Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Chris Vandevelde Is Immune To Being Benched

Because the Flyers' morning skate was without a few staples (who were unofficially having "maintenance days"), we didn't get our usual lineup tweet from Dave Isaac today. We had to settle for some espionage from the Detroit News' Gregg Krupa:
Essentially, the defense and the second line are exactly the same. The first line winger roulette wheel landed on Matt Read tonight (I really like him there, for what it's worth). And the bottom six was jumbled up in a Yahtzee can, per usual, with Scott Laughton now thrown into the mix.

Tonight, Bottom Six Yahtzee means Nick Cousins and Roman Lyubimov are healthy scratches. We may see an announcement that one of them has been sent to Lehigh Valley later this afternoon to accommodate Laughton, but I imagine that move will be more Andrew MacDonald-centric.

The jumbling of lines is a common move for NHL coaches, so there really isn't anything out of the ordinary here. The issue that a lot of Flyers fans have is two players seem to be immune to the jumbling: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and (more importantly) Chris Vandevelde.

Though he has a pair of goals on the season, Vandevelde's lack of offensive prowess often leads Flyers fans to furiosity and enragement on the internet. Let's throw it over to the best old guy on Flyers Twitter:
 I wanted to dig a little bit to find out if we can find some statistics to defend Vandevelde's place in the lineup. I'll use Corsica (obviously) and go back to the start of the 2014-15 season. That gives us two full seasons and change to compare.

Usage - Time On Ice

Here are the top five Flyer penalty killers over that time frame:

  1. Bellemare (168 games), 382.04 minutes
  2. Vandevelde (164 games), 330.23 minutes
  3. Sean Couturier (158 games), 321.61 minutes
  4. Matt Read (172 games), 312.77 minutes
  5. Claude Giroux (172 games), 213.08 minutes
Nobody else on the team has totaled more than 100 minutes of 4v5 ice time. Right off the bat, let's clear the air and say that Giroux should, in an ideal world, be able to focus more of his energy on even strength and power play situations. He's great on the PK, but (as we'll hopefully learn in this exercise) you don't have to be a "great" player to be a serviceable penalty killer. 

Shot Volume - Corsi, Fenwick, and Scoring Chances Per 60 Minutes

Ideally, we could split this into seven groups:
  • Shot attempts
  • Unblocked shot attempts
  • Shots on goal
  • Low-danger scoring chances
  • Mid-danger scoring chances
  • High-danger scoring chances
  • Expected goals
  • Goals
Corsica doesn't track penalty kill scoring chances by danger, so we're going to have to roll those three into Expected Goals (which accounts for shot quality). Here's what that looks like:

Per 60 78 76 14 24 28
Corsi      93.92      92.30      84.70      89.01      81.38
Fenwick      65.80      65.05      63.06      66.37      60.54
SOG      44.13      43.06      44.59      47.00      43.65

Sorry that Blogger isn't allowing me to do anything to make that chart more attractive. But this is a math blog, so it's supposed to be ugly anyway. Here's where some "analytics people" might have an issue - if you just look at plain old Corsi and Fenwick, the two best penalty killers are Giroux and Couturier. 

Look At The Scoreboard, Nerds

Per 60 78 76 14 24 28
xG        5.86        5.43        6.09        6.41        5.73
Goals        5.97        4.54        7.84        7.10        7.04

As you start to factor in shot quality, it becomes a top trio of Giroux, Vandevelde, and Bellemare. And, if you look at the scoreboard, Vandevelde is the best PK'er on the team by a mile. 

This ended up being a really short post. When Chris Vandevelde is on the ice, the opposing powerplay scores less goals. That is why he is immune to being benched. It's not a North Dakota thing. 

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