Hockey

Thought I would take the time to dig deep into some nerdlingers for you. Let’s get to it.

60.4, 42.7

We talked last night, you would have heard it this morning if you were so inclined, on the podcast about Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach. The idea since Dach was drafted is that he would one day supplant Toews as the #1 center, and hopefully soon in that it would only make the Hawks stronger, not due to any decline of Toews. And after a slow start, Toews’s metrics are actually pretty stout the past 15 games. 54.9 CF%, 55. 2 xGF%. That’s probably more than stout. Dach’s numbers are obviously less so.

But what you’re seeing above is the offensive zone starts for Toews and then Dach the last 15 games. Which has to raise questions about how exactly you’re going to develop Dach by starting him outside the offensive zone 60% of the time, not to mention saddling him with fourth-line players. Dach’s certainly going to have to learn to play in his own zone, but right now he is a gifted offensive player and the Hawks are actually short on scoring. So why is he taking the ass end of shift starts?

If the Hawks would like to know why Dach hasn’t registered a point in 12 games, here you go. He’s not being given the best chance. And this is the future for your team, at least it had better be. Is there no confidence that Toews can turn the ice? It’s hard to know because this is how Toews has been used all season. But if the Hawks hope to get more out of Dach this year, they have to get him up the ice. And we know the Hawks can’t do that themselves.

+8.9

That’s Connor Murphy’s relative xGF% above the Hawks rate. It’s the 7th best mark in the league among d-men. To boot, no one else in the top 20 is getting worse zone starts than Murphy. Only Jared Spurgeon and Patrik Nemeth are even close. So next time Pat and Eddie are bellowing about how good Keith and de Haan have been and how they’re the two best Hawks defensemen, just remember this and that neither is anywhere close to Murphy. Who will have to be traded in the offseason for cap and roster space because no one is going to want de Haan and his one shoulder or Maatta and his no talent. And you should throw your hands up frantically accordingly.

.859

That’s Corey Crawford’s high-danger save-percentage at evens, which ranks third in the league behind Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist. This has been something of a specialty of Crow’s the past few years, as he tends to make just about the most amount of saves he shouldn’t make in the league. The past five years, only Sergei Bobrovsky has a better high-danger SV%, and Ben Bishop is right behind him, and both have been Vezina finalists while Crow never has. In that time, Crow also has the best dSV%, which is the difference between a goalie’s expected save-percentage and his actual. Hopefully, for his sake, there’s a contending team out there that sees these numbers and makes the Hawks a boffo offer for Crow at the deadline, because he deserves playing behind better than this utter trash fire as well as the lack of recognition he gets here. But I tend to doubt that will be the case, and instead he’ll just walk in favor of Robin Lehner and his gaping maw of a mouth to tell you just how hard he’s working behind the same shit defense.

Everything Else

We’re into our silly bits of trivia around here. One of McClure’s favorites is that David Krejci is the only player to lead the league in playoff scoring twice and not win a Conn Smythe (went to Thomas in ’11, and hilariously and wrongly to Kane in ’13). Brandon Saad might get his own one day, though this one is more subjective. It’s quite possible that Saad will be on the losing end of two trades involving the same team! If Anton Forsberg had worked out, maybe the first Saad trade would have been considered a wash. Artem Anisimov is never going to win my heart over, though. And at the time we thought Panarin was just a Kane-byproduct.

Clearly, Saad is not going to live up to that half of that trade. And perhaps it was just another example of Stan Bowman trying to stick it to Joel Quenneville. We won’t know until the tell-all comes out right about the time we find out who killed Kennedy.

Saad’s season was infuriating in some ways, not least of which was a 7.4 SH% that kind of nullified the excellent work he and Toews were doing. Both have seen a market correction in that department this year, with Saad already past last season’s 18 goals.

But I want to point out the near-dominant work that Saad has put up since the new year, where he’s found a home with David Kampf on the third line, and now Marcus Kruger.

54.9, 52.6, 51.0

+11.8, +11.9, +15.7

The first set of numbers is Saad’s Corsi, scoring chance percentage, and high-danger scoring chance percentage. On their own, you’d say they were ok to good, maybe a touch better. The next three numbers are what they are relative to the team-rate, which is some of the best numbers around. Saad’s relative-Corsi since the new year is fifth in the entire league (Panarin is first, dishearteningly), the scoring chance number relative is 11th, and the high-danger one 23rd. That’s forwards and d-men.

