

Chris Stewart, David Perron, Carlo Colaiacovo

The St. Louis Blues have undergone a gorgeous and dramatic makeover since Ken Hitchcock took over, but the one area that hasn’t shown much improvement was their dismal power play. One cannot say that it will be totally fixed with a single game (and especially such a small sample size), but the Blues can take some positives away from their 2-for-2 success rate against the Dallas Stars, which helped them take a 5-3 win.

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Here are the full highlights:

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Can Jack Johnson generate a ‘plus’ season in 2011-12?

Ryane Clowe, Jonathan Quick, Jack Johnson

Defensemen can be a tough group to gauge, especially for the guys with pronounced strengths and serious weaknesses.

Straightforward shutdown guys tend to please fans because of their efficiency, but their lack of creativity often makes them useless on the power play. On the other side of the coin, many offensive defensemen are double-edged swords in that their pinching tendencies and willingness to lead the rush can backfire on their own teams if a mistake is made. Savvy general managers might track down some solid two-way guys or the occasional elite player, but in order to win a Stanley Cup, teams also often need to make the most of flawed players.

Jack Johnson is one of those “live by the sword, die by the sword” types. On one hand, his offensive numbers continue to climb. Johnson went from scoring 11 points in each of the 2007-08 and 08-09 seasons to 36 in 09-10 and a career-high 42 last season. That being said, he’s never had a positive plus/minus (-78 in his career, including a career-worst -21 in 10-11).

To extend the dichotomy, the American blueliner even receives mixed messages from his team; GM Dean Lombardi griped about his unstructured background at the University of Michigan but also signed Johnson to a risky seven-year, $30.5 million deal. Johnson is supposed to be the Kings’ second star defenseman behind contract holdout Drew Doughty, so Rich Hammond wonders if Johnson can finally be on the “plus” side of the ledger next season. Hammond caught up with Kings head coach Terry Murray to get his take.

MURRAY: “He took some big strides early. In the first half, he was one of the top-scoring defensemen in the league. I thought his play without the puck was really good. He tailed off in the second part. That plus-minus number is something that I look at, and it started to build up again. To me, when I look at his game, I think he got away from being a real hard player to play against, in the sense of being physical. That’s one of the areas that I wanted to talk to him at the end of the season (about), and he was out of town right away for the World Championships. So I haven’t had that meeting yet, but that will be the message. `It’s time to get back to being that hard guy, making sure you’re pinning and sealing.’ And I think that ends the play. Too often, in the second half, there was a little bit of stick-checking and backing off, giving a little bit too much space. Because he’s out there against the top guys, and that’s all those guys need, is one foot to make a play and things were happening around him.”

Of course, many in the hockey community – myself included – think that the plus/minus stat is limited because team and linemate success plays such a large role in the figure. The thing is, Johnson doesn’t pass the sniff test with nerdy stats either. The Battle of California gang revealed that just about every Kings defensemen fared worse with Johnson than without him last season.

So whatever way you slice it, Johnson’s defensive numbers are troubling. That being said, his offensive skills keep rising – he scored 28 points on the power play last season, which obviously isn’t reflected in his plus/minus.

The hope, then, is that he can keep his offensive punch while improving on the defensive end. On the bright side, Johnson usually plays alongside defensive stalwart Rob Scuderi, the Kings have a strong defensive system in general and he’s only 24 years old. Then again, perhaps his old habits won’t die – especially since Johnson won’t have financial incentive to improve until 2016 or even 2017.

I hate to say it, but that the Jack Johnson the Kings see today will probably be the one they see for the duration of that contract. Perhaps his offensive abilities make him worth the trouble anyway, though.