Feb 062013
 

The talk of the NHL these days is the fall of the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin in particular. This is a pretty telling table in regards to Ovechkin’s fall in offensive production. Stats are Ovechkin’s 5v5 stats over the past 6 seasons.

Season TOI G A Pts Shots Sh% TOI/G TOI/Shot
2012-13 149:14 0 1 1 18 0.00%  - 8:17
2011-12 1193:36 19 15 34 206 9.22% 62:49 5:48
2010-11 1230:48 17 30 47 230 7.39% 72:24 5:21
2009-10 1125:08 32 33 65 246 13.01% 35:10 4:34
2008-09 1222:16 27 23 50 305 8.85% 45:16 4:00
2007-08 1302:36 34 27 61 285 11.93% 38:19 4:34

His shooting percentages dropped off a bit the past 2 years at least as important as that is his shot rates have dropped off from a shot every 4-4.5 minutes to a shot about every 5.5 minutes the past two years. This year his shot rate has fallen off a cliff to only getting a shot every 8 minutes which about double where he was during the 3 seasons from 2007-08 to 2009-10.

 

Jan 302011
 

Yesterday there was a post on the Behind the Net Blog which discussed the Washington Capital’s 2009-10 even strength shooting percentage of 11.0% and the conclusion was that it must be mostly luck which resulted in a shooting percentage that high.  But was it?  It was noted in the article that in 2007-08 the Capitals shot at 8.1%, in 2008-09 they shot at 8.2% and this season they are shooting at 8.2% again.  So clearly 2009-10 appears to be an anomaly, but was it a luck driven anomaly or something else?

Most people in the hockey analysis world have been using a simple binomial distribution to simulate luck so I’ll do that here too.  The thing is, if the Washington Capitals were really a 8.2% shooting team last year, the chances of them shooting 11.0% or better on 2045 shots is a mere 0.0042%.  That kind of luck we should expect once every 8000 NHL seasons.  In short, we can be pretty confident that the Capitals 11.0% shooting percentage wasn’t all luck driven.

So the next question is, how much of it is luck, and how much can we attribute to other factors?  Well, let’s assume that their good luck was significant to the point where there would only be a 5% chance they could have experienced even more luck.  We can do this by constructing a binomial distribution using centered on a shooting percentage where the chance of producing a shooting percentage of >11.0% is 5%.  The result is shown in the following chart:

The far left vertical line is the number of goals that Washington would produce if they had an 8.2% shooting percentage and the far right line is their actual shooting percentage.  The center vertical line is the theoretical shooting percentage we would need to meet the 5% luck conditions outlined above.  Under this scenario one could suggest of the extra 57 goals that Washington scored above what they would get if they shot at 8.2%, 22 of those goals can be attributed to luck and 35 can be attributed to skill.

But what if we assumed the Capitals were extremely lucky and there was only 1% chance of having greater luck.  Under that scenario their true talent level would be 9.49% shooting percentage and 26 goals would be due to skill and 31 would be due to luck.

Regardless of how you want to look at it, a significant portion of the Capitals elevated shooting percentage was likely due to non-luck factors, be they actual talent, playing style, score effects, etc.

Apr 082010
 

If you polled hockey fans who the top contenders are for the Stanley Cup, four of the most frequent answers you will get will be Washington and Pittsburgh from the eastern conference and San Jose and Chicago from the western conference. What these teams have in common are very good groups of offensive forwards with multiple star players and some pretty good defensemen to go with them. But what they also have in common are question marks in goal that they will have to overcome if they are to go deep into the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks
We all know about the Sharks playoff failures of recent years and much of the blame has been placed on forwards like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been an excellent regular season goalie and been OK in the playoffs but he hasn’t stolen a series for the Sharks and his post Olympic play has to be a concern for Sharks fans. As you are all probably aware, Nabokov had a poor Olympics, and in particular, a really bad game against the Canadian team that cost the Russians a shot at a medal. Since the Olympics he hasn’t been any better having posted an 8-7-1 record with a 3.11 goals against average and a very mediocre .897 save percentage and in 16 post Olympic games he has given up 4 or more goals 7 times (including 5 goals Sunday against possible first round opponent Colorado). That isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs. We know Nabokov can play better, but will he turn his game around come playoff time?

Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks goaltending is an interesting case study into inconsistency. They lead the league in shutouts and are 6th in goals against average but are 7th worst in the league in save percentage. Cristobol Huet can go on stretches where he looks solid and reliable (in his first 21 starts this year he only gave up more than 3 goals once) but then for other stretches he can look downright awful. The end result though is that he is unreliable. Then you have youngster Anti Niemi who has been the better and more reliable goalie this year and has a respectable .913 save percentage but he too has been inconsistent. In 33 starts he has 7 shutouts which is pretty phenomenal (Brodeur leads the league with 9, but he started 73 games) but in those 33 starts he has also given up 4 or more goals 8 times which is not so good.

Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals are not unlike the Chicago Blackhawks as they too have a somewhat unreliable veteren (Theodore) and a quality young goalie (Varlamov) that may or may not be ready to carry the load. I have a little more confidence in the Capitals goaltending though as they have been a little more consistent. As a group they only have 3 shutouts, but they have fewer disaster games too and with the Capitals offensive capabilities that might be good enough but it still has to be a concern for Capitals fans.

Pittsburgh Penguins
There may be some that are surprised to see the Penguins make this list but lets look at the facts. As a team the Penguins have the worst goals against average of any playoff bound team and have the fourth worst save percentage in the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury has a very mediocre .904 save percentage over the course of the season and a pretty bad .892 save percentage since the Olympics. Since February 1st he has started 20 games and given up at least three goals in 14 of them and four or more goals 6 times. We know Fleury can play well enough to win a Stanley Cup, but his performance this season, and over the past couple months in particular, has not been good enough. To make matters worst for Penguins fans, yesterday on TSN it was pointed out in 17 games against division leaders the Penguins have just 3 wins. Of the top four teams in the east, I think the Penguins are the one team most likely to face a first round playoff exit.

(cross posted at HockeyAnalysis.com)

Jan 072009
 

Sorry for being pretty absent over the past few weeks. I was away for a couple weeks on vacation visiting family and stuff. But things should hopefully pick up from here on.

I would like to take a moment to announce that Joe, from Joe’s Washington Hockey Blog has moved his blog to Capitals.hockeyanalysis.com and will become the maintainer of the Capitals blog on HockeyAnalysis.com. Joe will be a great addition to HockeyAnalysis.com as the Capitals are challenge Boston for top spot in the east and are a represent the eastern conference and are a serious threat to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals.

Brian Burke’s first trade as Leafs GM was anything but a blockbuster acquiring Brad May from the Anaheim Duck’s, but it does confirm indicate that Burke really likes to acquire players he knows well. As I have said before, Burke isn’t one to make a trade just to dump a player he doesn’t want or need, he makes trades to acquire a player he wants. He wanted to add more toughness and Brad May was his guy.

Despite the fact that the Senators have one of the worst records in hockey, many people still claim that they are a very talented team playing below where they should be. They have three highly skilled players in Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson but might be the least talented team in the NHL from player #4 on. Their #5 point producer is Alexandre Picard, who hardly had a regular shift in Tampa last year. Brendan Bell, who couldn’t make the Phoenix Coyote’s team last year is not getting a regular shift and nearly 17 minutes a game on Ottawa’s defense. Jason Smith who saw his ice time diminish significantly in Philadelphia last year is now getting 18 minutes a game for the Senators. Winchester, Ruutu, Foligno, Donovan, Phillips, Volchenkov, Kelly, Schubert, Neil, McAmmond, etc. all have their beneficial attributes but being highly skilled are generally not among them. Please, the era of the Sens being one of the most talented teams in the NHL is well behind us.

Don’t look now but the laughing stock of the NHL early in the season are now back in the playoff race. Yes, I am talking about the Dallas Stars who are now one game above .500 with 39 points and trail 8th place Phoenix by just 4 points and have 3 games in hand. The Stars are 9-5-1 since the Sean Avery incident and subsequent suspension. Prior to that they were just 8-11-4.

The Jonathan Tavares sweepstakes will probably come down to three teams, the New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers, and the St. Louis Blues. The Islanders are a downright horrible team with no stars and the Thrashers aren’t much better with just one star player who is playing poorly. Both will likely trade away more talent come the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Blues have been devastated by injuries. It started off with Erik Johnson before the season began and Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer and Jay McKee are out with injuries. This Blues team probably wouldn’t have challenged for a playoff spot but without Johnson, Kariya, Brewer and McKee they just aren’t a very good team. My bet is Tavares goes to one of the eastern conference teams but the Blues will be in the hunt with their injury situation. Honorable mention goes to toe Lightning and Senators who probably will be able to stay ahead of these other dreadful teams.

Kris Versteeg leads all rookies with 13 goals and 33 points and may very well have the inside track on rookie of the year thus far (now that Brassard, my pre-season pick is injured and out for the season) but two guys to watch for are Bobby Ryan and Steve Mason. Ryan has 8 goals and 22 points in just 23 games and has been playing a key role in Anaheim’s offense. Ryan was the second overall pick in 2005 behind some guy names Sidney Crosby and he is finally showing why he was so deserving of being picked so high in the draft. Meanwhile, Steve Mason has gotten the Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoff hunt with a 13-9-1 record with 5 shut outs, a 1.82 gaa and a .934 save percentage. His goals against average and save percentage are both tops in the NHL. If he can continue to play anywhere close to this level for the remainder of the season he’ll be a lock for rookie of the year.