As the Olympic Bell Tolls; Prepping for the Big Test, and Looking Back at the Games that were

In Hockey on February 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

—  By Ryan Wagman

At the Campbell and the Wales, both Bill and myself have chimed in on some thoughts on the Men’s Hockey schedule of the Vancouver Olympic Games that opened in tragedy and failure before we were able to gawk in amazement at sports that most of us never give second thoughts to more than once every four years. So far, I have been involved in several heated conversations about Moguls and the Biathlon, two sports I honestly haven’t a clue about. While Bill has let the world know what his crystal ball told him about the Men’s Hockey tournament that begins tomorrow night, I have yet to do more than simply comment on the team selection for the North American entrants. Until today, that is.

You may say that I am cheating, what with the first game result already in, and you wouldn’t be too far off. Not that I doubted the outcome, but the process did provide more information as far as what to expect from each team going forward. I absolutely expected the Americans to win today, but I am mildly surprised by the unconvincing nature of the victory. The Swiss only fired 15 shots on Ryan Miller in the American goal, beating him only on a bad bounce from a goalmouth pass by Roman Wick, the type of player who could use a good Olympic run to inspire a North American contract offer. That is, if he wants one. It seems that the Swiss team has a few guys who were drafted by NHL teams at one point (Wick, Raffaele Sannitz, Philippe Furrer, Julien Sprunger and others), and simply stayed in Switzerland. It’s a living, I suppose.

The Americans only managed 24 shots on the Swiss net, manned by Ducks’ stopper Jonas Hiller. I’ll have to see how they do on Thursday against Norway, but Canada probably wasn’t fazed by today’s performance. I fully believe that Canada will take Group A, with a clean sweep. Beyond their mildew performance this afternoon, I am unconvinced by the American blueline, especially after Martin and Komisarek (especially Martin, if I’m being honest) were replaced by Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney. Team USA will finish 2nd in the pool, ahead of Switzerland, who should be favoured to beat Norway in the final match of the preliminary round and will hope to advance to the Quarterfinals.

The Russians are the class of Group B, called the Group of Death, if only because they have the strongest 3rd seed. That 3rd seed will be Slovakia, the last current member in hockey’s Big 7. The Slovaks have some big weapons in Marians Hossa and Gaborik and the biggest of them all in Zdeno Chara, as well as a pretty hot goaltender in Jaroslav Halak. But depth often wins the game, and the 2nd seed has more of it than does Team Slovakia. For those of you who thought that I was going to name Latvia, I fooled you! The Czech Republic will grab 2nd place in Group B, with a solid veteran line-up top to bottom, and an absolute game changer in net in Tomas Vokoun. Also, the Czechs may have the best washed-up former NHL’er in the tournament in Jaromir Jagr. Compare Jagr with Hnat Domenichelli of Switzerland, Ziggy Palffy of Slovakia, Peter Forsberg of Sweden, Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov of Russia and the great Patrick Thoresen of Norway. Latvia will finish 4th, proud and pointless.

The defending Gold Medal champions, Sweden are the odds-on favourites to win Group C, but if any group has an upset, it will be here. Finland, with its Koivus and Ruutus (two pairs of brothers beats one pair), pose a daunting obstacle to a Swedish repeat. Both Nordic nations have very strong goaltending (this could be a trend) and aging, yet consistent skaters. In 3rd place, I am taking Germany over Belarus, especially after two thirds of Belarus’ top line (Andrei Kostitsyn and Mikhael Grabovski) had to bow out of the tournament with injuries.

With the preliminary round out of the way, I have to stop. I have no clue how the seeding for the Quarterfinal Qualification round and the Quarterfinal actual round are defined. But I will offer my own version of seeding.

1)      Canada – the entire initial roster made it to Vancouver unscathed  – even Getzlaf! – and there are no KHL players involved.

2)      Russia – healthy, but NHL>>KHL

3)      Sweden – Even if they lose the top spot in the preliminary round to Finland, they are strong enough to bounce back

4)      USA – Miller is a great goalie, but there aren’t many slouches at this level. The team needs to gel against Norway. Has to be a statement game.

5)      Finland – This is my gut talking

6)      Czech. Republic – Jagr impresses enough to get a contract offer for next season in the NHL, but maybe not for the type of money he would want.

7)      Slovakia – The health of Hossa and Gaborik is in question, both missing some time leading up to the Games

8)      Germany – The big 7 will soon extend to the big 9 with Germany and…

9)      Switzerland – I would have picked them eighth or even seventh if they had included Nino Niederreiter on the roster

10)   Norway – Oslo is beautiful. But Grotnes is way better than Lysenstoen. Grotnes has to play the rest of the way or Norway finishes on the bottom.

11)   Latvia – my Grandmother was born there.

