Archive for the ‘Fun with Numbers’ Category

Proof that Stu Bickel did in fact play in this game. (Mitchell Layton, Getty Images)

One of the best parts about playoff hockey is absurdly long overtime games. The quadruple overtime game between the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks in round one of the 2007 playoffs is one of my favourite hockey-watching memories. The game led to the coining of the phrase “pass it to Bulis,” which eventually became the name of my blog. It’s safe to say that game is indelibly stamped in my memory.

It was a crazy game and an absolutely insane way to kick off the playoffs. Keep in mind that it was the very first game of the first round. Brent Sopel injured his back prior to the game picking up a cracker and missed the whole thing. The players were hooked up to IVs between periods to stay hydrated. 8 goals were scored in the first 3 periods; no goals were scored in the next 3 periods. Ryan Kesler, in his first game back after hip surgery, fractured a finger and missed the rest of the playoffs.

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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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I liked earlier this week when Justin posted the leaders to shots-per-game. Looking the players on that list, it’s hard to disagree that the number of shots are a reflective, repeatable indicator of the best players in hockey. I think we, as a hockey-watching public, give enough credit to great things like the “10-shot” game that has only happened 16 times this season, while it seems like half the scrubs in the league have a hat-trick by now.

But shots-per-game can be influenced by a number of things, the most important of which is ice-time. A player with 15 minutes at even strength and two powerplay minutes has a much better chance of racking up a shot count than a player with 10 minutes at even strength and none on the powerplay, so we’ve separated this out to shots per 60 minutes, allowing us to ignore powerplay minutes and balancing out the even strength minutes for NHL players and find out exactly at what rate they’ve been able to shoot the puck.

With a bit of Microsoft Excel magic and the fabulous Behind The Net dot ca, I charted the players who, with a minimum of 50 games played, have the most shots on per 60 minutes of even strength play (SOG/60) so far this season:

NAME  TEAM  POS  GP  TOI/60  Goals  Saves  SOG/60
Evander Kane WPG C 66 14.83 21 203 13.7
Tyler Kennedy PIT LW 51 12.77 6 143 13.7
Max Pacioretty MTL LW 72 14.54 25 188 12.2
Patrick Sharp CHI RW 66 14.82 21 170 11.7
Evgeni Malkin PIT C 66 15.83 33 166 11.4
Rick Nash CBJ RW 74 14.49 18 184 11.3
Sean Bergenheim FLA LW 54 13.19 11 120 11.0
Tyler Seguin BOS C 72 14.14 21 166 11.0
Daniel Cleary DET RW 69 12.47 10 147 10.9
Patric Hornqvist NSH LW 68 12.81 17 140 10.8
Chad Larose CAR LW 60 13.7 13 135 10.8
James Neal PIT LW 73 14.62 20 172 10.8
Andrew Ladd WPG LW 74 14.63 20 174 10.8
Viktor Stalberg CHI LW 71 13.14 15 152 10.7
Jason Chimera WSH LW 74 12.38 12 151 10.7
Alex Ovechkin WSH LW 70 15.48 17 175 10.6
Gabriel Landeskog COL LW 76 14.64 15 181 10.6
David Clarkson N.J RW 75 13.07 20 150 10.4
Phil Kessel TOR LW 75 15.94 25 178 10.2
Justin Williams L.A RW 74 13.96 12 163 10.2
Jeff Skinner CAR C 57 14.3 16 122 10.2
Henrik Zetterberg DET C 74 14.89 17 167 10.0
Logan Couture S.J C 72 14.25 18 150 9.8
Taylor Hall EDM LW 61 14.75 13 134 9.8
Drew Stafford BUF RW 73 13.76 12 150 9.7
Radim Vrbata PHX RW 72 13.75 21 137 9.6
Craig Smith NSH C 70 11.73 7 124 9.6
Pascal Dupuis PIT LW 73 13.92 19 143 9.6
John Tavares NYI C 73 16.73 22 172 9.5
Jonathan Toews CHI C 59 15.04 21 119 9.5
Michael Santorelli FLA C 60 11.1 7 98 9.5
Jeff Carter L.A C 52 14.76 11 110 9.5

I included players there who were tied for 30th. Many of the names that appear on Justin’s chart from earlier this week have ended up on this one as well: Evgeni Malkin, however, gets surpassed by Evander Kane and surprising entrant Tyler Kennedy, those two top the new list. Max Pacioretty, 9th in ‘per game’ stats, makes the leap up to 3rd in this one. I think Pacioretty is a fantastic player that the Canadiens would be smart to build their corps around and he can hurt you in a number of different ways, but I’ll admit I never saw him as a high-volume shooter until I looked at the numbers from Wednesday.

Notably, look at Sean Bergenheim there. I listened to a Dale Tallon radio interview this year who brought up Bergenheim’s playoff performance from last season as a reason why the Florida Panthers were interested in him, but when I analyzed player numbers from last season, he was a very good possession forward in Tampa Bay, leading the team in relative Corsi despite moderately tough minutes. Whether Florida stumbled on him accidentally or not, he’s certainly a reason why the balance of power in the Southeast Division has shifted.

New Jersey’s David Clarkson appears on this list, Daniel Sedin does not. Chad Larose, who I don’t think generated a scoring chance in Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup run appears, somehow ahead of Jeff Skinner.

