Saturday, April 28, 2012

Devils - Flyers Podcast Preview

In this two-part preview, Chase, Corey from Shutdownline and I were joined by friend of the blog Geoff Detweiler from Broad Street Hockey to talk about the gong show that was the Pens - Flyers series and the Flyers' second-round matchup against the Devils. Chronology be damned, we also talked about the Devils side with our own Triumph less than an hour after their game-seven win over Florida.

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Capitals - Rangers Podcast Preview

Chase, Matt, Corey from Shutdownline and I were joined by Neil Greenberg from the Washington Post and ESPN Insider. Listen in for a breakdown of the Caps upset win over Boston and preview of the Capitals - Rangers series. Plenty of #fancystats to go around and even a couple stray observations from watching games.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

WC Second Round Preview Podcast

Chase, Triumph and I were joined by podcast regular Corey (@ShutdownLine) from Shut Down Line for a breakdown of the Western Conference first-round series and previews of Nashville - Phoenix and Los Angeles - St. Louis.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

How Often Were Suspendable Plays In The Regular Given Penalties On The Ice? (And Some Ideas On How To Change This)

The world seems to have moved on from suspension talk - the playoffs are back to being the focus of the NHL bloggers and media. Still, I find it interesting how within the debates about the length of suspensions and size of fines, how little talk there is about the NHL's responsibility to the team against whom a suspendable foul was committed. NHL suspensions, after all, are served during a random set of games during the regular season - a player commits a suspendable foul, his foul and history are spun around on the NHL's Wheel of Justice, and he gets suspended for a length of time. But what about the team against whom his foul is committed? Odds are, the suspended player won't miss a game against the team whose player was fouled. The NHL's system is a deterrent towards committing suspendable acts, yes, but the team whose player may have incurred an injury as a result of a suspendable hit finds little or no redress. One of the only ways it might find redress is if the referees have determined that the suspendable incident is worthy of a penalty when it occurred on the ice - whether it merits a penalty, and what length of penalty. I recognize that officiating an NHL game is difficult, and it's precisely those sorts of suspendable plays that referees tend to miss because they are behind the play, away from the puck, and so forth. Still, let's look at the numbers from this year in the regular season:

No Penalty10
Minor Penalty10
Major Penalty14

I think the no penalty number is mildly acceptable. Part of the reason for suspensions is the fact that referees are going to miss incidents behind the play and/or away from the puck, and that linesmen are not often authorized to call penalties. I think what's more egregious are the number of minor penalties - penalties where the referees, in real time, couldn't determine that the play was dangerous enough to merit a major penalty (and I assume that all suspendable hits are eo ipso major penalties). Still, between the no calls and the minor penalty calls, of the 34 incidents the NHL deemed suspendable plays, only 41% resulted in a major penalty power play for the opposing team. I find that's far too low, especially since that's often the only real benefit a team might get for a dangerous/suspendable play. Here are a few ideas that are aimed at either trying to change this practice:

A. If the suspension is minor, suspend players only for games against the team they committed the foul against: I've heard this proposed elsewhere and I kind of like the idea. It's not really fair if, say, you're locked in a playoff race with team B, and yet one of team C's best players commits a foul against your team, that player gets suspended, then team C plays team B next game. I recognize this is a rare scenario, but the point is that suspending a player for only games against the team against which he committed the foul makes it fairer. Perhaps the aggrieved team could pick which games the suspended player is set to miss, for instance.

B. Allow linesmen more latitude to call penalties. I'm not sure how I feel about this, because the linesmen have their own job to do, but I feel that those two sets of eyes aren't used often enough by the other referees.

C. Change the penalty structure. Doogie2k suggested this on mc79hockey - the OHL makes head hits a mandatory 2 minute minor, plus a 10 minute misconduct. I'd apply this rule to illegal head hits, boarding, elbowing, and checking from behind. It seems ridiculous to me that often a little tug on a player's jersey with a stick and a violent, illegal hit into the boards usually draw the same penalty. Furthermore, I wonder if a 5 minute major is really the best way to penalize a team whose player commits an egregious foul. Perhaps the penalty should instead be an automatic 2 minute 5 on 3 power play where a goal scored does not change the manpower situation. Of course, one is faced with the problem that referees hate impacting games even when they should, and therefore we might see even fewer major penalties called.

