Posts Tagged ‘nhl playoffs’

This week I am joined by my good friend Dan to talk about the Minnesota Wild’s season, including rookie standouts and potential offseason contract scenarios. We look ahead to the NHL Playoffs and discuss whether the Wild have a snowball’s chance in hell to upset the Chicago Blackhawks. We also make our predictions for all first-round matchups.

I’m working on a cool feature looking at the Wild using some new “puck hog” metrics, but in the mean time I wanted to look at some team-level stats and broaden it to the Western Conference. It’s still early in the season…but with the compressed schedule the timeframes get out of whack. With around a quarter of the schedule in the books, some teams that might be outperforming their true talent might be accumulating enough points in the bank that if they do regress, they could still get a bit of home-ice advantage come playoff time. And on the other hand, with a smaller sample size than usual, the “laws” of regression may not even take effect!

Anyway, what I wanted to do tonight is look at the Western Conference standings (current as of Wednesday, 2/20) and compare them to some team-level rate stats: shots for and against at even strength, and particularly Fenwick ratio. Fenwick has been shown to be a great indicator of a team’s level of play, and accurately predicted the Wild’s demise and the Kings’ surge last season alone.

It is generally accepted that the effects of home ice are less in hockey than other sports. But I still like to look at the numbers (why do people climb mountains? because they’re there…why do I analyze home/road splits? because they’re there!) On the other hand, it’s a little dicey to take a small sample and split it into even smaller samples…I heard on #MvsW the other day that the Kings have played just like 4 home games and 9 road games so far, so appropriate grains of salt necessary here. Having said that, on with the chlorophyl!

(Friendly reminder, if you need a refresher on what Fenwick is, head to my stats glossary.)

Table 1. Western Conference Fenwick Close with Home/Road Split

ss 2-20-13 west conf standings fen close

Table 2. Western Conference 5v5 Shots For and Shots Against per 60 minutes

ss 2-20-13 west conf standings sf sa 60

The Best

The Blackhawks and the Canucks are prettay…prettay…prettay good. Expert analysis there, good night everybody! It’s no surprise to me to see that Chicago and Vancouver have almost identical home and road Fenwick rates–great teams play just as well on the road as at home. The Anaheim Ducks are the darlings of the conference so far, and why not? Everyone likes a feel-good story, and the Ducks are loaded with them, from the Boudreau redemption story to the timelessness of Teemu Selanne to the Viktor-Fasth-as-Randy-Quaid-in-that-movie-about-the-old-rookie, there’s narratives flying all over the place. But notice that Anaheim is getting outshot at even strength, and their Fenwick rates are below 50%, and not just barely either. They’re the only team that has a better road Fen close than home…an anomaly most likely but still interesting and worth monitoring. The Nashville Predators are another team that’s rife with storylines, and they are at the league cellar for shots, but dang it all if they aren’t right there in fourth place. Shea Weber seems to be snapping out of his funk, and Pekka Rinne is doing Pekka Rinne things so we’ll see how long he can carry that team. San Jose is in that classic spot where they’re not really as good as they looked for the first two weeks of the season (hi Patty) but not as bad as they have looked for the most recent two weeks, so to be honest I’m just going to set them aside and see what they look like in a couple more weeks. For now, they’re still on top of the Pacific division and their Fenwick rates don’t show anything to panic over. I’m not a Niemi believer, though, so we’ll see where this team winds up.

The Bubble

“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry when both your goalies get injured.” –Steinbeck. The Blues are putting up eye-popping Fenwick rates, particularly at home, but if the netminder can’t stop pucks, none of that matters. I learned last year not to dismiss the Coyotes, but they aren’t looking like a team that can get to the conference finals again. Kari Lehtonen is a great goalie…when he’s not injured. When healthy, he covers up a lot of their deficiencies, but when he’s out, the cracks in the armor start to show up real quick. Detroit still has as much firepower as any team out there but they’re not getting any younger, and if Jimmy Howard misses time, the Wings will have to work that much harder at winning those 5-4 games. What to say about the Wild…you can only watch so many games where you hear the commentator say, “Parise fires the team’s first shot on net here, twelve minutes into the period” before you start to wonder what it will take to get this thing turned around. I didn’t delude myself into thinking that the additions of two All-Stars would erase all the team’s problems but I had sort of hoped they would figure out a way to get a couple more shots per game.

