Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hockeyviz/SB Nation Wraparound - January 3rd

This is a new thing that I'm going to try out. I'm going to go around the NHL to the various SB Nation team sites, see what's going on in the eyes of the people that follow those teams, and see if we can use Hockeyviz to illustrate those things that are going on.

Hockeyviz, if you aren't familiar, is a site that takes all of the stats available to the public for NHL teams, players, and games and creates various charts, graphs, and visuals to help

From my vantage point in my normal life, this usually translates to Broad Street Hockey posting something like "Andrew MacDonald is bad" or "Steve Mason is good" with analysis by Charlie O'Connor. Then Hockeyviz has charts to backup the broad statement and Charlie's posts almost exactly.

(Editor's note: I called it the Wraparound after I wrote the whole thing (finished ten minutes before my work day ended) and I couldn't get my mind off of calling it the "Shootaround". I guess I subconsciously had The Ringer's NBA leaguewide posts in mind, but I'm not quite sure. A wraparound in hockey is basically a shootaround in basketball, right? We're *wrapping* up some things that have happened *around* the league? Let me die please.)

Let's just kind of jump right in. We'll start at home.

Philadelphia Flyers (Broad Street Hockey)

Ducks 4, Flyers 3: 10 things we learned from a tough luck loss by Charlie O'Connor (link)

I know Charlie's work very well, and in my opinion he is the most talented Flyers writer/reporter on the internet. That includes beat writers, bloggers, and big national media guys. He lists ten of his thoughts from each Flyers game, and then elaborates and provides related statistics from the night. Here were two from Sunday's game that I think will work well for this Hockeyviz exercise:
#1: Gibson the primary reason for the loss
#6: Konecny with huge game after scratch
First, Gibson:

I mean yeah, that is a SHIT TON of blue. A lot of it came from that "home plate" area that so many people stress, and almost all the rest of it came from the point via the offensively-talented trip of Gostisbehere,  Gudas, and Del Zotto.

I'm going to step outside of Hockeyviz now and include my favorite thing that Corsica provides, Expected Goals:

Somehow, the red team here (1) didn't score a goal in the second half of the game and (2) lost. 

As for Konecny, the hottest news in the Flyers world this weekend was Dave Hakstol's decision to scratch the Flyers' most exciting young winger. This is not the first time Hakstol has used the tactic, as he's also sent Gostisbehere, Michael Raffl, and Brayden Schenn to the press box for "training" reasons. 

And so, in his first game back post-scratch, Konecny potted a goal and finished well-above breakeven (almost comically so) in Corsi percentage and Expected Goals percentage. 

The Konecny-Schenn-Simmonds line saw success against damn near every single Duck they faced. They "drove play"(that's a Charlie phrase that I've been trying to work into my vocabulary), as noted above, and they outscored Anaheim 1-0 at even strength. They were the only Flyer line to be finish with a positive Goal Differential. 

So, of course, they must have been super sheltered, right?

Nope! They actually got stuck with the worst zone deployment of any line all night. 

I think I like this exercise, but that's too many words and visuals for me to do for every team. Going forward, let's try to keep it to one point/story and a visual or two per team, okay?

Pittsburgh Penguins (Pensburgh)

Let's jump down the PA Turnpike and look in on our neighbors to the West.

Marc-Andre Fleury named NHL’s third star of the week
 by Ari Yanover (link)
Before taking off for their bye week, the Pittsburgh Penguins ended 2016 on a high note, featuring a four-game win streak. Fleury.. stopped 77 of the 82 shots he faced for a .939 SV%, helping the Penguins win all three games including the game against the Hurricanes in which he had to relieve Matt Murray due to injury.
Especially considering Murray's injury, Fleury's dominance before Pittsburgh's bye week is a huge positive for Penguins fans. They're a point behind Columbus in the Metro standings, and they've all but locked up their spot in the postseason.

But goalie questions - like, say, if one of their two star goalies was hurt and the other was sucking - could derail the team in the last year where they're able to keep both goalies on the roster. All signs point to Murray being the goaltender of the future and Fleury going to Vegas (or Dallas). So they're going to definitely want to make a run this Spring.

And that was looking like a potential issue following Murray's injury, because this:

After posting three straight great games, Fleury is STILL below average in terms of even strength and penalty kill save percentage. He's creeping back up toward the middle, and the Penguins will want him there (or in that top-right quadrant) for their run down the stretch.

Columbus Blue Jackets (The Cannon)

Speaking of the Blue Jackets (it was like four paragraphs ago but we were, in fact, speaking of them), let's see what's going on in Ohio.

Game Thread: #UNSUSTAINABOWL by Pale Dragon (link)

14 wins vs. 12 wins. One streak ends tonight.

The BJ's streak did not end that night. It continued on, and it's now at FIFTEEN games in a row. Columbus is on fire, and they're leading the Metro despite having played three and four games less than the two teams that are chasing them. 

We're going to do a bit of a deep dive here. Let's start with overall shot rates:

Shooting from right in front of the net, in general, is a good thing for the shooting team. Columbus hammering home shots from the crease is part of the reason for their success. But if you look at their shots against, they're also giving up a TON of shots in that same area. 

That leads us to the next visual for the Blue Jackets, which is arguably the most important part of their success to this point: Sergei Bobrovsky:

He's played all but two games (I think) on this winning streak. He's seen the volume of shots against him generally decline, but his save percentage has been increasing along the way. I don't have a way to check this theory, but I think if your goalie is saving 95% of his shots and the other team's goalie is saving just 85%, you win every goddamn game for like a whole month. 

Montreal Canadiens (Eyes On The Prize)

From one team leading its division to another, let's see what they're writing about (in English) on the French Canadian site. 