Saad is just not going to be a top-line, Hossa-Jr., atomic-leg-dropping-the-world winger that we all thought he could, and perhaps should be. However, just because he’s on the third-line now doesn’t mean he’s a third-liner either, though bum-slaying seems to have connected with him nicely. If he had demonstrated in the past he would take to the right side, and I think it’s still worth another try, you could swap him and Kahun and I’m fairly sure he, Top Cat, and Strome would do some things that would make you chuckle. But for now, we’ll take this.

50.9, 44.9

And again, we’re studying a trade from the summer of 2017. The first number is Niklas Hjalmarsson’s Corsi, and the second is Connor Murphy’s. You can hear Joel Quenneville cackling with delight, if he read us and cared about metrics. The image of that though makes me smile.

As we’ve stated in the past, Murphy and Hammer are getting some of the most dungeon shifts in the league. They rank fourth and fifth from the bottom in terms of offensive-zone starts. Basically, they never start anywhere but their own end. And when looking at relative numbers, Murphy’s -1.12 Corsi-relative and -0.54 xGF% are actually some of the best among d-men who are also chained to the radiator. It’s just that Hjalmarsson is having a unicorn season, where his relatives are +2.52 and +6.7. So fuck him.

This is where you’d point out that partnering with Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a different animal than partnering with Carl Dahlstrom or Slater Koekkoek. And you’d be right. Hjalmarsson’s numbers do drop a bit without OEL, though not off a cliff.

It’s going to be a debate next year when, at the very least hopefully, Jokiharju and Boqvist are here. You won’t really realize all Murphy can be, or at least see what that is, until you give him a partner that can get the play up the ice that he can play free safety for. Those two are supposed to be that. But neither of those two kids should be given such horrific zone starts. Guess we’ll worry about it next year.

-4.59, -4.24, -7.58

That’s the difference in Jonathan Toews’s relative marks in Corsi, scoring chances, and high danger chances from last year to this. While Toews is having an offensive renaissance, and yes he plays on a woeful defensive team, it does seem to have come at a cost to his defensive game. Which, hey, when he’s shooting 17% you can live with it. He’s no longer the possession-dominant player he once was, even last year.

But the process…it just isn’t as good. Last year, Toews was getting more attempts, shots, and chances than he is this year. He’s just burying them far more often this season, as his SH% at evens is almost double what it was last year (8.7 to 16.1 this year). And of course he’s getting far more power play points, as he racked up just two power play goals and 12 power play points last term and already has five and 16 this year.

It would behoove the Hawks to start viewing Toews as a really good #2 center, and to try and figure out how to get a #1 ahead of him. Or hey, maybe you get a third #2 and just roll with the three along with Strome. It also appears that Toews has to decide which half of the game he’s going to pay attention to, because he probably can’t do it all anymore.

Everything Else

I know that’s going to make a few laugh. I won’t stop you.

Jeremey Colliton has now gotten as many games as Joel Quenneville did this season. They each were behind the bench for 15. Obviously, at the top the records are pretty clear reading. Q went 6-6-3, whereas Colliton is at 3-10-2. Q had three regulation wins, Colliton two. It doesn’t make for a pretty sight.

Before we dig deeper, it was thought before that Colliton faced the far tougher schedule. And that will be true when this month is over and the Hawks wade through the Jets twice more, the Avs twice, the Preds, the Sharks,¬† and Stars (and you thought it couldn’t get worse!). The numbers don’t particularly bare that out.

The points-percentage of the teams the Hawks faced with Q behind the bench was .546. With Colliton it’s .561. For reference’s sake, the former mark would see a team collect 89 points over a full season, the latter 92 points. So just about equal, with a shade harder for Colliton.

But that isn’t the whole story. Q got to see the Ducks when they were awful, and Colliton when they were playing much better, but Q also got the Blues three times which would drag the points-total average down as well. Make of all of it what you will. Those marks will probably look different at the end of the season when teams like the Rangers¬† and Coyotes settle in more where they should be. Right now, it seems like things are neutral in that sense.

Anyway, let’s go into the metrics.

The Hawks had a 51.5 CF% under Quenneville. That’s dipped to 50.0 even with Colliton. Their scoring-chance share has gone from 49.1 to start the year to 48.2 now. If you can believe it, their high-danger scoring chance percentage has actually improved, from 43.6% under Q to 46.3% now (neither being an acceptable number).

