Posts Tagged ‘penalty kill’

A Final Look at Special Teams in 2009-10

In Hockey on September 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

By Ryan Wagman

As I’m sure many of you have waited with bated breath for my final special teams rankings for the 2009-10 season, I would like to start off with an apology. With the post-season, comes a certain malaise, born of the knowledge that no matter how much we can write about hockey, think about hockey or argue/fight about it, there is no hockey. Just backroom drama.
So, too, is there backroom drama within this writer’s life. Since my last entry, my job description has changed drastically, I took on other hockey writing projects, first with and now with, and I managed to squeeze in a short vacation in San Francisco with the Mrs.
Now tomorrow is Labour Day and many pre-season hockey rags are already out. My former colleagues at Hockey Prospectus (soon-to-be-formerly Puck Prospectus) are about to release their first ever annual.So without any further ado, (and no real commentary) I give to you last season’s final rankings.
Power Play Efficiency (the average time between goals when up by a man. Two man advantages are double-counted in time)
1) Was 382.266
2) SJ 449.877
3) Mon 453.719
4) Van 463.319
5) Phi 476.621
6) LA 476.797
7) Ana 477.190
8) TB 513.841
9) Det 522.593
10) NYR 534.200
11) Dal 535.525
12) Min 536.328
13) NJ 536.765
14) Clm 549.800
15) Col 551.429
16) Chi 560.442
17) Pit 568.643
18) Buf 571.945
19) Edm 583.115
20) StL 584.226
21) Car 594.589
22) Ott 595.449
23) Bos 612.818
24) Nas 620.213
25) Cal 653.023
26) Atl 653.520
27) NYI 658.061
28) Pho 686.000
29) Fla 700.467
30) Tor 758.523
Penalty Kill Efficiency (counted as with the Power Play, but in reverse)
1) StL 784.044
2) Buf 772.816
3) Bos 760.838
4) Chi 715.737
5) SJ 657.420
6) Ott 648.980
7) Pit 646.404
8) Pho 641.816
9) NYR 640.300
10) Det 627.302
11) Mon 594.642
12) NJ 592.000
13) Cal 585.778
14) Phi 585.649
15) Atl 582.561
16) Min 567.113
17) Van 543.220
18) Clm 531.738
19) LA 517.305
20) TB 511.831
21) Car 511.532
22) Col 503.083
23) Fla 485.793
24) Ana 473.821
25) Was 472.851
26) Edm 451.701
27) Dal 431.338
28) Nas 428.103
29) NYI 407.239
30) Tor 384.123
And the combined ranking, being the power play efficiency number, minus the penalty kill efficiency number. The lower the number, the better the organizations’ special teams were last season. This is as it is desirable to go longer between power play goals allowed by your team’s penalty killers, while you hope your team can score power play goals as often as possible
1) SJ -207.543
2) Buf -200.871
3) StL -199.818
4) Chi -155.295
5) Bos -148.020
6) Mon -140.923
7) Phi -109.028
8) NYR -106.100
9) Det -104.709
10) Was -90.585
11) Van -79.901
12) Pit -77.761
13) NJ -55.235
14) Ott -53.531
15) LA -40.508
16) Min -30.785
17) TB 2.010
18) Ana 3.369
19) Clm 18.062
20) Pho 44.184
21) Col 48.346
22) Cal 67.245
23) Atl 70.959
24) Car 83.057
25) Dal 104.187
26) Edm 131.414
27) Nas 192.110
28) Fla 214.674
29) NYI 250.822
30) Tor 374.400
OK, so I lied about the commentary. Now would be a good time to look at how my special team efficiency socres differ from the common version’s results.
Let’s start with the power play numbers. The traditional measures also had the Capitals as sporting the game’s best power play, clicking 25.2% of the time. That worked out to be over 15% better than the cluster of teams between 20.9-21.8%.
In that case, we agree again, as Washington’s power play score was also just over 15% better than the 2nd-ranked Sharks’ unit. At the other end of the spectrum, the traditional system does not quite appreciate how bad the lowly Leafs’ power play was last year. Scoring 14% of the time, they seemingly finished just below Florida, a difference of less than 1.5%. Looking at the game on a mor granular level, as I have attempted to do, shows the Buds to have fallen behind the Panthers by a much wider margin, being 7.65% less effective than Florida. The actual rankings don’t vary too much between the traditional system and mine, unless you’re a Sharks fan (move from 4th-2nd) or support the Rangers (13th-10th), but the granularity is interesting.
On the penalty kill, the changes in raw ranking are minimal, generally being the difference between placing in tight clusters, such as the Coyotes dropping from 6th in the traditional method to 8th here. They were in a cluster with the Rangers, Senators and Penguins that was separated by 0.4% in the traditional method and 8.5 seconds of efficiency here. Unlike the power play, there was not a single team that breezed past its peers like the Capitals. The Blues, leaders on both forms of measurements, were 1% more efficient than the 2nd-ranked Sabres in the traditional method and the same here. On the bottom, the Leafs (again – that must have been historically bad among special teams), were around 2% less likely to kill a penalty than the 29th ranked Islanders in the traditional method, while the granular data showed that they were, in fact, nearly 6% less efficient at killing penalties than the Isles, or any other team.
Looking at the universal special teams’ rankings, I never could have expected such a spread between best and worst of 581.943. Even if we remove the Leafs (I wish I could forget), we still end up with a number of 458.365. In seconds, that’s over 7.5 minutes of efficiency difference between the great San Jose and the poor Islanders. Nearly ten minutes if we include the Maple Leafs.
Before the 2010-11 season gets underway, let’s ponder the numbers and compare them to this summer’s transactions – did your team adjust based on their weaknesses in special teams play? How responsible was Chris Mason for the Blues’ ability to kill penalties? Evgeny Nabokov for the Sharks? Will a full season of Ilya Kovalchuk raise the Devils’ power play? Will a full season of Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel and a healthy Mike Komisarek and the absence of Vesa Toskala improve the fortunes of the Maple Leafs? I could go on, but you get the picture.
I hope to continue to track special teams efficiencies during 2010-11, to see if we can learn more, and frankly, because no one else is doing it.
Happy hockey everyone.

