Category: Analysis

#fancystats: Where do we go from here?



I want to preface this article with the fact that I am not a mathematician or statistician. I’m a lawyer. In fact, they lied to us in law school and told us we wouldn’t have to do math once we were out practicing. So even if you love my ideas, I have no real skill set to design or implement them. This is purely for conceptual discussion purposes.

Ok, with that out of the way, I wanted to talk about #fancystats for a minute. It’s becoming clear that organizations around the league are starting to recognize the usefulness and momentum that these types of statistics have, evidenced by more and more front offices disclosing their emphasis on integrating them into their management processes.

However, I think we can all agree that the concepts and statistical methodologies are rudimentary at best at this point. It’s also completely understandable. Baseball has led the way in the revolution of statistical analyses, but it has a massive advantage on all other sports: each play happens in a vacuum, and at most there are 2-4 players involved in any given play. This level of isolation makes it incredibly convenient to look at individual performance within that play and assign value to it. The causal relationship between each player on the field is limited, and unlike hockey, plays happening minutes prior have very little bearing on what you are measuring.

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Breakup Aftermath: Who do we Miss the Most?

Alert: the world is NOT ending

Alert: the world is NOT ending

In the aftermath of the free agent frenzy of last Tuesday, it appears that a lot of you (and us, actually) have some pretty strong feelings, mostly negative. Given that Glen Sather is working with a $69M cap hit and roughly every single Ranger succumbing to free agency, I won’t sit here and make a case or assign a grade to one day of a lengthy offseason. We lost a lot, sure, but I’m a huge proponent of the old idea of addition by subtraction. But who was subtracted that’ll hurt the most?

This week has been chock full of articles about how badly we’ll miss Brian Boyle and what a dope Sather was to let him walk. In a perfect world, we keep Boyle and Dominic Moore together on the penalty kill to continue their magic (and their magical bromance when the situation arose). There’s no denying that Boyle played well throughout the playoffs, and for once, the playoffs were a long, joyous time of winning. But we have to think before that, and we have to think about terms, which is something we often don’t do when we have a predisposed feeling about a player.

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Report Card: The Top Six

Rick Nash is Canadian for frustrating.

Nash is Canadian for frustrating.

Rick Nash – There were three Rick Nash’s this season. There was the timid, perimeter, unengaged Nash who sleep walked through parts of the season. There was the hungry, physically dominant, clutch Nash who was joint third in the entire league with nine game winning goals despite missing almost a quarter of the season. Then there was the postseason Nash whose effort and determination couldn’t be questioned but whose production certainly could.

Nash will enter next year closely watched by one and all to see how he responds to what was a hugely difficult postseason for him. Nash needs to produce more, and more consistently, given his contract, reputation and incredible size and ability. Nash managed to score a solid 26 goals in the regular season which was interrupted through injury, but everyone knows he should be the Rangers best goal scorer and he wasn’t. Grade: C

Brad Richards – Thanks for trying Brad. Brad Richards is almost certainly an ex-Ranger as his buyout is a mere formality at this stage. During the regular season, Richards actually produced quite well given his diminishing importance to the club on the ice. With 20 goals and 51 points, Richards was solid. However his second lowest shooting percentage of his career and being arguably the biggest defensive liability amongst Ranger forwards, Richards was very hit and miss.

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Report card: Bottom six forwards

Third line on your program, first line in your hearts

Third line on your program, first line in your hearts

Next up on our final year report cards come the bottom six (or seven, in this case) forwards. Before we start individually, it should be noted that the bottom six were shockingly good this season, with the third line being arguably the most consistent and productive line towards the end of the season. The chemistry shown on both the third and fourth lines (though moreso with the third) carried the Rangers through the Pittsburgh series in the playoffs and will make for a headache for Glen Sather to keep together during the offseason. On to the grades..

Mats Zuccarello: A. Zucc was the Rangers MVP for this past season. He showed tremendous strength and a major return on his 1 year/$1.15 million contract signed prior to this season. Leading the team with a line of 19-40-59 during the regular season, Zucc kept it turned on during the playoffs with that aforementioned chemistry, with a respectable 13 points in the 25 games played. Perhaps the most promising sign is that Zuccarello is listed at 5’7, yet plays as big (and often bigger) than the 6’4 Rick Nash. Re-signing Zucc must be an absolute priority for management this summer.

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Diagnosing Rick Nash

Courtesy of someone on the internet

Courtesy of someone on the internet

Do the math. Five goals in thirty eight playoff games (or 0.13 goals per game) vs. 336 goals in 783 regular season games (or 0.43 goals per game). If anyone wanted to make a case that Nash wasn’t a playoff performer or that he’s a choke artist, the numbers are there for the taking.