The Rest

I know we’d all rather just continue to repress all our lockout memories, but I distinctly recall a team down in Oklahoma City that was ripping the AHL a new one. Ah, those were the days. The Oilers have got some great puzzle pieces, but it’s hard to score goals when you’re skating backwards. Devan Dubnyk has been inconsistent, but when he’s on his game, he has looked great. I keep saying the Kings will be fine, buy low on the Kings. But they keep losing, and sooner or later they have to string together some wins if they want to get back in this thing. They are showing great possession numbers, and their shots allowed are lowest in the league, but Quick needs to start stopping some pucks like he did last year. I’m still confident that they will be fine, but if they’re not careful they might run out of time. The Avalanche are just a mess. They had a really good thing going last year with Landeskog and the rest, and this year they’ve managed to piss it all away. Side note: have you seen some of Ryan O’Reily’s dad’s tweets? The dude is on this big crusade about how psychiatric medications are an evil plot by scientists, and schizophrenia isn’t a real thing and on and on and on. We’re talking Tom-Cruise-on-Oprah-level here. Calgary needs to admit they’re in a rebuilding phase–I’d do it like a band-aid and get it over with, but that’s just me. I think I’m actually buying into the Blue Jackets right now…they’ve got something like three first round picks next year, they’ve got a new GM and they didn’t get as much in return for Rick Nash as a lot of people thought they should have, but I think this franchise is starting to find its way out of the woods. It’s unfortunate when a team is playing for next year so early in the season, but rebuilding is a process, not an event.

To sum it all up, I think the Hawks and Nucks are for real, the Ducks are surprising everyone and while I’m not rooting for them to regress, their underlying stats might catch up with them. Nashville is in the same boat with their low number of shots, and the fifth seed through about the eleventh seed are just a few points apart, so I’ll want to see what the bubble teams do in the next month or so before guessing which of them are playoff contenders.

Thanks for reading, make sure to check out my fantasy hockey podcast, and shoot me an e-mail at hashtaghockey [at] gee mail [dot com and follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey

Jonathan Quick’s numbers this NHL postseason are staggering: 15-2 with a 1.36 GAA and a .950 Sv%, to go along with 3 shutouts and 14 Quality Starts, good for 82.4% (brush up on your QS chops here). He has not allowed more than 3 goals in any game, and only twice has he allowed a trio of pucks into his net.

Against the Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals, Quick owns a .972 overall Sv% with a .968 at even-strength. He has not allowed a Power Play goal in the finals, nor did he in Round 2 against the Blues.

Watching the games, you almost get the sense that Quick is inside the Devils’ heads, as they seem to be passing up good shooting opportunities to try to make the extra pass. In Game 1, they fired just 8 pucks on net in the first two periods combined. They will have to find a way to solve Quick, something the top three-seeded teams in the West could not do.

I can only imagine most of the Devils fans I know channeling their inner-Puddy this week. Also did you catch the Hockey Pron?

While we have some time before the Finals start on Wednesday let’s look at the Kings and Coyotes numbers in their respective Conference Finals, plus their performances put end-to-end. First the West:

LA vs PHO Fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

LA vs PHO Fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

The Kings continued to tilt the ice in their favor, never allowing the Coyotes to as much as pull even with them in the SMS numbers. Perhaps for some of the Finals games I will try to get my hands on per-period stats or break them down per-game. Gamewide stats are interesting but they don’t really tell the story of the game, so with fewer and fewer games I’ll change the way I analyze the numbers.

LA vs PHO SMS (c) Hashtag Hockey

LA vs PHO SMS (c) Hashtag Hockey

The Coyotes decided to turn up the heat in Game 5, but not until their backs were against the wall. In the first four games they served up a mediocre-but-steady diet of shots and missed in the mid-thirties, while the Kings had three games over sixty and only one game under fifty. I think about score effects often when I post these type of charts, but is at least a little remarkable how consistent the Yotes were in games 1-4.

LA vs PHO sh rate (c) Hashtag Hockey

LA vs PHO sh rate (c) Hashtag Hockey

Recently, I examined a new way of looking at Sh + MSh, and while that piece was on the player-level, since I had the data anyway I thought I’d look at teamwide Sh-Rates. If you haven’t read that article, the figures above are basically the proportion of Shots + Missed Shots that hit the net, or (Sh / Sh+MSh). Something I have noticed is that the numbers seem to vary together–in Game 2 we see a discrepancy of +.09 for the Kings, but every other game is within just a few percentage points.

NJ vs NYR fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

NJ vs NYR fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

We see a different picture in the East, with the Devils managing to outshoot the Rangers in games 2 and 3 (winning one and losing one,) but in the other games the Rangers were throwing more pucks at the Devils–by design one would think.