Happy New Year! A post in three parts

In Hockey on January 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm

1) Special Teams through the 1st Half

1)  Chi -372.527
2)  SJ -352.009
3)  Mon -254.302
4)  Bos -253.956
5)  NYR -211.334
6)  StL -111.640
7)  Was -97.273
8)  NJ -87.917
9)  Cal -81.400
10) Clm -71.173
11) Van -57.047
12) Buf -47.693
13) Pho -33.160
14) Atl -30.834
15) LA -11.149
16) Ana -8.171
17) Phi 13.168
18) Dal 22.806
19) Pit 24.692
20) Det 42.237
21) Min 43.825
22) Col 44.320
23) TB 72.605
24) Ott 111.145
25) Fla 115.528
26) Edm 141.274
27) Car 207.239
28) Tor 207.726
29) NYI 252.646
30) Nas 284.978

The Blackhawks and Sharks, who were both in the top three through the end of November, consolidate their positions with another month of efficient work on the power play as well as the penalty kill. You want impressive? The Blackhawks were down a man for over 81 minutes over 15 games last month – they allowed a meager three goals! Two of them were in the same game, when they lost in Dallas on the 29th. That ended a streak of 8 full games with perfect penalty killing. A combined 44:18 in those games.

Atlanta, the other team previously in the top three tumbled primarily due to a new-found inability to kill penalties. Over the month, they allowed 15 goals in just over 80 minutes for a penalty kill GAA of 10.53. Remember, the NHL average GAA when down 4-5 is 6.71, according to Puck Prospectus’ Philip Myrland. Their power play efficiency also dwindled, but not by much (441.143 down to 489.833).

The biggest change comes out of Montreal. Predictably, the return to health of #1 defenseman, Andrei Markov, gave the Habs a power play worth writing about. Through November, the Habs’ power play was just 23rd in the NHL, at 1 PP goal every 592.214 (nearly 10 minutes on the man advantage between power play goals. December started off well enough, with 7 power play markers in 2089 advantageous seconds, essentially halving their previous average. And on the 19th, on Long Island, Markov returned.

The Canadiens beat the Islanders, by a score of 3-0, with all three goals coming on the power play. Two were scored by the fresh stick of Markov. By New Years’ Eve, the Markov-led Habs scored 11 more power play goals in a mere 1829 seconds, 2:44 per power play goal. This titanic run has bumped the Habs all the way to the 1st half ranking as the most efficient power play in the NHL at 1 goal per 6:21.5. The runner-up Capitals were more than a half-minute behind, hitting the twine once every 6:58 in the power play.

Compare them to the eight bottom feeders, all requiring over 10 minutes with the man advantage to score (with the last three topping 11 minutes): Buffalo Sabres (10:18), Minnesota Wild (10:31), Pittsburgh Penguins (10:38 – a full minute improvement over their through-November numbers), Carolina Hurricanes (10:39), St. Louis Blues (10:41), New York Islanders (11:02), Ottawa Senators (11:07), and finally, the Nashville Predators (11:27).

We’ve already mentioned the stellar penalty killing of the Blackhawks, and we would be remiss to neglect the Bruins, currently second in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency. Look back on the league average 4-on-5 GAA. The Boston Bruins, led by the dual #1 goalies (Thomas and Rask), allowed on two opposition power play goals last month in nearly 72 minutes, for a 4-on-5 GAA of 1.67. If their scoring wakes up, they are well positioned for a big second half.

