Category: Analysis

Attempting to quantify goalie puck handling

This was literally the only picture I could find of Henrik handling a puck. I think this was ’06.

The request for this post came from reader Max Steuer.  Keep those suggestions coming! If you have a post idea you’d like one of us to run with, make sure to reach out to your desired author via email or twitter.

Throughout Henrik Lundqvist’s stellar career to date, one of the common detractions from his game has always been his inability to play the puck effectively.  The past couple years have highlighted this weakness in his game, as Marty Biron, and now, Cam Talbot have been effective and capable puck handlers. This skill has been somewhat anecdotal (though, I have always included it in my style analyses) throughout the evolution of goalie development.

It’s nearly impossible to quantify in any meaningful way, and was always viewed as a bonus when a goaltender was blessed with strong stick skills.  After a quick Google search for the purposes of researching this post, this was all but confirmed.  Many instructors and YouTube aficionados have drills and technique suggestions and the like, but no one out there seems to have a handle on how to quantify it.

Read more »

A look at Rangers player usage

Courtesy of ExtraSkater

Courtesy of ExtraSkater

As the analysis of stats develops, one of the major attributes looked at is player usage. John Tortorella was a big proponent of starting his offensive players in the offensive zone, and his shutdown guys in the defensive zone. Alain Vigneault is no different.

To read the chart above: The X-axis represents zone starts and the percentage of starts each player has in the offensive zone. The lower the percentage, the more often a player starts his shifts in the defensive zone. It should be noted that the stat used here (O/D St%) omits neutral zone starts. The Y-axis represents quality of competition faced. The higher up on the Y axis, the tougher the competition faced.

The size of each bubble is ice time – the larger the size, the more ice time. The color represents Corsi (puck possession). Red represents a negative Corsi, blue a positive Corsi. The darker the shade, the more extreme. For example, Brian Boyle has a darker shade of red than Dominic Moore, so Boyle has a Corsi. Anton Stralman is a darker blue than John Moore, so Stralman has a better Corsi than Moore.

Read more »

Rangers midseason grades: The top-six forwards

Derek Stepan is one of several players that need to be better

Derek Stepan is one of several players that need to be better

The Rangers have struggled to score consistently all season. Successful teams get the bulk of their scoring from their top six forwards, but no Ranger forward has covered himself in glory this season. Before going on to look at the individual grades at the halfway mark consider this: Mats Zuccarello is leading this team in scoring – a team designed to win the Cup – and is 71st in scoring in the league at time of writing.

Rick Nash

Offensively this team will live or die on Rick Nash’s production. As of Wednesday night, 156(!) players had scored more goals than Rick Nash (7 goals, 16 points in 24 games). While his injuries are unfortunate, the peripheral play, extended droughts, and lack of dominance from a player with Nash’s skill and size are a concern. Nash is making $7.8 million and is the team’s most gifted forward, but rarely has he come close to earning his salary or leading the Rangers offense. A team with limited skill need more from their sole elite forward, Nash needs a strong second half if the Rangers are going to have success.

Grade: D

Brad Richards

Read more »

Fenwick Close: Putting a stat to the compete level of the Rangers

We feel the same way Hank (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

We feel the same way Hank (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the Rangers and their compete level. The coach has said there is no compete level. We’ve said this team has no compete level. Your next door neighbor said this team has no compete level. It’s a fairly common phrase. The term, obviously, is used to describe how the Rangers just don’t seem willing to do what it takes to win. We’ve seen it on the ice in every aspect of the game: hitting, defense, backchecking, board work, cycling, moving to tough areas, generating offense, etc.

You know we here love our #fancystats, and compete level is something that we can use #fancystats to quantify. If you are unfamiliar with Fenwick, read our Metrics We Use page for a refresher. Thanks to ExtraSkater, we have a visual representation of how the Rangers compete (using Fenwick) when the score is close (+/- 2 goal differential). This shows us how the Rangers play when the score is close, and if they are able to meet the challenges presented while the game is close. The graph below shows the results, and they are not pretty.

Read more »

So, what about Cam Talbot?

Scott Levy/Getty Images

Scott Levy/Getty Images

Now that all the hemming and hawing over Henrik Lundqvist’s contract situation has been completed, Cam Talbot’s future has been an oft-discussed topic.  Whatever you may think about the specific details of the contract, Hank is going to be manning the pipes at the Garden until 2020-2021.

This brings us back to Talbot.  His emergence this season as a viable NHL goaltender have prompted quite a few fans to jump to conclusions about his long-term future in the Rangers organization and his potential trade value and contract status.  Just to get the facts out of the way, Talbot is under contract for this season and next at a very reasonable $562,000 cap hit.  As Dave pointed out in his fantastic analysis of Hank’s contract, the discount between Marty Biron’s salary and Talbot’s hedge quite a bit of the raise that Hank received in the context of overall goaltending cost.