NJD vs NYR SMS (c) Hashtag Hockey

NJD vs NYR SMS (c) Hashtag Hockey

NJ vs NYR sh rate (c) Hashtag Hockey

NJ vs NYR sh rate (c) Hashtag Hockey

Here we see a Rangers team that did not pull the trigger much in Game 3 (just 22 Sh but only 4 MS) and was quite selective in Game 5 as well (35 Sh to 8 MS). The Devils won the last three games of the series while potting 4 goals on 16 shots in Game 4 (excluding the EN goal).

Now that we have a good sample of games played, I thought it might be cool to stack up each team’s games end to end to look at their respective runs through the tournament. Note that SMS are adjusted per 60 mins here.

LA vs OPP fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

LA vs OPP fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

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LA vs OPP sms 60 (c) Hashtag Hockey

LA vs OPP sms 60 (c) Hashtag Hockey

While the Coyotes started to look like they wanted to make it a series after shutting out the Kings in Game 4 and taking a lead midway through Game 5, these numbers suggest the Kings manhandled Phoenix more consistently than the Canucks or Blues. Their Fenwick rate was consistently near-.600 throughout and they topped 60 SMS/60 twice, after not getting to that mark in any game since the start of the Playoffs.

NJ vs OPP fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

NJ vs OPP fenwick (c) Hashtag Hockey

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NJ vs OPP sms 60 (c) Hashtag Hockey

NJ vs OPP sms 60 (c) Hashtag Hockey

The Devils have certainly played a different brand of hockey than the Kings–where Los Angeles has played 4 games out of 14 with a SMS/60 rate less than 40 (28.6%), New Jersey has played 10 of their 18 games under 40 SMS/60 (55.6%). You don’t have to read the tea leaves too much to wonder how the Devils will try to play the high-octane Kings…will they try to run with them or sit back and weather the storm?

Finally, let’s look at how the two goalies have stacked up. Their even-strength Sv% are near-identical, but Quick owns the Ov Sv% advantage, as Brodeur and the Devils have allowed 15 PPG on 77 Sh (.805) plus another 1 in 4 for Hedberg. Each netminder has notched 11 Quality Starts, but the Devils have played four more games than the Kings, which brings Brodeur’s QS% to just .611 and Quick’s to .786.

Brodeur vs Quick 2012 NHL PLayoffs (c) Hashtag Hockey

Brodeur vs Quick 2012 NHL PLayoffs (c) Hashtag Hockey

Of course, these stats are more descriptive than predictive, but hopefully they are enlightening. While I would guess that a lot of the talking heads will have the Kings, New Jersey fans can still dream of bringing Lord Stanley’s hardware back home…

It’s been a while since I put up more than a couple simple charts, so let’s dig in and look at the Elite Eight of 2012! Only one series has yet to be decided, so let’s start with the Caps/Rangers. This time, I have included Fenwick/60, or Sh+MSh adjusted for overtime games. This post will be long so I’ll put a table of contents at the top for easier navigation:

**If you need a refresher on the stats used here, check out the Glossary**

WAS vs NYR

NJD vs PHI

LAK vs STL

PHX vs NSH

All Teams Fenwick/60

Goalie Stats

Washington Capitals (#7) vs New York Rangers (#1)

The teams have alternated wins in this series, leading to a Game Seven tomorrow night…they have flip-flopped so much we could call this the Romney Series (hey, you got politics in my hockey! you got hockey in my politics!!) Quoth Homer Simpson: “Okay Marge, its your child against my child. The winner will be showered with praise. The loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore!!” I couldn’t find a clip of that line so here’s another from the same episode

If the Rangers win, this series will probably be remembered by the Game 5 Joel Ward kerfuffle…which would be unfortunate because like any sports implosion, they usually find a scapegoat *coughBARTMAN* and just blame it on one guy instead of realizing all the events that led up to that flashpoint. After Game 1, which ended 3-1 Rangers, the teams played very evenly for four games, trading one-goal victories. Then, in game 5 and 6, New York seemed to turn on the afterburners like Maverick and Goose or Brian and Dominic, depending on what year you were born. Score effect seems to have played a huge factor in Gm 5, but Washington only mustered 24.2 SMS/60, and was outshot 68-32 in Fenwick, which shows they turtled in a big way. It is reasonable to expect that Game 7 will be more even like the early games in the series, but if Washington gets a lead, they might consider keeping their foot on the gas, as two blown leads in the last three games of a series seems like a pretty good way to get your coach fired. The League has announced that the conference finals will begin on Sunday, so don’t be surprised if the series winner drops the first game to the more rested Devils. Speak of the…Devils…(ugh,) Let’s move to the other series in the East…

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New Jersey Devils vs Philadelphia Flyers

