How Indicative are hits in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Semifinals

After the conclusion of the 2017 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, I looked at whether a team’s hits for and against were indicative on their play. By looking at a team’s Corsi for percentage per game and expected goals for per game, against their cumulative hits as their first round progressed, it could be observed whether a team’s production dropped due to being outhit.

As it was explained in the first part of this series, many hockey traditionalists point to an increased number of hits as a necessity to compete for the Stanley Cup. There is a preconceived notion by some hockey minds that a team will become worn out if they are consistently outhit in the playoffs and subsequently will not be able maintain their production. However, in the 2014-15 season, 2015 playoffs, and 2016 playoffs, no decisive correlation was found between success and hits.

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How Indicative are hits in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Quarter-finals

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs progress, the intensity rises. This often leads to more physical play, thus an increase of hits. Hockey traditionalists, including players and coaches, have often pointed to increased hits as a part of playoff hockey. Some teams have altered their strategy to embody a more physical style, simply because it is the playoffs.

The impact of hitting has been explored before during the 2014-15 season, the 2015 playoffs (both by Garret Hohl), and the 2016 playoffs (by @yolo_pinyato). However, none found a decisive correlating success to hits.

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Grit vs. Skill: Tanner Glass vs. Pavel Buchnevich

After losing 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on March 4, the Rangers recalled Tanner Glass from the their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack. Rather than attribute the loss to the Rangers playing poorly––since the Canadiens outshot the Rangers 35-27, won 63% of faceoffs, and had Carey Price in net––much of the blame for the loss was placed on the Rangers lack of “grit” and “toughness.” According to the Rangers, the difference makers in that game were Dwight King, Andrew Shaw, and Steve Ott.

Since recalling Tanner Glass, he has played in six games, and has recorded a goal and an assist. Many view having a tough player like Glass in the lineup as a deterrent. In his first game back with the Rangers against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Glass put his toughness on display early by fighting Luke Witkowski. Later that period, Gabriel Dumont of the Lightning boarded Rangers’ defenseman Steven Kampfer––something that Glass’s presence should have deterred, right?

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How does performance as of Dec. 1 relate to making the playoffs?

Every year right around December 1, NHL analysts and fans alike start thinking a little more seriously about playoff chances. Although in many ways this is an arbitrary point in time, particularly when linking it to US Thanksgiving, there’s also some logic to it as well.

By the end of November, we are two months in and most teams have played 20-25 games, or a quarter of the season. And from an analytics perspective, that’s about the point when you can start making use of most of the early season data.

So while most of the traditional playoff discussion at this time of the year tends to focus on points or even where teams are in the standings, let’s take a look at how early-season shot-based metrics relate to whether a team ultimately makes the playoffs.

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Shea Weber, Norris Voting, and the Role of the Modern Defender

So on Thursday, I went on a bit of a rant about the role of defensemen in the NHL. Well, rant is probably the wrong word, as it wasn’t particularly emotional, so let’s call it instead a “tweetstorm”. This piece will expound upon those tweets in greater depth, as I think it’s a topic that deserves a little more than what 140 characters and snark can provide.

Though I can’t promise this won’t also include some snark.

The entire discussion was kick started by this tweet:

Now, you’re probably thinking “oh man, a Shea Weber analytics take. Let me go get my popcorn for the inevitable scathing fallout.”

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Have you even used a calculator, jock?

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There has been quite a lot of talk over the last couple of days about how unhappy NHL players are with the escrow hit they take on every paycheque.

Unfortunately, when you have a collective bargaining agreement that specifies how hockey related revenues are to be split between owners and players, an escrow account is a necessary evil. Because the players’ share is paid out under the provisions of 700 or so individual player contracts throughout the season, there needs to be a mechanism to reconcile those payments with the total share following completion of the season, when all hockey related revenues have been accounted for.

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How Can We Quantify Power Play Performance In Formation?

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Last week I wrote about a new metric, ZEFR Rate, which measures zone entry success on the power play and is relatively repeatable and predictive of future goal scoring efficiency. The metric was based around the idea that getting into formation efficiently — most frequently a 1-3-1 — is a catalyst for power play success.

But now let’s say you’re a team that has perfected your entry scheme, and you find yourself setting up in formation at a consistent rate. What now? How can one maximize one’s use of possession in formation to score goals at the highest possible rate?

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Looking back at the NHL trade deadline

 

On Monday, fans tuned into one of the quieter NHL trade deadlines in recent memory. Despite the slow pace of movements, Matt Cane (@cane_matt) and I set about making visuals to give our takes on each trade.

Here, we’ll look back on a few of our takes from the trade deadline. We’ll focus ourselves with three categories – a trade where we had a similar take, a trade we disagreed on, and our favourite viz from the day.

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Can defensemen control rebound opportunities? Putting the eye test to the test.

One of the attributes that is often attached to defensemen is the ability to clear rebounds. You hear this quite often on NHL broadcasts, usually after a flurry of rebound shots that ultimately wind up in a goal. The colour commentator will jump in and imagine the goalie is saying to his defensemen, “I’ll stop the first three, you get the fourth one.”

But just how much is there to defensemen’s ability to prevent rebound shots?
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Jakub Voracek’s Goal Drought

Jacob Voracek is having an especially poor season.  After averaging above 1.6 Primary Points per 60 at 5v5 the last few seasons, he’s down to .6 in 2015-16.  Voracek’s assist rate is down, and most prominently, he has only scored one goal at 5v5.

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What is causing this run of poor form? The most direct route of analysis is to examine his shot metrics. How does Voracek’s 2015-16 season stack up against his previous seasons?

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