After next season, because of his age, Talbot will be eligible for Unrestricted Free Agency.  Generally speaking, when a player makes his NHL debut, there are usually several cost controlled years at the team’s disposal, either through the ELC or RFA status.  Because goalies are more often than not, late bloomers, the Rangers don’t have this luxury with Talbot. Read more »

Style analysis: Cam Talbot

Len Redkoles/Getty Images

The request for this post came from reader Michael Noltemeyer.  Thanks for reading Michael, and feel free to submit requests for posts on specific topics or questions for a mailbag at the author addresses on the right margin.

A couple years ago, I broke down the specific goaltending styles of both Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Biron.  There wasn’t really much of a need for an update to this series, since the goaltending situation remained relatively stable.  Now, with the retirement of “our Marty” and the emergence of rookie backup Cam Talbot, it’s time to break down the young man’s game.

During the pre-season, I wrote a piece introducing us to the player, his background and the main features of his game.  Much has changed since then, however, so let’s get into it with some more detail.  The previous format will still apply: analyzing the five categories of Stance, Crease movement/depth, Equipment, Puck-handling ability and Exploitable weaknesses.  Here we go… Read more »

AV’s player usage trends starting to show

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When the Rangers hired Alain Vigneault as the new head coach, one of the big things he brought with him was the tendency to distribute zone starts with extreme bias. It was something we saw with John Tortorella, but not to this extreme. The easiest way to see how AV is using his forwards and defensemen is using Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts.

The chart takes QoC and zone starts to graphically represent where each player falls in the four quadrants (Shutdown, Two-Way, Sheltered, Less Sheltered). Shutdown is in the upper right, Two-Way upper left, Sheltered bottom right, and Less Sheltered bottom left.

We use this information to see who AV leans on for offensive zone draws, defensive zone draws, against tough competition, or who is getting cupcake minutes. The only filter used is a minimum of four games played for the season, so it eliminates some of the temporary call ups.

Read more »

Eventually Rangers’ shooting luck will turn around

Eventually some of Derek Stepan’s shots will find the back of the net

Despite the abominations Rangers fans witnessed earlier this season against San Jose and Anaheim, there have been plenty of reasons to expect a turnaround in the team’s fortunes.  An extremely difficult early-season road schedule, several injuries to key players and an expected adjustment period to a new coach have all contributed to the team’s struggles.  All of those things issues seem to be slowly righting themselves and as a result New York has won two of its last three games.  But there’s another simple reason the team’s 4-7-0 record isn’t indicative of its performance the rest of the way: luck.

Sure, it sounds silly to think that luck can play such a major role in a professional sport where athletes are paid millions of dollars to use their top-notch skills to eliminate such variables, but luck is indeed as much a factor in the NHL as it is in your beer league game, when sometimes your team has 25 scoring chances in a game and still can’t put one by the opposing goaltender.

And any way you look at it, the Rangers have had absolutely miserable luck this season all over the ice.  Well, all except one player – Brad Richards – who, ironically, felt like the team’s unluckiest player a year ago.

Read more »

Miller, Fast, Kreider showing they belong

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Although they were likely in the lineup due to injuries to Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and Carl Hagelin, the three kids who have been inserted into the lineup have shown that they belong. Both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller –since their recent call ups– have played significantly better away from the puck, and while there is always room for improvement, they haven’t been liabilities on the ice. Jesper Fast has proven to be a reliable defensive player in limited time as well.

Looking at their #fancystats (via ExtraSkater), all three are above 50% in raw CF%, so they are driving puck possession while they are on the ice. Fast is actually third on the team in CF% at a whopping 58%. Considering his splits in zone starts (OZ – 21.1%, NZ – 43.9%, DZ – 35.1%), this is very impressive. He’s not getting the offensive opportunities that Kreider (OZ – 43.3%) or Miller (OZ – 39.1%) are getting, but he is light years ahead of that duo in maintaining puck possession.

Fast’s +6.5% CF% rel (same concept as CF%, just using Relative Corsi, read up on the Metrics We Use page if you need a refresher) is also third on the team, and shows that comparatively to the rest of his teammates, Fast is a puck possession machine. While that is not the case for Miller and Kreider (yet), they are showing improvements so far.

Read more »

#fancystats: Puck possession trending in the right direction for Rangers

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

It is tough to analyze #fancystats on a game-by-game basis or early on in the season. There are too many fluctuations that come with small sample sizes that skew the numbers. For example, the Rangers CF% and FF% remain in the basement of the league because of that awful game in San Jose. The reason why it’s tough to analyze on a game-by-game basis is because teams have bad games. These #fancystats –like all statistical analysis– is best used to analyze the trends over time, not just one game.

That said, there is a lot of value in looking at puck possession and noticing trends. For example, the Rangers are really hurt in the CF% and FF% categories by two games: San Jose and St. Louis. Both games saw them finish under 40%, meaning the opposition had 60% of the 5v5* shot attempts. The Rangers lost both those games. They lost another three where they had an edge in puck possession, but their goaltending and defensive coverage was atrocious (Anaheim, New Jersey). The other two losses: Phoenix (deserved to lose), Philly (dominated puck possession, good goaltending, losses happen).

*For all intents and purposes we will always be using 5v5 stats, since the majority of the game is played at 5v5.

So what does all this mean?

Read more »