Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:29 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 9:40 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Thursday's game between the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens featured some pretty bizarre moments, but the highlight of the night just might have been Alexei Emelin executing a perfect, textbook hip check on Erik Cole.
Cole, of course, is Emelin's teammate, and he was sent flying after the Montreal defenseman whiffed on his intended target -- Minnesota's Nick Johnson -- resulting in Cole doing a complete front-flip.
And they say the hip check is a lost art.
Cole eventually returned to the game and seemed to OK, which is good news for him and the Canadiens.
One of the other noteworthy moments in the game took place late in the first period when Montreal forward Ryan White went a little crazy and started throwing punches at Stephane Veilleux as he was being held by Chris Campoli. White recorded 22 penalty minutes in the first period, including 17 for his series of punches (which you can watch by clicking right here).
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Posted on: January 18, 2012 4:11 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:43 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at which top rookies are playing some of the toughest (and easiest) assignments in the NHL.
Most NHL teams are going to put their rookies into favorable situations on the ice.
They are usually not going to be asked to play the toughest minutes on their team, against the best opponents and in defensive situations, and instead are going to be put into low pressure situations where they have the best opportunity to succeed. There are, of course, always exceptions, and some youngsters are asked to take on larger (and more important) roles, whether it be out of necessity, or because the player has shown that he's capable of taking on such an assignment at a young age.
This year's rookie class has had some pretty impressive performances so far, including that of top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (currently the NHL's leading rookie scorer) in Edmonton, Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson with the Devils and, of course, Philadelphia's young forwards Sean Couturier (pictured) and Matt Read, who have not only flashed some offensive ability, but have also proven themselves to be more than capabale penalty killers.
But which of the NHL's top rookies are being asked to play the toughest minutes this season?
Well, that's what the scatterplot picture below helps us figure out. We're using Relative Corsi Quality of Competition (the level of competition the player is playing against -- the higher the number, the tougher the opponent, and vice versa) and Offensive Zone starts (both via Behind The Net) during 5-on-5 play to determine which rookies are being asked to play in the toughest situations by their respective teams.
The closer a player is to the top left of the chart, the harder the assignments he's being given (playing against better players and starting fewer shifts in the offensive zone), while the closer a player is to the bottom right, the easier the assignment (playing against weaker competition and starting more shifts in the offensive zone).
The players included: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers), Adam Henrique (Devils), Nick Johnson (Wild), Luke Adam (Sabres), Cody Hodgson (Canucks), Jared Cowen (Senators), Adam Larsson (Devils), Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche), Sean Couturier (Flyers), Matt Read (Flyers), Ryan Johansen (Blue Jackets), Raphael Diaz (Canadiens), Craig Smith (Predators), Colin Greening (Senators) and Kaspars Daugavins (Senators).
A few thoughts:
1) When it comes to the NHL's rookie of the year debate the two most common names are, naturally, Nugent-Hopkins and Henrique. They are, after all, the top two scoring rookies in the league, and before Nugent-Hopkins went out with his injury they were neck-and-neck in that scoring race. Now that Henrique is running unopposed for the foreseeable future, he's going to take over that scoring lead (barring an injury of his own, of course) and will probably become the front-runner for the award by seasons end.
Both players have arguments working in their favor.
When we did our mid-season award picks I went with Henrique based on the fact he and Nugent-Hopkins were nearly identical offensively, while Henrique was being asked to play in tougher situations (as the chart above illustrates). Along with that, he is also one of the top penalty killing forwards on the best penalty killing team in the league, and has proven himself to be a threat offensively even when his team is down shorthanded, currently tied for the league in shorthanded points. Conversely, Nugent-Hopkins is getting some of the easiest minutes in the league among the top rookies, and has played just a total of one minute and 16 seconds of shorthanded ice time this season.
That said, it can't be ignored that Henrique is already 21 years old while Nugent-Hopkins is one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 18. Actually, he's the second-youngest player to have skated in an NHL game this season, having been born just six days after Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad, who appeared in nine games for the Senators.
He may not be asked to play in tough situations, but his performance is still darn impressive given his age.
2) Don't overlook the rookie duo in Philadelphia. The Flyers completely re-tooled their roster over the summer, and halfway through the 2011-12 season they haven't missed a beat as far as being a contender in the Eastern Conference is concerned.
Losing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter looked like it was going to be a major blow to their forward depth, and while they are definitely a different team from a year ago, they're still boasting an impressive group of forwards, including their two prized rookies Couturier (selected with the draft pick that came from Columbus in exchange for Carter) and Read. Both are among the Flyers' top penalty killing forwards, and among Flyers forwards that have played at least 20 games this season Read is currently facing the fourth-toughest competition on the team.
3) Mike Yeo, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, appears to have a lot of faith in Nick Johnson, a player the team picked up on waivers before the season. Not only is he playing, by far, the toughest minutes of any of the top rookies in the NHL (he's currently 11th among rookie scorers) his Qual Comp is the highest of any forward on the Wild roster. Perhaps that faith shouldn't be much of a surprise given the connections both have to the Pittsburgh organization (Johnson was drafted by the Penguins, while Yeo was a former assistant).
Of course, age once again needs to be taken into account. While Johnson is playing tougher minutes than all of these other rookies, he's also by far the oldest player on the chart having already turned 26 back in December. A 26-year-old rookie and an 18-year-old rookie aren't exactly the same thing.
Taking into account performance, assignments and age I'd still choose Henrique as the top rookie in the NHL this season (so far), with Nugent-Hopkins, Read and Craig Smith coming in just behind.