What Colliton really hasn’t gotten is a save, anywhere. The even-strength save-percentage under him is .908, where it was .914 for Quenneville. Now you may say that the save-percentage would of course go down because the Hawks are giving up so many more chances under their new, ever-so-handsome coach. Is that so?

They’re actually giving up slightly less attempts per game at evens now, 57.1 vs. 58.8 before. They’re giving up one more shot per 60 at evens, from 32.4 to 33.3 now. Surprisingly, they’re giving up noticeably less scoring chances per 60, from 31.1 to 27.4 under C. And they’re giving up less high-danger chances per 60, from 13.8 per 60 to 11.7.

Now, a drop from .914 to .908 at even-strength may not sound like much, and it isn’t really, it’s about three more goals. It’s just where those goals go. If they got the Hawks to overtime in one-goal games, Colliton’s record might read 3-7-5, or if overtimes went their way a couple times, being as random as it is, it could be something like 5-6-4. Or maybe they all come when the Hawks are getting blown out anyway and it doesn’t matter. We can say, either way, that Colliton’s ride while bumpy has been also unlucky (last night being a perfect example).

On the other end of the ice, the Hawks have seen a noticeable reduction in their attempts for per 60 and their shots for per 60, while their scoring chances for and high-danger chances for have remained about steady. So while the team’s shooting-percentage has remained around 7.5% for both coaches, there’s less shots for them under Colliton to cash in on. Again, the difference in shots means the Hawks have missed out on a goal and a touch more, but not enough to wet oneself over.

As silly as it sounds, because they are bad defensively either way, the Hawks have actually slightly improved in their own end under Colliton, but still have a long way to go. They haven’t gotten a save, and their offense is going the wrong way. That could be to the league just closing up a little as a whole. It could be DeBrincat going cold, though some of that is usage. It could be the constant line-shuffling. It could be all of it.

None of it is pretty.

 

Everything Else

We’re still in the “small sample size” portion of the season, so everything that follows comes with whatever sized-asterisk you feel you’re up to today. Anyway, let’s get nerdy:

5, 2

I’m sure these are the numbers that the coaches would point to as a way to illustrate why Artem Anisimov has to play center for Patrick Kane instead of Nick Schmaltz. The first is the number of goals for the Hawks with Kane and Anisimov together. The second is the number with Kane and Schmaltz, and the latter pairing have almost double the time of the former. In most hockey coaches’ worlds, the results are the results and speak for all.

Except this would ignore every other indicator that shows Anisimov is holding Kane back.

What I’m sure the coaches are also paying attention to is that Schmaltz has been a defensive liability at center, and that’s pretty much always been the case, no matter what takeaway stats they make up. And yes, Kane and Anisimov do give up slightly less together than Schmaltz and Kane did. Attempts per 60 against goes from 62.7 to 57.6, and scoring chances go from 37.0 to 27.2. The first one isn’t that significant and is still bad. Obviously the second number is one that you would notice. The high-danger chances drop as well.

Still, the big number in this discussion is that when Schmaltz and Kane have been on the ice together, the team’s shooting-percentage is 4.2%. Whereas with Anisimov it’s 17.8%. And the downtick in chances and attempts against can be partly explained by the fact that Anisimov and Kane take 85% of their draws in the offensive zone, while Schmaltz and Kane were taking a still aggressively high 74%.

It feels like no matter what you’re doing here, you’re asking this line to outscore its problems, which it pretty much always will with Kane on the ice. And he and Schmaltz just create more chances together. I’ll buy that keeping Schmaltz on the third line spreads out some scoring, especially if Saad can continue to look as good as he has lately. Still, Arty is an obelisk and there could be so much more.

11.64

Speaking of Kane, no matter who he has been on the ice with, he is letting fly with the puck far more than he ever has. That’s his shots per 60 minutes at even-strength, which would dwarf his career-high by over two shots per 60 were it to continue. His 16.2% shooting-percentage certainly dovetails nicely with that, though unlikely to continue. Overall, Kane is averaging just at tick below five shots per game, which is basically Ovechkin territory. If Kane were just to hit his career SH% mark with this level of shot-taking, he’d end up with 48 goals, two more than his MVP season.