Meanwhile, holding on to last place (it may be all they have), is the Toronto Maple Leafs. They allow power play goals every 5:30. Combined with a slumping power play of their own, and their combined score dropped from 92.01 to 207.726 (remember – negative numbers are good here). Watching the Leafs, as I am wont to do, constantly reiterates the fact that Vesa Toskala is the biggest culprit of this downfall. He is a small goaltender (5-10″, 195), who plays smaller, deep in his crease and low to the ground. Earlier this year, Leafs’ GM Brian Burke had mentioned his willingness and intention to demote poorly performing salaries to the AHL. The line starts with Toskala. James Reimer, in his first AHL season, is performing admirably, albeit in a small sample size of 9 games. If he is healthy, and as he has not played in December, I am assuming he is currently injured, he might represent the best option the Leafs have to backup Gustavsson, the Polar Bear from Central Park.

Another team worth watching in the special teams standings is the Jimmy Howard Detroit Red Wings. It looks like the patience of GM Holland and coach Babcock has paid off. After allowing 15 goals in his first 5 appearances (one as a mid-game replacement), Howard seems to have taken over from Chris Osgood, ranking in the top ten in the league in both GAA (2.25, 8th) and save percentage (.921, 9th). His play has helped the Wings add 2 full minutes to their penalty kill efficiency, going from 6:59 (27th) at the end of November, to 8:59 (14th). If they can get more forwards (Zetterberg, Franzen, etc.) back from injuries, look for their power play efficiency to improve, and ultimately, their position in the standings, as well.

Finally, as proof that great special teams play does not guarantee greatness, look at St. Louis Blues. Their 5th-ranked efficiency score of -111.640 is held up by great penalty killing, but prevented from really taking off by a correspondingly poor power play. Playing down to the score (is it possible?), they are currently 9 points out of 8th place in the West. Their reverse image is supplied by the Nashville Predators, with an NHL-worst special teams score of 284.978. With the least efficient power play in the game, and ahead of only the woeful Toronto penalty kill, Nashville seems to be winning its games at full strength. Eyeballing the numbers, they seem to be among the least penalized teams in the game (mitigating their struggles on the penalty kill). From Gabriel Desjardins’ Behind the Net, the Predators are 4th in the league in average time spent playing 5-on-5, at 47.8/60 minutes.

2) The US Olympic Team

I nailed 22 out of their 23 selections, missing out only on David Backes (I had Burke selecting young Islander Kyle Okposo in his stead. I might not have said it before, but I’ll say it now: Mike Komisarek is only on the team to justify the outlay Burke made in signing him last offseason. For 5 years and $22.5 million, he must be one of the 7 best defensemen with a US passport, right? Not quite. According to the Puck Prospectus Goals-versus-threshold stat, measuring a player’s overall on-ice contributions, Komisarek is by far the worst among the 23 proud Americans, at -0.7. He has been playing error-prone hockey. I suppose he does block a mean shot. Rob Scuderi may have been a better pick. And, as already predicted, if Paul Martin is not able to play, Scuderi (or Ryan Whitney) may yet get a chance to wear the Red, White and Blue.

3) Fenway Park

Watching the game from the comfort of the new couches in my living room, the visuals were great. Ice hockey with shadows is a treat. The game itself was not the most exciting game of the year (or the week – did any of you watch the Canada-US World Juniors game on New Years’ Eve?), but it ended with a flourish. The Flyers, while they put up a good fight (and I’m not referring to Daniel Carcillo’s KO of Shawn Thornton), did not particularly impress. Michael Leighton may yet steal the #2 job from the generally disappointing Brian Boucher once Ray Emery returns from his abdominal surgery. James van Riemsdyk was pretty much invisible on the ice. Jeff Carter seemed involved in almost each one of the Flyers’ threatening moments. With 6 more shots on goal giving him 180, Carter takes over the league lead from American Olympian Zach Parise.

From the Bruins, I was particularly impressed by the play of Tim Thomas. Yes, he was at fault for the Flyers’ goal, but he also prevented several others with his ballsy and acrobatic play. Not much bigger than Vesa Toskala, he plays much bigger. When he puts his pads down, his back stays straight and tall, giving Thomas more net coverage. When Toskala puts his shin pads down, he also hunches over slightly, opening up valuable inches at the top of the net. Also impressing were the creators of the two Bruins goals, Derek Morris, whose shot from the point began many Bruins flurries, and surprise Canadian Olympian, Patrice Bergeron – great hesitation to get in position to put the puck on Marco Sturm’s stick in the goal crease to win the game.

The only real blight on the game, was the fans’ booing some of the Olympic announcements. I hope the kids representing each player didn’t feel that they were being booed.

Happy New Years, everyone!