These are all just ideas - I think we can recognize that the NHL is trying, at least a little bit, to alter the culture. I'm just not sure that outside-the-box ideas will be broached or considered, when perhaps that's precisely what's needed to alter the culture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Driving Play Podcast - Now Available on iTunes!

Just as a quick note, we've finally added our podcasts to iTunes. Special glove-tap to 2+2 poster sylar for pointing out how easy it was.

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Odds And Ends On First Round Series

I had this long article planned about how the head to head matchup went in the regular season isn't correlated with the first round playoff record. That's true - it isn't. However, it sure does look like it matters, to some degree, since no one cares whether their team went 4 or 7 games if they ended up losing - a series loss is a series loss.

I sorted the 96 post-lockout playoff teams into first-round series winners and losers. I don't think it's particularly significant, but the first-round series winners had a .583 regular season winning percentage (OT/Shootout results removed and called 'ties') against first-round losers. They had a .569 winning percentage against everyone else. The team with the better head to head record in the regular season was 23-10 in first round playoff series.

Goal differential appears to be huge - the team with the better OT/shootout removed goal differential is 35-13 in first-round playoff series post-lockout.

Meanwhile, better Fenwick Tied doesn't appear to be an enormous advantage, as the better Fenwick Tied team is only 18-13.

Let's put all of this into a helpful table:

Criteria1st R W1st R L
Better H2H Record2310
Better Goal Differential3513
Better Fenwick Tied 1814

None of this is predictive - we don't know that GD is more predictive than Fenwick Tied from these results - but it will be interesting to see how things shake out this year.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Playoff Previews: New Jersey Vs. Florida

Our first-round previews conclude with a discussion of the series between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers. Our own Triumph covered the Devils while podcast regular Corey (@ShutdownLine) from Shut Down Line gave us the scoop on Florida. We also had comments from Chase and I hosted.

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Playoff Preview Podcasts: Blues - Sharks

The latest and classiest edition of the Driving Play Playoff Podcast features a discussion of the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks series out West. This installment features commentary from Jared (@jaredlunsford), Corey (@ShutdownLine), Triumph (@Triumph44) and myself (@chasew12).


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Playoff Preview Podcast: Chicago - Phoenix

To cover the Hawks - Yotes series, we got the Chicago side from our own Matt M. Friend of the blog and podcast regular Corey (@shutdownline) from Shut Down Line, with help from Chase and Triumph, gave us the Phoenix side.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Playoff Preview Podcasts: Bruins - Capitals

Our latest installment is a preview of the Bruins/Capitals series with special guest Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) from the Washington Post and ESPN. Even if you're not a fan of either team, be sure to give this a listen for some excellent content and analysis.


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Playoff Preview Podcasts: Rangers - Senators

The next edition of the Driving Play Podcast features our regular crew with guest George Ays (@RangerSmurf) from Blueshirt Banter and Tracking the NY Rangers discussing an intriguing first-round matchup between New York and Ottawa.


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Playoff Preview Podcast: Penguins - Flyers

This time Triumph lead the surprisingly civil discussion of the Pittsburgh - Philadelphia series. We were joined by gentleman, scholar and Flyers blogger Eric T. (@BSH_EricT) from Broad Street Hockey.

Just as a programming note, Brent (Triumph) is your host and Chase is chiming in with comments about both the Flyers and the Penguins. His official prediction stands at Flyers in four.

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The Driving Play Podcast Playoff Previews - Predators v. Red Wings

While others were spending a nice holiday weekend with their families, we were busy recording previews for each playoff series. We'll be rolling them out over the next couple days, starting the series with Wednesday games.

