Jun 112013
 

Nathan Horton has been one of the stars of these NHL playoffs as will be an integral component of the Stanley Cup finals if the Bruins are going to beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Nathan Horton is also set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer so his good playoff performance is good timing. One of the things I have noticed about Horton while looking through the statistics is that he has one of the highest on-ice 5v5 shooting percentages over the past 6 seasons of any NHL forward (ranks 16th among forwards with >300 minutes of ice time).

Part of the reason for this is that he is a fairly good shooter himself (ranks 30th with a 5v5 shooting percentage of 12.25%) but this in no way is the main reason.  Let’s take a look at how Horton’s line mates shooting percentage have been over the past 6 seasons when playing with Horton and when not playing with Horton.

Sh% w/o Horton Sh% w/ Horton Difference
Weiss 11.28% 12.84% 1.56%
Lucic 13.03% 16.98% 3.95%
Krejci 11.41% 12.10% 0.68%
Booth 8.44% 11.26% 2.82%
Frolik 6.58% 10.84% 4.26%
Stillman 10.03% 15.38% 5.35%
Zednik 8.81% 13.56% 4.75%
Average 9.94% 13.28% 3.34%

Included are all forwards Horton has played at least 400 minutes of 5v5 ice time with over the past 6 seasons along with their individual shooting percentage when with Horton and when not with Horton. Every single one of them has an individual shooting percentage higher with Horton than when not with Horton and generally speaking significantly higher.  I have previously looked at how much players can influence their line mates shooting percentages and found that Horton was among the league leaders so the above table agrees with that assessment.

It is still possible that Horton is just really lucky but that argument starts to lose steam when it seems he is getting lucky each and every year over the past 6 years (he has never had a 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage at or below league average). Whatever Horton is doing while on the ice seems to be allowing his line mates to boost their own individual shooting percentages and the result of this is that he has the 9th highest on-ice goals for rate over the past 6 seasons. He is a massively under rated player and is this summers Alexander Semin of the UFA market.

 

Apr 052013
 

Yesterday HabsEyesOnThePrize.com had a post on the importance of fenwick come playoff time over the past 5 seasons. It is definitely worth a look so go check it out. In the post they look at FF% in 5v5close situations and see how well it translates into post season success. I wanted to take this a step further and take a look at PDO and GF% in 5v5close situations to see of they translate into post season success as well.  Here is what I found:

Group N Avg Playoff Avg Cup Winners Lost Cup Finals Lost Third Round Lost Second Round Lost First Round Missed Playoffs
GF% > 55 19 2.68 2.83 5 1 2 6 4 1
GF% 50-55 59 1.22 1.64 0 2 6 10 26 15
GF% 45-50 52 0.62 1.78 0 2 2 4 10 34
GF% <45 20 0.00 - 0 0 0 0 0 20
FF% > 53 23 2.35 2.35 3 2 4 5 9 0
FF% 50-53 55 1.15 1.70 2 2 1 10 22 18
FF% 47-50 46 0.52 1.85 0 0 4 3 6 33
FF% <47 26 0.54 2.00 0 1 1 2 3 19
PDO >1010 27 1.63 2.20 2 2 2 6 8 7
PDO 1000-1010 42 1.17 1.75 1 0 5 7 15 14
PDO 990-1000 47 0.91 1.95 2 1 3 4 12 25
PDO <990 34 0.56 1.90 0 2 0 3 5 24

I have grouped GF%, FF% and PDO into four categories each, the very good, the good, the mediocre and the bad and I have looked at how many teams made it to each round of the playoffs from each group. If we say that winning the cup is worth 5 points, getting to the finals is worth 4, getting to the 3rd round is worth 3, getting to the second round is worth 2, and making the playoffs is worth 1, then the Avg column is the average point total for the teams in that grouping.  The Playoff Avg is the average point total for teams that made the playoffs.

As HabsEyesOnThePrize.com found, 5v5close FF% is definitely an important factor in making the playoffs and enjoying success in the playoffs. That said, GF% seems to be slightly more significant. All 5 Stanley Cup winners came from the GF%>55 group while only 3 cup winners came from the FF%>53 group and both Avg and PlayoffAvg are higher in the GF%>55 group than the FF%>53 group. PDO only seems marginally important, though teams that have a very good PDO do have a slightly better chance to go deeper into the playoffs. Generally speaking though, if you are trying to predict a Stanley Cup winner, looking at 5v5close GF% is probably a better metric than looking at 5v5close FF% and certainly better than PDO. Now, considering this is a significantly shorter season than usual, this may not be the case as luck may be a bit more of a factor in GF% than usual but historically this has been the case.