I admit I feel a bit reedemed, as I wrote about Bryz in Round 1 and how lucky he was that Fleury shit the bed the way he did…though picking on the Flyers for having bad goaltending is like picking on Justin Bieber for his haircut. Just because it’s an easy joke doesn’t mean I’m not going to make it o_O

The Flyers came out strong in Game 1 and then sputtered out, particularly in Game 2 and Game 4. The Devils blocked a moderate amount of Philadelphia’s shots, but not enough to cover for the fact that the Bullies just didn’t let rip with enough pucks, especially if we consider that they probably had a good idea “Y U Heff 2 B Mad” wasn’t likely to strap the team on his universe-contemplating shoulders and carry them through. One would think that based on the way the Rangers and Capitals are playing, the plucky Devils will be underdogs in the East Finals, but maybe Broduer the Timeless one has got some magic left in those 40-year old bones.

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Los Angeles Kings vs St Louis Blues

Bill Simmons mentioned on the B.S. Report this week that Kings fans are sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, because everyone who followed this team in the regular season remembers the ABYSMAL offense of the Kings for a good chunk of the season. I’ve got a first-hand view of things out here, and they seem to have convinced themselves that the addition of Jeff Carter was their saving grace, but as long as they keep winning, we don’t have to revisit the 30th-ranked G/Gm the team carried for about four months…but who am I kidding, I’m going to probably reach for Carter in next year’s fantasy draft. Besides, we all know Jon Quick is the real Savior-on-skates…these charts were posted earlier, but I thought I’d revisit them here. Note that since no game went to overtime, the Sh + MSh numbers are also the SMS/60 figures, so no point in being redundant redundant.

The West bracket has been a showcase of elite goaltending, and the Quick vs Smith matchup is very enticing to people like me who prefer defensive struggles to barnstorming Pennsylvania-style games. There is no love lost between these division rivals, and people seem to forget that it would not have taken much for the Kings to wind up with the #3 seed and the Yotes to get #8.

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Phoenix Coyotes vs Nashville Predators

Mike Smith continues to play the part of the “Hot Goalie” and the Nashville Predators are bounced sooner than many predicted. If the Preds don’t sign Ryan Suter or Radulov decides to go back to Mother Russia, the Preds may not be in a position to come back as contenders next year. Stores of franchises turning themselves around are good for sports leagues, SEE: Lions, Detroit; Rays, Tampa, Tigers, also Detroit, but if they don’t get any hardware, they typically get lost in the history books.

We got a few very even games sandwiched between two lopsided games in Games 1 and 5. Look at the disparity in the last game. The Preds split their SOG pretty evenly across periods, 10-12-11, and unfortunately I do not have MS by period. If anyone knows where to find those numbers please let me know! I’m STILL not taking Mike Smith on my fantasy team next year, but you can’t deny he’s got a fair chance to bring that Conn Smythe trophy back to the desert.

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All Teams Fenwick/60

Now that I have started adjusting for time, we can look across series and see how the teams compared in their shot output:

A couple of things surprise me–first, that six of the eight teams are basically between 35 and 40 S+MS/60, with Washington trailing the pack but just barely and Nashville leading the field by more than just a few shots. This is where adjusting for score effects would be beneficial. Per Behind the Net, this is the closest I could find, but I’ll keep looking.

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Goalie Stats

Of course I saved the best for last! We knew there some top-notch goalies (and also Bryz) going into this round, but raise your hand if you predicted Rinne AND Elliott would have a lower Ov Sv% than Bryzgalov. Ok, put your hands down now, liars.

Smith and Quick, #1 vs #2. LAK vs STL was supposed to be a 10-goal series (that’s combined) but it didn’t really turn out that way. We could very well be in for 6 or 7 2-1 games, but on a per-game basis, anything can happen. That’s why they play the games! Brian Elliott–yikes.

So what do you think? Who do you think will make it out of the NYR-WAS series, and who will make it to the finals? Post a comment below and share your thoughts!

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Just a quick glance at the numbers from this series…I want to do some more work now that we have two rounds in the books at least for two teams. Have been wondering lately what kind of variance there is for missed shots, both player and team level. If you have ideas or thoughts, please post them in the comments!

 

Also, this…

I wanted to get this up over the weekend but my monitor decided to have a stroke, which put me out of commission for a little while.

 

Philadelphia scored on better than 1-in-8 shots, but while everyone was busy comparing Marc-Andre Fleury to various cheeses and kitchen tools, Ilya Bryzgalov posted the lowest Ev Sv% of any East goalie, 0.882. The Flyers’ second round opponent features Marty Brodeur, who at age 67, posted the best Ev Sv% in the East at .956. It may be a few more weeks before he can go back to telling kids to get off his lawn.