First up is the Detroit - Nashville series. We were joined by JJfromKansas (@jjfromkansas) from Winging It In Motown for his Red Wings expertise and Dirk Hoag (@forechecker) from On the Forecheck bringing the high level of insight on the Predators that we have come to expect and appreciate.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Playoff Preview Podcasts: Canucks - Kings

This edition follows a little different format due to timing issues. Cam Charron (@CamCharron) of The Province and Canucks Army, to whom I apologize for my Cherryesque pronunciation of his name, was kind enough to take time away from visiting his family on the holiday weekend to talk Canucks. We wrapped things up by bringing on our own Chase to give his perspective on the Kings.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Power Plays In The First Round Of The Playoffs

In 2009-2010, the Devils were fourth from last in the NHL in power play opportunities, receiving 3.32 power plays per game. However, in the playoffs, the Devils drew 6.4 power plays in their 5 games. As a Devils fan I should have been over the moon, right? What a turnaround! Except, of course, their opponent the Flyers also drew 5.6 penalties per game in those 5 contests and scored 4 more power play goals than New Jersey, drumming them out of the playoffs. I wondered - if power plays go up in the playoffs, are officials more apt to call penalties with more eyes on them, knowing that being a 'good' referee will get them promoted to the next round? Are players being more reckless with more at stake?

It turns out, they do go up - every year post-lockout, there are more power plays per game per team in the first round than in the regular season:

YearPP/G RegPP/G PlyffDifference

The difference hasn't been enormous, but it's there. I suspect it's a combination of the factors I mentioned above - players going at full speed every play, every board battle becoming incredibly important, and referees feeling the pressure of more eyes on them. One hopes that the referees do not decide to call the interference penalties they've been not calling for months now - not that I enjoy the slower game, but I don't like it when players don't seem to have any idea what is or is not a penalty.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How Much Do the Kings Miss Jack Johnson?

If you would only listen, you might just realize what you're missing. You're missing me.
- Jack Johnson, Bubble Toes

February 23rd, the L.A. Kings traded Jack Johnson and what turned out to be their 2012 first-round pick for Jeff Carter. While most of us in the analytical community thought it was a steal, some thought Johnson would be a lot to lose. Let's take a look at how things have changed since he left.

Defensemen WOWY

Johnson split his time pretty evenly between Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell. Here are the on-ice Corsi rates and percentages for each of these defensemen with and without Johnson:

Corsi RateWith JJWithout JJ

Corsi %With JJWithout JJ

I was expecting an increase, but wow(ee)! Johnson's time being split evenly between those three guys makes this even more damning. The strong pattern with all three defensemen effectively eliminates other explanations like zone starts, playing with better forwards or his partner switching to Doughty. Jack Johnson was dragging his teammates down, pure and simple.


Let's now look at how the centers and defensemen he didn't play as much with have fared before and after the trade.

Corsi RateBefore TradeAfter Trade
None of Above7.5398.077

Some of these numbers, especially Richards's, have a lot to do with Jeff Carter's play and how he has impacted the team indirectly - by taking tougher minutes and just shifting around the forward slots. No matter what, it's pretty clear that the Kings are doing quite well without Jack Johnson, thank you very much.


Since the deadline, the Kings have been one of the best teams in the NHL. Some of the improvement is what Carter has brought to the table and part of it is everything clicking and everyone playing well. A big reason, perhaps the most important, for their success since the deadline is no longer icing Jack Johnson 23 minutes a game. The Kings miss Jack Johnson as a teenager misses his virginity.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Darren Dreger Would Be Squandering His Vezina Vote

Last night, TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger sent out a tweet that has rightfully raised eyebrows within the analytical hockey community. The message reads:

When questioned on the matter, Dreger responded with the following:

Speaking to his first remark about consistency, Dreger does have a bit of a point here; Fleury has consistently been a below average goaltender this season. For the 2011-2012 campaign, Fleury's even-strength save percentage is .914, markedly below the league-average number George E. Ays shows us here:

Though Broad Street Hockey's Eric T. points out that overall save percentage may be a better predictor of a goalie's future success in the short run, i.e. over one season, he also shows that ESSV% is the better predictor over large samples. Lucky for us, we have even-strength data going back to 2003-2004 pour la fleur. The results are as follows:

YearES SavesES Shots AgainstESSV%

Even if we throw the best indicator for Fleury's future success out the window, his overall save percentage this season is 0.913 which still falls below league average. Without digging up the precise numbers, this tweet from draglikepull sums up the point perfectly:

Unfortunately, Mr. Dreger seems to have fallen for the same illusion that so many in the mainstream media have before him. Marc-Andre Fleury has no business in a discussion for the Vezina trophy this season, last season, or likely in any season going forward. Good coaching, strong possession metrics and the ability to keep the play as far away from The Flower as possible are what have kept the Penguins afloat amidst their run of injuries.

In sum,

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