(Dave Sandford, Getty Images)

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, and introduced you to the idea using the regular season charts for the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings. The charts are useful for quickly seeing what role a player filled in comparison to his teammates and roughly how well they performed in that role. Sometimes making comparisons between individual players can be difficult just using a list of names and numbers: the player usage charts make this task a lot easier.

The only problem is that the regular season charts aren’t necessarily all that applicable to the playoffs, where some players get used in more highly specialized roles (particularly defensively), players with questionable defensive skills get more sheltered, and some players struggle where they previously thrived. So I took it upon myself to put together playoff player usage charts for both the Devils and the Kings.

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how player usage charts work:

  • The horizontal axis is zone starts: the further to the right, the more often the player starts in the offensive zone and vice versa.
  • The vertical axis is quality of competition: the higher up the chart, the tougher the opposition that player faces.
  • The size and colour of the bubbles is relative corsi, a possession statistic that uses attempted shots. A blue bubble means that the player’s team attempts more shots than the opposition does when he is on the ice. A white bubble means that the opposition attempts more shots than the player’s team does when he is on the ice. A big blue bubble is good; a big white bubble is bad.
  • All statistics are at even strength.

  • It’s hard to miss the massive white bubbles for the Devils’ fourth line. As much as they have been opportunistic with their offensive opportunities in the playoffs, combining for 10 goals, the Devils are badly outshot when they are on the ice. They’ve actually been slightly better in that department against the Kings, though not by much. During the regular season, the Devils’ fourth line started more often in the defensive zone against weaker competition: they’re getting far more offensive zone starts but they’re coming against tougher competition and overall they’re getting outplayed. There is something to be said for riding the hot hand, of course, and the Devils just might hope for some more fourth line magic in the future.
  • Volchenkov has nearly the exact same zone start percentage and quality of competition as Patrik Elias: the differences are that he’s a defenceman, plays fewer minutes, and is struggling to make use of his higher percentage of offensive zone starts, a far cry from his play during the regular season.
  • Zach Parise has been relatively sheltered in the playoffs compared to the tougher competition he faced in the regular season. He and Peter Harrald are the two obvious outliers on the chart. Harrold was actually much more sheltered in the regular season, whereas he’s facing tougher competition but getting more offensive zone starts in the playoffs.
  • It’s impressive to see Adam Henrique holding his own while starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone. He’s making a pretty strong case for the Dino Ciccarelli Award, particularly with his narrative-inducing goals.
  • Unlike the Devils, the Kings are sheltering their fourth line like crazy in the playoffs along with their bottom pairing on defence. In their limited minutes, all five of those players have kept possession in the offensive zone, although it hasn’t led to much in the way of offensive output.
  • Voynov was a player that received a lot of offensive zone starts in the regular season and did well in that role. He’s receiving fewer offensive zone starts in the playoffs and is facing tougher competition and his performance has suffered in the transition.
  • Kopitar, Brown, and Williams are pretty dang good at hockey.
  • Carter, Richards, and Penner have struggled in terms of puck possession all playoffs, with the explanation generally being that they’re playing more of a defensive role. While this is true, in that they start more in the defensive zone and face tougher competition than the other Kings’ lines, their usage isn’t all that extreme and I would certainly expect more out of those three players even in that role. They’re still putting up points, but they’re also conceding a lot of shots against.
  • Drew Doughty, on the other hand, is starting more in the defensive zone than any other player on the Kings but still has a positive Relative Corsi. It might be hard to see, but that’s a tiny blue bubble behind his name. Given the role he’s playing, that’s an impressive result. His ability to transition the puck up ice is a big part of why he’s not getting buried in his puck possession statistics despite starting so often in the defensive zone.