But making such claims are easy. The hard part is trying to figure out why this isn’t working. The even more difficult task is prescribing a solution.

Look, I’m not an expert. I have no magic potion, but I think I at least have a theory as to why Rick Nash’s offense has sank to Brandon Dubinsky levels of erraticism. And the only way to right the ship is to make an adjustment.

Scope this out.

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Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Rangers vs. Canadiens

(Eric Bolte/Reuters)

Rangers fans are certainly getting a taste of different hockey clubs this postseason. After playing the Capitals four out of the last five postseasons and the Devils three times in the past eight years, the Rangers squared off against Philly for the first time since 1997 and now get the Montreal Canadiens for the first time since 1996.

Unlike 1996, when both teams’ windows to win were closing, this time around both clubs square off with their respective windows wide open. This series will go deep and will be one for the books for sure.


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Scouting the opposition: Carey Price

Serious Price

After dispatching the Penguins and Bruins, respectively, the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Each team will be looking for their first Stanley Cup championship since the early 90’s, and will face one another for the first time since 1996. The two teams are actually relatively similar. They rely on speed, depth, balance and will lean heavily on their world-class goaltenders.

Montreal’s, as well as know, is Carey Price. Price has had quite the season thus far, leading a Canadiens squad with relatively low expectations to a 100 point season, a Conference Finals birth, and an Olympic Gold Medal in Sochi. He is going to be a formidable task for the Blueshirts if they plan to chase the ultimate prize. Let’s see how his game stacks up…

Format is the same as always; Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck Handling and Exploitable Weaknesses. Read more »

Second Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Penguins

It covers Crosby, or else it gets the hose again.

Now that this nonsense with the Flyers is finally over, the Rangers head to the Steel City to take on the Metropolitan Division Champion Penguins. Pittsburgh was given a run for their money by an upstart New York Rangers Columbus Blue Jackets team, who came up just short in their wild six-game opening round series.

These teams last met in the 2008 playoffs, where the Blueshirts were dispatched in five games. That was pretty much an entirely different roster, so recent history doesn’t tell us much. Obviously, the key to this series will be to keep the Pens’ stars in check as much as possible, and try to take advantage of the suspect defense and goaltending of the Penguins.

Let’s take a look at how the Rangers stack up against their latest Pennsylvania opponent…


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The Rangers will be a dangerous team in the playoffs

Photo: LoHud

Photo: LoHud

The title and story sounds familiar. The Rangers will be a dangerous team in the playoffs. The usual reason is because Henrik Lundqvist can steal a series, something he’s done multiple times in the past. But the Washington Capitals are not in the playoffs this year, so there needs to be a different narrative. This year’s team  looks different. This team is one of the hottest in the league heading into the playoffs. This year, the #fancystats put them up there with the best.

Puck possession and PDO (SV%+SH%) are two stats we use regularly around here. It’s been proven many, many times that teams that drive puck possession are teams that are successful. Teams with a high PDO (over 100) generally were “more lucky” and have abnormally high SH% or SV% (or both). Teams that rode those to the playoffs generally fizzle out early, as the luck runs out and their SH%/SV% regress to the mean. This may seem complicated and a bit of an abstract concept, but Exhibit A is the 2011-2012 LA Kings. Exhibit B is the 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs, who didn’t even make the playoffs.

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A different way of looking at special teams statistics

Derek Stepan tallied 18 power play points this season and added three shorthanded assists to lead the team

The Rangers went on a bizarre tear in March in which they scored on seven of 41 shorthanded situations, yet managed just five goals in 45 of their own power play opportunities. Obviously that was just a weird anomaly, but it made me realize that the traditional ways of measuring special teams – power play and penalty kill percentages – might not be the best way to assess their impact on winning and losing.

We all know what a huge impact special teams have on individual hockey games, but noting what rate a team’s power play has scored at and how often a penalty kill has surrendered goals over the course of a long season seems kind of silly. The percentage stats put way too much stock on what happened in October, which has no bearing on the present. Plus, those percentage stats don’t factor in shorthanded goals for and against, and we just saw how crucial those were to the Rangers’ success.

Power plays are constantly affected by the same factors that influence many other stats – hot streaks, injuries and dumb luck. Even the worst power play in the league can get red-hot for stretches, while a unit featuring five All-Stars can suffer a lengthy drought. The same goes for PK units. Read more »