I thought about looking at player visuals for Alex Burmistrov (should they have claimed him off waivers?) or Alexander Radulov (possibly due a contract extension?), but there's one name in the news in Habs-land this week. 

Shea Weber is returning to Nashville tonight. 

Tuesday Habs Headlines: Shea Weber’s impact on the Nashville Predators by Brad Simpson (link)

That's Weber's career usage in the red boxes, and his career scoring in the blue above. He worked his way up to first-pairing minutes over the 2007-08 season and hasn't ever looked back. He's also been filling up stat sheets, with generally around half a point per game over the first ten years of his career. 

And perhaps the most impressive part of these graphs is they completely ignore the "he's tough to play against" aspect that so many players reference when they discuss Shea Weber. His contract is a doozy and he might start to fall off at some point in his thirties, but everything in the past is amazing for him. 

We'll end with three young teams, one hot and two cold. 

Toronto Maple Leafs (Pension Plan Puppets)

The Leaves* (fixed that for you) have won their last five, including the Centennial Classic against the Red Wings. They're hot, their young forwards are all the rage, and it seems like Mike Babcock is the smartest man alive for jumping on the Toronto ship when he did. 

So, naturally, because this is the hockey internet community, let's fix what is broken here!

A Theoretical Framework for Optimizing Forward Lines by Arvind (link)

The "theoretical framework" essentially is "which lines can we put together to maximize goal differential" with a sample equation. They didn't really actually calculate anything, as far as I can tell, but I was interested in one of the lines in the preview section. 
And as it turns out, the Leafs are an interesting case study for this sort of thinking, because they have kept their forward lines relatively constant throughout the season. When they have made changes, it’s generally been to exchange one player for another across lines. There’s been very little wholesale line blending.
Compared to most other teams in the league, that's a unique position to be in nearly halfway through the season. But it's true:

Essentially, it's Marner-Bozak-van Riemsdyk, Hyman-Matthews-Brown, Nylander-Kadri-Komarov, Soshnikov-Smith-Martin. Injuries have made it so it's not like that 100% of the time, but that's the lineup through 36 games.

Now how do we maximize that?

That first line (Marner's line) has been right around the team average in shot differential. On a good team, that's a good thing. The second line (Matthews and Nylander's) has been stellar. The three guys on that line have positioned themselves as the team's best unit. We'll check on their zone usage in a second.

The third line (Kadri's) has been right around the team average, but one interesting note is Kadri and Nylander have both performed better when they are not playing with each other. It could just be a sample size issue, as it's only 6-8 games worth of ice time, but I would bet we don't see Babcock put those two together going forward.

As for that zone usage point:

Yeah, that's a bigtime shelter job on the Matthews-Hyman duo. It's to be expected, since those two combined are two years younger than Jaromir Jagr. But I would bet that Kadri and Komarov are quite a bit envious of how much of a good position Matthews is put in.

Arizona Coyotes (Five For Howling)

Arizona Coyotes lose seventh straight against Calgary Flames by Sarah Hall (link)
The Coyotes are in last place in the Pacific. They have less points than anyone in hockey except the Avalanche (more on them in a minute). They have the second-worst goal differential in the league (also the Avs). They are on a seven-game losing streak. They only have two players who are even close to breaking even in on-ice shot metrics. Would you like to guess who those two players are?

If you guessed Kevin Connauton and Jordan Martinook, you either cheated or you're a huge 'Yotes fan. Connauton is a third-pairing defenseman who has played in just nine games. Martinook is a first liner on this team in his second full season (he plays primarily with Shane Doan and Tobias Rieder), and he is actually one of the bright spots in my mind. He, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome, and Lawson Crouse should eventually one day complement Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakub Chychrun.

But today is not that day. Nobody is complementing anything about Arizona, especially not Former Coyote (and Flyer) Steve Downie.

Colorado Avalanche (Mile High Hockey)

The Avalanche are the worst hockey team on the planet. They are worse than the Flyers, and the Coyotes, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and Team Finland's World Juniors team.

Daily Cupcakes: January 2nd, 2017 by Sandie Gauthier (link)

First things first, I have no idea why they call their morning news link dump "cupcakes". I hope there is a good story behind it. 

There isn't a ton of editorial content on MHH, as it's mostly just game previews and recaps, and then the Cupcakes post links to various other sites. Yesterday's post included a link to Sportnet's article about Colorado's trading block pieces. 
The Colorado Avalanche are struggling and the vultures are circling... "A lot of teams are calling saying, ‘What do you want to do?'” said Elliotte Friedman on Saturday’s Headlines segment. What Colorado has told people is, ‘Don’t ask us about Nathan MacKinnon and don’t ask us about Mikko Rantanen,’" "
 Now, if you're asking about Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog, from what I understand, teams have been told they're not giving these guys because they're panicking," said Friedman. "If you want to come at [the Avalanche] with good, young defencemen or prospects, [they] are prepared to listen. But the packages are going to have to be big because they look at both [players] and see good players signed to good contracts."
That is very good use of The Media by Colorado GM Joe Sakic. He very clearly laid out who is on the table - and who isn't - and specified what he's looking for in return.

Obviously, what's important here is the guys that are trade bait. It's maybe a little unorthodox to be trading a 24-year-old and a soon-to-be-26-year-old, but clearly something isn't working in Colorado and unless Sakic is going to fire himself then it has to be some of his core pieces.


They are top-six guys in the primes of their career and they are signed to contracts that are decidedly Not Bad. Duchene is due $6 million a year through 2018-19, and Landeskog is due about $5.6 million through 2020-21. Honestly I think those contracts are so good that I think I'd probably quit on the Avalanche if I were a fan of that team. Maybe they just need John Tortorella, though, because compare these shot charts to Columbus'.

Something tells me that trading away two of their three best offensive forwards isn't the key to unlocking this Avs team.

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