One of the other fun things we can do with Behind The Net is include missed and blocked shot data to come up with a list of players that aren’t really All-Stars. Blocked shots are usually shots that were taken from the perimeter and have little chance hitting the net in the first place, and players who miss a lot, well, they’re leaving some goals on the table. Here are the most attempted shots per 60 minutes at even strength(Att/60):

NAME  TEAM  POS  GP  TOI/60  Goals  Saves  Misses  Blocks Att/60
Cody McLeod COL LW 69 7.04 6 44 22 100 21.2
Jakub Voracek PHI RW 70 11.89 14 102 35 142 21.1
Viktor Stalberg CHI LW 71 13.14 15 152 75 79 20.6
Patrick Sharp CHI RW 66 14.82 21 170 59 72 19.8
Tyler Kennedy PIT LW 51 12.77 6 143 45 19 19.6
Tim Stapleton WPG C 55 8.26 5 46 19 69 18.4
Craig Smith NSH C 70 11.73 7 124 57 63 18.3
Ben Eager EDM LW 57 8.62 7 56 25 61 18.2
Tim Jackman CGY RW 69 8.77 1 88 40 52 17.9
Brian Rolston BOS C 62 11.71 5 107 36 69 17.9
Jeff Carter L.A C 52 14.76 11 110 51 57 17.9
Evander Kane WPG C 66 14.83 21 203 68 0 17.9
Kaspars Daugaviņš OTT LW 59 9.09 4 57 30 66 17.6
Rick Nash CBJ RW 74 14.49 18 184 57 54 17.5
Shawn Thornton BOS RW 72 9.08 3 91 32 62 17.3
Logan Couture S.J C 72 14.25 18 150 59 68 17.3
Jeff Skinner CAR C 57 14.3 16 122 48 46 17.1
Pascal Dupuis PIT LW 73 13.92 19 143 59 68 17.1
Drew Stafford BUF RW 73 13.76 12 150 50 72 17.0
Dustin Brown L.A RW 74 14.52 10 114 60 119 16.9
David Backes STL C 75 15.2 13 155 62 90 16.8
Max Pacioretty MTL LW 72 14.54 25 188 64 13 16.6
Jordan Staal PIT C 53 14.83 12 79 41 83 16.4
Michael Grabner NYI RW 69 12.74 14 109 42 74 16.3
Alex Ovechkin WSH LW 70 15.48 17 175 89 13 16.3
Tyler Seguin BOS C 72 14.14 21 166 63 26 16.3
Evgeni Malkin PIT C 66 15.83 33 166 48 36 16.3
Daniel Cleary DET RW 69 12.47 10 147 37 39 16.2
Luke Adam BUF LW 52 10.67 10 60 38 42 16.2
Jonathan Toews CHI C 59 15.04 21 119 29 70 16.2

Cody McLeod, Jakub Voracek and Dustin Brown get a lot of shots blocked, while Kaspars Daugaviņš leads the NHL in the all-important “best name” category.

Given the respective entrants on both lists, you could say that the players who get a lot of shots on goal are probably better than the ones who get a lot of attempts on the surface. The ones who do register a lot of attempts, however, do have the puck in the offensive zone a lot.

In a game where goal-prevention is just as important as goal-scoring, let’s not confuse “bad offence” for what it really is: “good defence”.

One of the most basic statistical measurements is one of the game’s most important: shots per game.

While we wait for the advanced stat crowd to tinker and refine their numbers to help us grade player A-through-Z, shots-per-game continues to be a page you can click on, understand, and see a list made up of at least 90% all-stars. Great players pour pucks on net.

The tough part with so many fancy stats is determining what they really mean. A lot of people are pretty sure they have it dialed in, but numbers aren’t always what they seem. For example:

Our junior hockey coach used to bag us for 10 minutes for everyone one of nine goals we didn’t meet in our previous game. He had the scratches record what were then considered “deeper” stats. We had to have 75 hits (seriously), 10 blocked shots, 20% PP conversion etc. (….Yes, he liked to skate us.)

The point I’m making is we’re learning more about our raw numbers – common sense implies that if you got a lot of hits, you didn’t have the puck a lot, and that’s not a good thing. If you’re blocking a lot of shots, the other team is pushing the play too often, and has the puck too often. Also not a good thing.

But shots-per-game is pretty cut and dried – if one guy gets more shots per game because he gets more ice time than the next guy, guess why? It’s because he’s a better player. If one guy has more shots per game because he gets more powerplay time than the next guy, guess why? It’s because he’s a better player (or at least his coach thinks so). If a guy puts up a good number in this statistical category and doesn’t get a lot of minutes or PP time, guess what? He deserves more.

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During Friday’s podcast, I wondered something aloud (the best way to wonder something during a recorded-voice program, incidentally):

Steven Stamkos had scored 50 goals while no other NHLer had touched 40. Rob and I were trying to do the old “compare generations” thing that always gets messy. We were asking ”A 50-goal season today is worth a __ goal season during Gretzky’s era.”

I wondered how many standard deviations from the mean Stamkos’ numbers are this year, compared to how many Gretzky’s were in his day when he was filling the net.

Well, friend of the blog ”Nick the Bruins fan from Montreal” actually took the time to help us out by putting together some numbers, because he’s an awesome guy and curious like us.

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Alternate title: Gee, I wonder what the hockey blogosphere will be talking about today?

“Sam Gagner has just tied a record, with eight points in a game, the franchise mark he now shares with Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey!”
-Gord Miller, TSN, with the unlikely call

In case you’ve missed it, the Edmonton Oilers’ young winger, skating on a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, recorded four goals and four assists last night against the Chicago Blackhawks, earning Edmonton an 8-4 victory in a fashion reminiscent of the 1980s.

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Jason Spezza has taken more faceoffs than anyone in the NHL, and it’s not even close.

He’s taken 1131, while Eric Staal is second with 1079 and Tomas Plecanec is third after taking 997 (despite being below .500).

Spezza’s taken that many draws despite being 15th in time-on-ice for centermen, likely thanks to his winning percentage of 54.1%.

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