So, who should we look at for playoff success this season?  Well, there are currently 9 teams with a 5v5close GF% > 55.  Those are Anaheim, Boston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Montreal, Chicago, San Jose, Toronto and Vancouver. No other teams are above 52.3% so that is a list unlikely to get any new additions to it before seasons end though some could certainly fall out of the above 55% list. Now if we also only consider teams that have a 5v5close FF% >50% then Toronto and Anaheim drop off the list leaving you with Boston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Montreal, Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver as your Stanley Cup favourites, but we all pretty much knew that already didn’t we?

 

Jan 122012
 

There is a post over at Backhand Shelf today that lists 10 backup goalies that have out performed their #1 counterparts.  It is an interesting read but it may be a perfect example of how simple statistics don’t tell the whole story.

The first pair of goalies on the list are the Bruins Tukka Rask vs Tim Thomas.

Backup: Tuukka Rask (10-4-1, 1.59 GAA, .945 SV%)
Starter: Tim Thomas (17-7-0, 1.99 GAA, .938 SV%)

Now both goalies have exceptionally good numbers but on the surface you would probably conclude that Rask has superior numbers to Thomas and on the surface you would be correct.  But dig a little deeper and things may look a little different.

A few days ago I was wading through some statistics and made an interesting observation about the Bruins handling of these two goalies.  Specifically, Tukka Rask gets far easier starts than Tim Thomas.

Rask Thomas
Opp. Record 265-257-72 511-418-123
Opp. Points % 1.013 1.088
Opp. Points/82gms 83.1 89.2
Opp GFA 2.55 2.77
Opp Sh% 8.66% 9.29%

Thomas’s opponents have a better record, have a better goal scoring rate and have a better shooting percentage than Rask’s and generally speaking it isn’t very close.  Boston has the highest goals per game average in the NHL.  The next 6 teams are Philadelphia, Vancouver, Detroit, Toronto, Chicago and Ottawa.  Of Rask’s 14 starts he has 2 starts (14.3%) against those six teams, one against Toronto and one against Detroit.  Thomas has 25 starts, and 9 starts (36%) against those six teams (3 vs Toronto, 2 vs Ottawa, 2 vs Philadelphia, 1 vs Chicago and 1 vs Vancouver).

When you take Rask and Thomas’s individual numbers on the surface it appears that Rask has out performed Thomas but when you dig deeper and look at the quality of opposition it is far less clear that Rask has outperformed Thomas and in fact it may be the other way around.

(On a side note, the combined record of all of Boston’s opponents is just 776-675-195, the equivalent of an 87 point team so it seems they have had a fairly easy schedule thus far. )

 

Jun 052010
 

This past season the Boston Bruins were the lowest scoring team in the NHL with just 196 goals for (the only team not to reach 200 goals) or about 2.34 goals per game and in the playoffs they were only slightly better scoring at a 2.58 goals per game pace.  So the question that needs to be answered is how will they go about improving their offensive output?  To answer that, lets start off by looking at their salary cap situation.  The Bruins have the following players under contract:

  • Forwards: Bergeron, Savard, Lucic, Ryder, Krejci, Sturm, Thornton
  • Defesnse: Chara, Wideman, Ference, Hunwick, Seidenberg
  • Goalies: Thomas, Rask

Total salary cap hit for those 14 players is approximately $50.5M including todays signing of Dennis Seidenberg at $3.5M a season for 4 years.  The best case scenario is that the salary cap rises about $2M so let’s assume the salary cap gets set at $58.5M.  That leaves $8M for 5-6 forwards and a couple defensemen.

The Bruins key restricted free agents include forwards Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, Vladimir Sobotka along with defenseman Mark Stuart.  On the unrestricted free agent front there is Mark Recchi, Miroslav Satan, Steve Begin, and Johnny Boychuk.

The Bruins could probably get Wheeler, Paille and Sabotka signed for $4M combined and there may be interest in bringing Recchi (who scored 18g, 43pts) back on a cheap contract and I expect they will try to sign one of Stuart or Boychuk for under $1.5M if possible but they will barely have $2M in salary cap room remaining and they have only rebuilt last year’s team.  They might like to bring Satan back who had an decent season since being signed (9g in 38 games) and an excellent playoff (5g, 10pts and team best +4) but his good play may have improved his market value beyond what the Bruins might be able to pay.

The Bruins do have the second overall pick which will likely be Tyler Seguin (assuming the Oilers take Taylor Hall) and I am sure they envision him being in their lineup next season to help their woeful offense.  The thing is, the cap hit, including bonuses, for Seguin will total approximately $3.75M and with the CBA ending after the 2010-11 season (unless the players choose to extend it for one additional season) there will be no bonus cushion so the full $3.75M will count against the cap, regardless of whether he is able to reach those bonuses or not.  There will be no carryover option.  The end result is the Bruins will have some real tough choices to make this off season.  Here are some options:

  1. Don’t sign Seguin and let him play another year of junior.  This is an extremely unlikely scenario since the Bruins desperately need Seguin’s offense and they wouldn’t want to give Seguin a bad view of the organization.
  2. Trade a high priced player.  There probably isn’t much of a market for Ryder or Sturm with their salaries unless the Bruins are willing to include their own first round pick or a top prospect.  There would be a market for Lucic or Krejci but those guys, particularly Lucic, would be very difficult for the Bruins to part with.  I am sure they would love to trade Tim Thomas but the success of cheap goalies this playoff season the market for older goalies with big contracts like Thomas is probably as low as it has ever been if it exists at all.  Thomas is still likely a capable goalie It is tough to imagine anyone wanting him at his salary though we should never underestimate an NHL GM’s ability to make stupid moves.  I don’t see them moving core players like Savard, Bergeron, Chara or Wideman so simply trading away a big contract is an unlikely scenario.
  3. Buy out the contracts of Michael Ryder and/or Marco Sturm.  Buying out Ryders contract would save them $2.66M in cap space and buying out Sturm would save them $2.33M in cap space.  Either or both are highly possible scenarios but they would lose Sturm’s 22 goals and Ryder’s 18 so it wouldn’t do anything to improve their offense.

Under any of the above scenarios it is difficult to believe that the Bruins offense will be significantly improved through player movement.  For the Bruins to improve their offense it will come down to keeping both Bergeron and Savard healthy and having guys like Krejci, Wheeler and Lucic improve their player closer to their 2008-09 levels.  That said, the Bruins will likely be a team relying on great defense and goaltending once again in 2010-11.

Sep 182009
 

There has been a lot of discussion over the last week or so on the rumoured trade offer that Brian Burke has made to the Boston Bruins for Phil Kessel and now that the trade seems very likely to go down, possibly within hours, we may as well take a look at it. (TSN is now reporting the deal is done and pending Kessel signing a contract with the Leafs which is probably not a significant hurdle issue).

The rumour is that Burke has offered two first round picks and a second round pick for Kessel and a third round pick (no word yet if this is the actual deal though). Howard Berger has argued that it makes no sense to trade two first round picks for Kessel because the Leafs are still rebuilding and the two first round picks could be far more valuable and he eluded to Schenn and Kadri as being an example why. Schenn and Kadri are the Leafs most recent two first round picks and he wouldn’t trade the pair of them for Kessel so why would he trade the Leafs next two picks for Kessel.

To me that is a shortsighted view of the situation. First off, Schenn has one years NHL experience and he performed relatively well so the ‘downside risk’ in Schenn has diminished somewhat while much of the upside potential remains. Kadri is still an unknown asset but he was a 7th overall pick which is likely higher than where the Leafs will pick in the next two drafts so he at least theoretically is likely more valuable than the Leafs than the Leafs first round pick in either the next two seasons (and Schenn was a 5th overall pick). So in short, Schenn and Kadri are measurably, possibly significantly, more valuable than the Leafs next two first round picks.

Finally, how good are those first round likely to be. Burke has every hope to make the playoffs this upcoming season and I am sure he would show some level of truculence to me if I suggested that the Leafs would miss the playoffs in 2009-10 and 2010-11, but lets assume a worst case scenario and they do and lets assume that both the draft picks end up in the 8th to 12th overall range. How might those draft picks turn out. Lets look at past drafts 8-12 picks.

1998: Mark Bell, Mike Rupp, Nik Antropov, Jeff Hereema, Alex Tanguay
1999: Taylor Pyatt, Jamie Lundmark, Bransilav Menzei, Oleg Saprykin, Denis Shvidki
2000: Nikita Alexeev, Brent Krahn, Mikhail Yakubov, Pavel Vorobiev, Alexei Smirnov
2001: Pascal Leclaire, Tuomo Ruutu, Dan Blackburn, Fredrik Sjostrom, Dan Hamhuis
2002: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Petr Taticek, Eric Nystrom, Keith Ballard, Steve Eminger

So that is 5 years of drafts for a total of 25 players and maybe there are a couple of pairings in there among Tanguay, Leclaire, Bouchard, Ballard, Ruutu, Hamhuis and Antropov that might be worth more than Kessel but none of those players will make you regret making the trade, especially if you believe that Kessel can be a top level offensive player in the NHL capable of consistently getting 30-40 goals. And if the Leafs were better and made the playoffs in either or both of the next two seasons the likelihood of regretting the trade drops off even more. Yeah, I understand that every draft seems to produce a star player or two in the 12-25 overall range like Parise (17) and Getzlaf (19) in 2002 but those are rare and more often than not the drafted player turns out to be nothing more than a name on a sheet of paper.

Recchi to Boston

 NHL  Comments Off
Mar 042009
 

Mark Recchi has been traded to the Boston Bruins with a 2010 second round pick for defenseman Matt Lashoff and forward Martins Karsums. As good as the Bruins have been, they don’t have a ton of experienced playoff performers so this (along with Montador) is a good pick up for the Bruins. Recchi has a lot of playoff experience and a couple of Stanley Cup rings.