12)   Belarus – Dynamo Minsk takes some friends on a road trip

Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t post the Special Teams for January’s end. I figured that the short month of games in February would provide a better take on the state of the game. These will be the last numbers posted before the end of the season. For a recap of my methods, click here.

Power Play Efficiency through the Olympic Break

1)  Was 373.349
2)  Mon                392.188
3)  SJ      432.981
4)  Phi    449.396
5)  Van  463.698
6)  Clm  498.022
7)  Chi    505.786
8)  Ana  506.822
9)  TB     526.511
10) LA    527.455
11) NYR 533.024
12) NJ    537.134
13) Edm 545.833
14) Car  548.913
15) Dal  551.111
16) Bos 552.361
17) Det 552.884
18) Min 558.432
19) Buf  571.071
20) Col  585.190
21) Pit   588.293
22) StL   603.447
23) Atl   610.359
24) Cal   613.343
25) Nas 615.184
26) Tor  617.256
27) Fla   619.919
28) Ott  625.147
29) Pho 653.216
30) NYI  707.343

Big gains by Washington, their lately ended winning streak buoyed by incredible success on the power play, with 17 goals in exactly 5000 seconds, or 1 power play goal in under 5 minutes of the man advantage. While the chart above may not show it, Ottawa has also improved significantly, shaving more than 40 seconds off their man advantage efficiency. On the other hand, the Atlanta Thrashers have plummeted, and Ilya Kovalchuk is to blame. Not because he was traded, but because that drop mostly occurred with him still wearing a Thrashers uniform. Since New Year’s Day, the Thrashers have scored only 9 power play goals, in over 2.5 hours of power play ice time. That sucks.

The Maple Leafs are also around 70 seconds less efficient on the power play, but I’d rather not talk about them right now, but to say that the recent big trades may go some lengths towards turning around their special teams.

Penalty Kill Efficiency Through the Olympic Break

1)  Buf   755.321
2)  SJ      745.912
3)  Bos   719.600
4)  Chi    699.226
5)  StL    698.895
6)  NYR  646.744
7)  Mon  617.524
8)  Cal    616.293
9)  Ott   610.725
10) Pit   601.415
11) Col  598.100
12) Pho 593.756
13) Det 572.000
14) Clm 560.366
15) Atl   548.558
16) Min 537.513
17) Car  524.458
18) NJ    522.389
19) Van 519.870
20) Ana 514.531
21) LA    507.750
22) Phi  506.939
23) TB    505.188
24) Fla   495.256
25) Was 483.635
26) Dal  431.756
27) Edm 401.962
28) Nas 399.620
29) NYI  395.642
30) Tor  334.098

Quick note before the Canada-Norway game begins – Buffalo has improved its penalty kill efficiency by almost 100 seconds and Ottawa has also improved by almost a full minute.

NHL Special Teams Efficiency Score Through the Olympic Break

1)  SJ      -312.931
2)  Mon  -225.336
3)  Chi    -193.440
4)  Buf   -184.250
5)  Bos   -167.239
6)  NYR  -113.720
7)  Was -110.286
8)  StL    -95.448
9)  Clm  -62.344
10) Phi  -57.543
11) Van -56.172
12) Atl   -48.199
13) Det -19.116
14) Pit   -13.122
15) Col  -12.910
16) Ana -7.709
17) Cal   -2.950
18) Ott  14.422
19) NJ    14.745
20) LA    19.705
21) Min 20.919
22) TB    21.323
23) Car  24.455
24) Pho 59.460
25) Dal  119.355
26) Fla   124.663
27) Edm 143.871
28) Nas 215.564
29) Tor  283.158
30) NYI  311.701

Toronto is no longer in last. When we revisit these scores, we will be able to see how well they foretell overall team success and how much we are differing from the traditional special teams metrics.

Enjoy the Olympics!

  1. […] but there aren’t many slouches at this level. … Go here to see the original:  As the Olympic Bell Tolls; Prepping for the Big Test, and Looking … Share […]

  2. […] the original post here: As the Olympic Bell Tolls; Prepping for the Big Test, and Looking … Share and […]

  3. The two teams whose numbers surprise me most are the Habs and Blue Jackets. It’s also interesting to note that Special Teams Efficiency (great stat, btw) is yet another measure that indicates the dominance of San Jose this season.

    • Well, the Habs really took off as soon as Markov returned from his injury – they went on a run of absolute dominance (9 goals in under 20 minutes) that pushed up their overall numbers greatly. They’ve been steadily good since then.
      I haven’t paid much attention to Columbus, as they’ve been steadily in the top 10-12 all season. It’s more their power play than their PK, although that has been solid.
      Glad you like the stat – I’ve put alot of work into it. I’ve tracked shorthanded goals for and against as well, but not sure how to include those yet. Any ideas?

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