All of his individual peripherals are way up this year too, such as attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger chances. Not surprisingly, given what we’ve seen, all of the defensive metrics when he’s on the ice are higher as well. Basically, everything is happening when he’s on the ice. Kane has spent a decent portion of time with defensively helpless Schmaltz or Fortin, and they immovable Anisimov. Behind him it’s mostly been Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson, and we know their limitations.

I wouldn’t chalk this up to anything more than the entire team’s nebulous relationship with defense right now, combined with the league’s openness as a whole so far this year, more than Kane giving even less of a shit on one end of the ice than normal. And frankly, I’ll take more high-event hockey with him on the ice, because he’s almost certainly going to outdo whatever the opposition can come up with when it comes to the bottom line, which is goals.

.920, .927

That’s the even-strength save-percentages of Cam Ward and Corey Crawford. Really not all that different, and the Hawks have gotten more out of Ward than we all feared to this point. Interestingly, the difference between their SV% and their expected SV%s, is 0.91 and 0.87, with Ward’s being the higher. So the Hawks are getting plus-goaltending. More encouragingly is neither number is higher than half of what Crawford’s difference was last year, and that was merely to keep the Hawks barely hanging onto a playoff place for half of a season. As you would expect, John Gibson, Pekka Rinne, and Antti Raanta are the leaders in this category, and they’re up over 2% difference. So it’s at least not as bad as last year. Yet.

Everything Else

You’ll call me the height of an analyst, and maybe even possibly a genius, when I tell you the Hawks season has been really weird. Five straight games into overtime, none to a shootout. The Hawks can’t play defense, but they’ve somehow suckered every team they’ve played into not playing defense either. It’s made for mindless, senseless fun.

When you dig into the analytics, not only do you cause some of Eddie Olczyk’s hair to shift back down toward his neck where it came from, but you see that the Hawks are only weirded. And probably tiptoeing on a high wire with very high winds that’s not going to work out well.

For instance, the Hawks only have eight skaters that are below water in Corsi-percentage. And three of them have only played one or two games in John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen, and SuckBag Johnson. The Hawks boast seven players who are above 55%, which is a mark of dominance (the top line, the top pairing, and Artem Anisimov and Chris Kunitz and no I don’t understand either but that’s kind of the point of all this).

And yet when it comes to expected-goal percentage, the Hawks only have three players above water (Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov, and David Kampf). So much like last year, the Hawks spend a good portion of the time in the right end. They generate more attempts than their opponents most of the time. But when the play gets into their defensive zone, suddenly it’s Freeswim For The Ritalin Crowd and they give up far better chances in less time than they get with more time in the offensive zone.

Brandon Saad’s 39% xGF% sticks out, but Nick Schmaltz is right down there with him at 41% and Saad’s replacement on that line, Alexandre Fortin, is at 42%. We’ve known that Schmaltz’s line tends to get run over in the d-zone, despite however good he might be at stealing pucks. Keep in mind that Schmaltz is getting blasted in terms of chances and types of chances despite starting 82% of his shifts in the offensive zone. That’s…a problem.

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger continues to be a unicorn in usage and production, and is going totally French hipster by being the opposite of his team.

“Marcus Kruger you must do this!”

“Well I’m not gonna. I’m gonna have a sandwich.”

Kruger has started 5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. I think that’s probably like one or two so far this season. He has a shitty Corsi of 41%, which isn’t hard to understand given where he’s starting. And yet he has an expected-goals percentage of 52.1%. So even though he’s starting in his own end, and even though he’s spending a majority of his time there, the chances the Hawks get when he’s out there are far better than the ones they’re surrendering when he’s out there. Which makes it curious that he’s not getting even 20% of the ice-time at even-strength. But again, nothing about the Hawks really makes sense.

As a whole team, it’s kind of the same story as last year. They’ve got the ninth-best team-Corsi, and the seventh-worst expected goals percentage. They’re shooting 9%, which is just a shade north of average, and they’re getting a .916 save-percentage at evens, which is a touch below average. All of that flattens out to a 100.6 PDO, meaning the Hawks really haven’t been lucky or unlucky in those terms. Which probably explains why they have five glorified ties to their name.

Going a little further into it, the Hawks xGA/60 is 2.88, one of the worst marks in the league. They’ve actually only surrendered 2.71 GA/60, so they’re getting by there. Their xGF/60 is 2.34, but their actual GF/60 is 3.2. Now, that’s not all luck, as we’ve discussed the idea of “bad shot-makers” on this team for a while. At least Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat can score from places that are less likely than most, Toews is capable, and so is Schmaltz. But that doesn’t account for all of that.

