Archive for the ‘Statistics’ Category

Dave Sandford, Getty Images

A few weeks ago, concerns were raised across the NHL that the league was on its way back to the Dead Puck Era. Scoring is down across the league yet again this season, despite the Winnipeg Jets’ best efforts to skew the numbers. One of the culprits according to some has been the resurrection of the type of tight defensive systems that typified that era. Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis and Dave Tippett in Phoenix have been accused of dragging hockey back to that style, while Guy Boucher was vilified earlier in the season for employing what some saw as simply a variation of the trap.

But the Dead Puck Era wasn’t just known for its tight defensive systems. One of the biggest contributors to the lack of scoring was the acceptance of obstruction by referees. Big, slow defencemen made their living on clutching, grabbing, and hooking, leaving very little room on the ice for creative offensive plays. One of the biggest changes during the lockout was the institution of “Zero tolerance on Interference, Hooking and Holding/Obstruction” in order to give skilled players more room to create scoring chances.

In the season after the lockout, the number of powerplays skyrocketed to 11.7 powerplay opportunities per game as players adjusted to the new rule. This season, power plays are, as the alarming headline read, at a “three-decade low.”

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A picture of a Predator and a Wild(?) in which neither one of them is possessing the puck. That's called "foreshadowing."

In case you don’t recall, the Minnesota Wild got off to a hot start this season. By November 19th, they were first place in the NHL and at or near the top spot in the league for a full month. After 30 games, the Wild had a sterling 20-7-3 record and their fans were justifiably thrilled.

What reasons were given for the unexpected success? New coach Mike Yeo had a history with the players from his time in the AHL and had them buying in to a new system and a culture of winning. This system focussed on blocking shots and making sure that what shots did get through were from the outside and easy to see for their goaltenders. The team was working hard and working for each other. The Church of Yeo was accepting new converts daily (sorry, Ms. Conduct).

The proponents of advanced statistics said that was all horse-twaddle.

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I love fighting in hockey, even though I’m a pacifist. It’s nice to know that NHL players agree with me. About the fighting part, not the pacifism.

In the recent NHLPA Players Poll, 98% of the players polled said that fighting should remain in the game. To be more specific, they answered “No” to the question “Should fighting be completely banished?” With 257 players completing the poll, that essentially means 5 of those 257 said yes, that fighting should be completely banished in the NHL.

While my initial reaction is incredible curiosity about who those 5 players are and what there reasons are for wanting fighting completely out of the game, my second reaction is how is there such a complete disconnect between players and the media on this issue? Read the rest of this entry »

Bottoms Up is a weekly feature on Backhand Shelf that admits that sometimes the underdog doesn’t win: sometimes they just lose and lose and lose some more. In this edition, we look at when the underdogs are going under.

Here’s a hockey truism: teams that lose a lot tend to get outscored. There’s actually a cause and effect relationship there: if you score fewer goals than the opposition, you will lose.  Score fewer goals than your opposition a whole bunch of times, you will lose a whole bunch of times.

That’s not exactly breaking new ground. The teams with the worst records in the NHL also have the worst goal differentials, headlined by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been outscored by a whopping 54 goals this season. But I want to get a bit more specific.

When are things going wrong for the NHL’s basement dwellers? In what period are they getting outscored the most?

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This counts as two hits because it was HUGE. In my opinion.

In hockey, there are a lot of important plays that don’t show up in a player’s boxcar numbers (which are goals, assists, points, PIMS etc.) – those things are downright easy to quantify.

But the plays that aren’t so black and white are obviously more difficult to total up. Plays like hits, giveaways, and takeaways are open to interpretation.

How hard to you have to hit a guy for it to be a hit? Does any mild bump work? Does the glass have to rattle?

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The law dictates that any story that so much mentions the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa must be accompanied by a picture of Daniel Alfredsson

There was a lot of talk this weekend pointing at the All-Star Game in a sort of derogatory sense, that true hockey fans were somehow above the game. Of course, more hockey fans I know watched hockey’s All-Star Game as opposed to football fans watching the Pro Bowl, and while I understand I’m looking at a small sample, there’s always one or two real cool things that pop up in hockey’s game that make it worth watching.

With the weekend behind us, we can focus on playoff races, the unpredictable and off-season-storyline making playoff races. An entire team’s season will be judged on a fraction of games that will allow old-timey pressbox scribes to determine whether a team was clutch enough or had enough “it” factor to win in this league. Percentage-induced hot and cold streaks will be furiously debated during the coming summer months.

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The selections for the 2012 All-Star Game will be announced today, if they’re not already available by the time this goes up. Oddly enough, 5 of the top 10 goaltenders in save percentage are unlikely to receive any consideration. None of those 5, one of whom leads the league in save percentage right now, were among Puck Daddy’s selections, and for good reason.

5 of the top 10 goaltenders in save percentage are backups.

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