From that timeless classic of our age, Basketball: “Soon it was commonplace for entire teams to change cities in search of greater profits. The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles where there are no lakes. The Oilers moved to Tennessee where there is no oil. The Jazz moved to Salt Lake City where they don’t allow music.” Add to that, “and they moved hockey teams to places like Florida and Arizona, where there is no ice.”

 

Will update with results of SJ/STL once that game is in the books. Eastern Conference coming tomorrow!

  • You can see that CHI/PHX is the closest series in the West, though Mike Smith’s injury could potentially shift the dynamic, the Hawks fired 59 (shots + missed shots) in each of the firs two games, and I feel pretty comfortable saying Mike Smith >>> Jason LaBarbera…
  • LA was outshot badly in game 2 yet still managed to score 4 goals. Then in game 3, in a scoreless game until late in the third period, they directed much more rubber at the net than did Vancouver. The Canucks need to find some way to make this into a series or they will be making tee times by next week.
  • The Red Wings are leading the Predators in Fenwick, but a Hot Goalie like Pekka Rinne can neutralize those differentials in short order. All three games have ended with a score of 3-2, and in each game the winner was outshot. It will be interesting to see if that pattern holds. A more advanced look at Fenwick would parse out 5v5 shots, but this is just a quick and dirty look at the series.

Here are some numbers from the Game 1 matchups. I will update these as more games come in…when FLA/NYJ plays their Gm1 and as the other series continue their matchups.

Image

  • Memo to Capitals: I think it was Nietzsche that first observed the direct correlation between shots not taken and goals not scored…
  • Everyone knew Chicago would send a lot of rubber flying through the air, but Phoenix and St Louis have matched their output. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up.
  • Detroit and St Louis should probably chalk up their losses as bat beats… High Fenwick + Low Sh%, Rinne and Niemi were great but regression to the mean goes both ways.

Inside the Numbers: Jaroslav Halak

Position: Goalie
Team: St. Louis Blues
2011-12 Regular Season Stats: 46 GS, 26 W, 1.97 GAA, .926 Sv%
Quality Starts: 31 (67.4% of GS)
Terrible Starts: 5 (10.9% of QS)
Quality Starts Wasted: 10 (32.3% of GS)
Bail-outs: 6 (13.0% of GS)

The St. Louis Blues were the stingiest team in the NHL this season, and while Brian Elliott got a lot of attention at the end of the year for his single season Sv% record and breakout-of-the-year candidacy, Jaroslav Halak was certainly no slouch himself. Halak will start the Blues first playoff game on Thursday, so let’s go inside the numbers and look at his performance this year. Halak finished the year with a sparkling 1.97 GAA and .926 Sv%, which is definitely impressive, but Jaro posted an amazing .938 even-strength Sv%, second in the NHL only to…you guessed it…Brian Elliott. While Elliott’s amazing numbers came out of nowhere, Halak has a track record of turning away a high proportion of pucks.

Halak did not have such a great year in 2010-11, his first campaign with the Blues, but in 2009-10, he maintained a .930+ Ev Sv% with the Canadiens. They say once is a fluke, twice is a trend…and Halak certainly seems like the genuine article. While he and Elliott maintained a timeshare this season, Halak still posted a very impressive ratio of Quality Starts, hanging 31 QS of his 46 starts, good for 67.4%.

A look at Halak’s game log shows that three of his five Terrible Starts came in the first five starts of the season, and after October 18, he only had two more blow-up games. Halak certainly righted the ship and found his groove after that. If we throw out the month of October, Halak’s rate stats would be 1.74 and .935, so if he can avoid that cluster of grenade games next year, he could be poised for an even more impressive season.

NHL Playoff Implication: Halak will start between the pipes for the Blues while Elliott nurses his “unspecified upper-body injury,” and the big questions will be 1) when will Elliott return, 2) when he does return, how will Ken Hitchcock split the starts between the two, and 3) if Halak plays great while Elliott is out, how will that affect the split? Of course, Elliott could very well get the start in game 2, and they could continue to split the starts the same way they did in the regular season. However, one of the best known tropes of the NHL postseason is that of the “hot goalie,” so how will the timeshare between Elliott and Halak play out? Statistically, they have both been playing out of their minds, and it is reasonable to think that whomever starts in goal, the Blues will be extremely hard to score on. San Jose’s lineup is rather potent, so St. Louis will have their work cut out for them, but Defense Wins Championships, and the Blues have the best defense anyone has seen in a long time.