Archive for Analysis
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…
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.
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→
War is upon us. On the eve of War. The Rangers set to battle Philly. Pretty much every title for this post I could think of had the word ‘battle’ or ‘war’ in it. Nothing against Ottawa, DC, or other markets we have squared off with in recent first rounds, but Philadelphia brings a different connotation.
The history of this rivalry is too long and colorful to recap in one post and certainly no one needs a history lesson here. However, for the first time since 1997, these two teams will have a chance to send each other home packing. And unlike other potential playoff matchups, this one could get theatrical.
No matter who has the GM title, who’s behind the bench, or what players suit up in orange, black and white, the identity of the Flyers remains the same. However, unlike I-95 wars of seasons past, the Rangers have to stay within their team concept and not stoop down to their level. They have to stick to their game plan.
With the newly implemented playoff system, this year’s playoff matchups came into focus a bit quicker than they have in recent seasons. I remember the past few years writing multiple scouting posts depending on how the Rangers ultimately finished in the standings. This year, however, it’s only down to Philly and Columbus as potential opponents. I’m going to lead off with Steve Mason, and if Columbus jumps the Flyers in the standings, I’ll just hijack one of my colleague’s slots next week to scout Bobrovsky. Coin flip at this point.
The format remains the same, Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck-handling ability and Exploitable Weaknesses. Let’s get after it…
At this point, most of us know the book on Mason: Rookie of the Year winner, future superstar turned reclamation project for the Flyers. No one really knows that happened to him after that first season in Columbus that wrecked his confidence, but he has rebounded significantly in his first season in Orange and Black, and was rewarded with a slightly pre-mature, slightly ridiculous 3-year/$12.3 million contract.
When Anton Stralman rejected a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers over the weekend, a lot of fans were outraged. This would be the fourth Ranger this season to “reject a perfectly good offer.” Henrik Lundqvist’s negotiations took a while before he re-signed, as did Dan Girardi’s. Ryan Callahan’s never materialized, and he was shipped to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.
Unrestricted free agency is a tricky beast. Market value is generally determined by comparable contracts, but the player has all the leverage. As we saw with Cally, teams will be willing to give him seven years and $6 million, which makes his value higher. It’s best to view this objectively, which is tough considering how much we all love the Rangers.
When it comes to Stralman, and in particular defensemen who are not relied upon to produce offensively, market value is a little more difficult to determine. Using point production isn’t the best indicator of value, so we have to be a little more creative.
A little over a week ago, one of my go-to publications, InGoal Magazine, released an interesting article, entitled GSAA: An Essential Statistic for Evaluating Goaltenders, touting a new advanced metric for analyzing goaltending, called GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average). The author, Greg Balloch, does a nice job of breaking down the specific methodology that goes into determining how many goals a goaltender saves above the league-average. Here is Greg’s explanation of the mechanics from the article:
You take the league’s average save percentage and apply it to the amount of shots a particular goalie has faced. You get a number of goals that the average goalie in that league would have surrendered if they faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question. That number gets compared to the number of goals surrendered by that goaltender, and a plus/minus is created. If a goalie is in the positive, that is how many goals they have saved compared to a league-average goalie. If they are in the negative, then it is safe to assume that they are performing worse than how a league-average goaltender would perform in the same situation.
– Only five players have more game-winning goals than Rick Nash (6).
– Only Alex Ovechkin is averaging more shots per game than Rick Nash (4.1).
– Only nine players have more points against their own division than Mats Zuccarello’s 21.
– Only eight players have more penalty minutes on home ice than Chris Kreider (53). Only Dallas’s Antoine Roussel has actually committed more penalties on home ice than Kreider (20).
In case you missed it, Rick Nash went nuts in January. He scored 11 goals in 11 games last month, sandwiched between two-game point-less streaks. There has been a dramatic shift in the way Nash plays as well. He seems more engaged, more willing to go to dirty areas, and back to the Rick Nash the Rangers thought they were getting two summers ago. On the ice, he’s been a machine.
But let’s take a step back for a moment. In that 11 game span, Nash scored 11 goals on 49 shots. That’s a whopping 22.4% success rate. That is exactly double his career shot percent rate of 11.2%. Suffice it to say, that is simply impossible to maintain. We’ve even started to see Nash hit a snag in terms of keeping with that pace, as he’s 0-for-12 in his last two games.
To say this has been a roller coaster season so far for the Rangers would be an understatement. After starting the year 3-7 and getting embarrassed by some of the mighty Western Conference’s best squads, it looked like the team was starting to figure it out. They went 11-6 over their next seventeen, and genuinely looked like the team we all expected them to be this summer. Unfortunately, they decided to go 1-6 over their next seven, culminating in brutal 5-3 defeat to the Islanders. Following that terrible stretch of lost hockey, and presumably to drive Ranger fans to drink more, the team has since rattled off a 13-5-1 stretch to climb all the way to second place behind Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division.
In most years, you can glean a front office’s assessment of their team by how they conduct themselves at the trade deadline. While my little season recap above could seem like fun with arbitrary end points, it has made the overall assessment of this team exceedingly difficult. Sure, there have been specific instances one can point to that explain peaks and valleys (Nash’s injury/return, Talbot’s call up, Cally injury/return, Carcillo, etc.) but now that everyone is healthy and playing well, is this the team we thought were getting in August, or are they just on another streak?