However, fear not, as the Hawks’ difference between their expected goals and actual goals is only fifth-biggest in the league. So they won’t be alone when that bill comes due.

Or maybe hockey’s weird and they’ll just be like this for a while because sometimes that happens. It’s what we have to hope for.

Everything Else

Something of a new approach to this bit today. One of the things that people have pointed to in this current Hawks’ streak of silliness is that the second line hasn’t scored much. Kane and Pantera have only combined for four points in the past nine games. We’ve been commenting that the top line hasn’t really pulled its weight at even-strength for any length of time this season, and I wanted to see if this has affected how teams have played them. It kind of looks like it has:

Kane and Toews graph

Everything Else

Now that Slak has taken away my angry ranting posts, and rightly so because I’m just not angry of a person despite what my appearance, music tastes, and general demeanor would indicate (“denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, hon). So I guess I’d better slink back into my other corner on this fun little prison riot, and that’s being a nerdy nerdy dweeboid with glasses who’s terrified of girls (the last two are actually probably quite accurate). So let’s do it, shall we?

48.9%

This is Toews’s season Corsi-percentage, and while that might not seem all that low, it’s basically 10% below where he’s been the past four years, which is canyon-esque, and the canyon I’m referring to is the one Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Peter Stormare jumped over in their lunar cruiser (Jesus Fucking Christ why do I know that?).

Now, there are a couple huge caveats to add here (and you can add you’re own terrible movie metaphor in your own head for that one). One, we’re still talking about seven games, a mere drop in the pond. Second, this is actually trending the right way because the first couple games of the season Toews was around 40%. He certainly kicked around the Panthers last night and was better against the Jackets, though that probably falls into the low-hanging fruit category. While Barkov is going to be a great player one day soon, he’s probably not quite ready to go toe-to-toe with the league greats like Tavares or Couturier were earlier in the season.

Everything Else

Time to just go through some numbers popping out from Game 1 and beyond. You love it when we get nerdy. Nerds are in, you know it, I know it. If only I paid this much attention to math in high school (I think I got a 590 on the Math section on the SAT while rocking the verbal, and my Rain Main-like father never forgave me for it, despite the fact that he was a writer. It was a strange family).

38.2%

That was Jonathan Toews’s Corsi number for Game 1, and that’s with the score adjusted. It’s the third lowest number he has produced in the past two playoffs, as Kopitar kicked him down to a 37% in Game 6 last year in L.A. (while Kane dragged them out of the pits like little Miho got Clive Owen), and earlier last spring Mikko Koivu held him to a 25% in Game 4 against Minnesota. But that’s it, and I guess it says a lot that the Hawks went 2-1 in those games. It’s not a formula the Hawks would have any intention on repeating, though. And just how likely is it the Lightning can keep Toews down… down on the ground…

Everything Else

Haven’t done one of these in a while, and as the Hawks sit on the precipice of being halfway to another Grant Park Drunkening, seems like a good time to do it. Let’s get to it.

63%

That’s the third line’s Corsi-percentage over the past two games. In case you’re new to us and/or these analytics, 55% would be considered dominant. Now, only one of those games did that line see heavy offensive zone starts, and last night their zone starts were pretty evenly split between the o-zone, neutral zone, and d-zone. That’s the third line. 3rd. #3. In case you want to know what separates the Hawks right now.

447

That’s the career goals currently on the Hawks’ third line. It doesn’t really mean much, it just makes me feel good to see.

Everything Else

There’s still a bit of a glow about last night’s win, though around these parts we know there’s really no such thing as a signature win in the regular season. But still, holding the Rangers to 25 shots when they average 31, and to shut them out when they’re the 4th highest scoring team in the league when they’d had three days off and the Hawks were on the second in two nights and now this has become quite the run-on sentence but hey that’s how things go, there’s a half bounce in the step. So let’s check out some trends, shall we?

58.3%

That’s Brad Richards’s Corsi-percentage the past six games. As we’ve said all year, we’ve had a real fear that Richards would fade as the season went along as he did last year with the Rangers, which got him the buyout that landed him in Chicago in the first place. So this is pretty encouraging. It hasn’t resulted in an avalanche of points or anything, just a goal and an assist in those six. But if you keep pushing play this much, the points will follow (Bickell and Desjardins won’t biff every chance they’re presented you hope, and a motivated Versteeg would really help).