Archive for the ‘Charts’ Category

(Allison Joyce, Getty Images)

One of the biggest differences between the current NHL lockout and the one that occurred in 2004-05 is the ubiquity of social media. Facebook was launched in 2004, but wasn’t available to non-students until 2006, the same year Twitter was first introduced. While other social media sites existed at the time, they had nowhere near the impact or influence of either of these two sites.

Now, a company called Fizziology is trying to use the ubiquity of social media to figure out what fans are saying about the lockout and what that might mean for the NHL in the future. In essence, they’re treating all of social media like one massive focus group.

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(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.

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Anze Kopitar's reaction when I asked him to look at charts. They're fun charts, I swear! (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

One of the issues with advanced statistics in hockey is that the material can sometimes be quite dry or difficult to grasp. They’re frequently presented in lists of names and numbers that can make your vision go blurry. The statistics have odd, counter-intuitive names that frequently act as a barrier to understanding. Sometimes, it feels like we need a new way to present the information.

On Friday, Robert Vollman of HockeyAbstract.com and ESPN Insider released the 2011-12 Player Usage Charts, which are a graphical representation of the Zone Starts, Quality of Competition, and Relative Corsi statistics, with a separate chart for each team. The charts are a visually interesting way to immediately see how a player was used by a particular team and how well they did in that role. They’re not perfect, but they are useful.

The PDF of the charts complete with expert analysis is available for free here. After the jump, I’ll do a brief rundown of how the charts work and take a look at the regular season charts for our Stanley Cup Finalists, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.

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Rarities in this image: The fight in the playoffs, and the underage fan in Philadelphia who doesn't appear to be interested.

Don’t think any of this is normal.

In last season’s first round, I went through and counted up three major penalties total: an elbow by Mike Richards, a boarding call on Milan Lucic, and a charge by Jamie McGinn. I don’t remember those particular offences, but what’s important is that, in the 49 games that were played in last season’s first round, there were just three major penalties that were for an infraction other than fighting.

This year in the first round, in 19 games, we’ve seen a board by Byron Bitz, an elbow by Carl Hagelin, a charge by Andrew Shaw and a crosscheck by Arron Asham, probably the most egregious of the four penalties. That’s already four major penalties, and it could have been five it we also factor in Matt Carkner’s unrequited fighting major on Brian Boyle in Game Two of New York and Ottawa.

They call it “playoff hockey” but it’s anything but. When a good hard game is played between October and March, announcers will jump on clichés like a Scotsman on Haggis. A “playoff-type atmosphere” is a favourite up in the press box, but that really begs the question. What is a playoff-type atmosphere? Brayden Schenn, when prompted, said that Game 3 between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia qualifies. I’d have to ask him: ‘Do you actually watch any playoff hockey? Why are there so many more major penalties in the playoffs compared to the regular season than every before?’

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The importance of tanking

The one time the guy makes a save, and it hurts his team. Come ON!

First off, I don’t necessarily endorse tanking, nor do I really think it exists at a player level in a way that interferes with the way games are played. I would love for the system to not reward the team that loses the most games down the stretch to be one that gets a better pick; it doesn’t make the games more fun to watch as a fan when you’re actively rooting for your team to lose.

You see this save by James Reimer?

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Mark Stuart leads the league in blocked shots, but does this mean he's the best shot blocker?

Blocked shots are a bit of a contentious topic in the world of hockey statistics. Traditional, old-school thought is that blocking shots is a sign of grit and toughness, and is necessary to win hockey games; the more blocked shots, the better. Earlier this season, Don Cherry called out the Vancouver Canucks for not “paying the price” because they were frequently blocking fewer shots than their opponents.

Meanwhile, the proponents of advanced statistics claim that a higher number of blocked shots is usually a bad sign: if you need to block a shot, not only do you not have the puck, the puck is in your end of the ice rather than in the offensive zone. This school of thought would point out that the Canucks don’t block a lot of shots because they are one of the better puck possession teams in the league.

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Even missing a number of games with a concussion, Jeff Skinner still leads the league in Penalty Plus/Minus.

Back in early November, I wrote a post about the statistic known as Penalty Plus/Minus. It’s not a statistic that gets mentioned a lot, even on blogs devoted to advanced statistics, but it tracks something that does help teams win hockey games. As such, I think it’s worth keeping an eye on.

I promised in that post that I would update the statistic throughout the season; now that we are near the midpoint of the season with teams nearing the 41-game mark, it seems like this is a good time.

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