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Tags: Adam Gretz, Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson, Buffalo Sabres, Cody Hodgson, Colin Greening, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Craig Smith, Edmonton Oilers, Gabriel Landeskog, Jared Cowen, Jeff Carter, Luke Adam, Matt Read, Mika Zibanejad, Mike Richards, Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Nick Johnson, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pucks And Numbers, Raphael Diaz, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Vancouver Canucks
Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:30 pm
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the fast starts of the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers and whether or not they are for real.
By: Adam Gretz
The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers enter their games on Wednesday night as two of the hottest teams in the NHL, with the Rangers winning seven of their past eight games and the Wild riding a four-game winning streak that has helped propel them to the top of the NHL standings with 27 points.
The Rangers were expected by many to be a playoff team this year, coming off a season that saw them take the No. 8 seed in the East and add the top free agent on the market, center Brad Richards. But Minnesota's meteoric rise to the top under the leadership of first-year coach Mike Yeo has been quite a surprise to say the least.
Are these two teams as good as their early season (and most recent) records would suggest? Or are they both setting themselves up for a sudden fall?
If you're a believer in PDO (or familiar with it) you're probably placing your bets on the latter.
Along with their recent hot streaks, these teams have three things in common.
1) Both teams are getting crushed during 5-on-5 play in terms of shots for and shots allowed. The Wild currently own the third-worst shot differential per game during even-strength play at minus-6, while the Rangers are currently the worst at minus-7. Neither team scores a lot of goals, mostly because...
2) ... Neither team is particularly dominant on special teams, especially when on the power play.
3) As a result, both teams are relying almost entirely on their goaltending, which is good in the short-term, but could be very, very bad in the long-term. In the case of the Rangers, it's Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron, while in Minnesota it's the tag-team duo of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.
All four of the aforementioned keepers are near the top of the league in terms of even-strength save percentage (they're all in the top-12, actually) with Backstrom pacing the league with a mark of .953. Which is unbelievable.
(Harding, for what it's worth, isn't far behind at .946, while Biron and Lundqvist are currently checking in at .944 and .939 respectively.)
Now, Backstrom is a fine goaltender. Probably one of the better ones in the NHL. But unless he's suddenly become the best goalie in NHL history he (along with the other three -- at least Harding and Biron) probably aren't going to maintain their current save percentages all season, especially given the amount of rubber they face every night. Just as an example, in the post-lockout NHL there have only been seven instances in which a goaltender finished a full season with an even-strength save percentage north of .940, and two of them belong to Boston's Tim Thomas.
Only once (Thomas last season) did a goalie finish over .943. In other words, this probably isn't going to continue all season.
And that brings us to PDO, a relatively simple but often times telling statistic about hot teams that could soon fizzle out and cold teams that could suddenly catch fire.
Originally the brainchild of Brian King (you can check out a recent interview he did talking about the subject by clicking right here) PDO is simply the sum of a team's shooting percentage and save percentage. For individual players, you take the sum of the shooting percentage and save percentage only when that player is on the ice.
On a league-wide level, this number will equal always 1000, but will vary from team-to-team and player-to-player. Teams (and players) with a PDO above or below that will, over time, see it start to regress back closer toward 1000.
Over the past four seasons the PDO range, from low-to-high, for individual players that have played at least 50 games in a single season have been as follows:
And let's take a look at the current ratings for the Wild and Rangers players. In an effort to avoid what is an even smaller sample size than we're already dealing with this early in the season, I've limited it to players that have played a minimum of 10 games this season:
The only two regulars on either team with a PDO currently under 1000 are Brandon Prust and Steve Eminger, both of the Rangers. Many of the others are well above their career norms, mainly due to what are almost assuredly unsustainably high on-ice save percentages.
There are currently 551 skaters that have appeared in at least 10 games this season, and out of the top-100 in PDO, an incredible 15 of them play for either the Rangers or Wild. There's a very fine line between winning and losing in the NHL, and right now these are two teams that are probably getting their fair share of breaks and bounces, while also being led by what are probably unsustainable levels of goaltending.
We've seen teams in the past get out-shot, out-chanced, and ultimately, out-scored at 5-on-5 the way the Wild and Rangers currently are and not seen a regression in the win-loss column. Last year's Anaheim Ducks are one such example. The biggest difference between that team, and these two teams, is that while Anaheim also had stellar goaltending, it also had a power play that scored almost at will. This season, Anaheim is once again getting consistently beat during 5-on-5 play, and now that its power play isn't scoring the same way it did last season, it finds itself near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
It should again be pointed out that in the case of the Wild and Rangers, these are currently two of the worst power plays in the NHL, in terms of not only scoring goals, but also generating shots.
So how long can we expect the wins to keep coming at this pace for New York and Minnesota? Probably as long as their goaltenders continue to stand on their heads.
(PDO and shot data via BehindTheNet)
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Tags: Adam Gretz, Artem Anisimov, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brad Staubitz, Brandon Prust, Cal Clutterbuck, Colton Gillies, Devin Setoguchi, Henrik Lundqvist, Jared Spurgeon, Jeff Woywitka, Josh Harding, Kyle Brodziak, Marco Scandella, Marian Gaborik, Martin Biron, Minnesota Wild, Nate Prosser, New York Rangers, Nick Johnson, Nick Schultz, Niklas Backstrom, Pucks And Numbers, Ryan Callahan, Steve Eminger, Tim Thomas
Posted on: November 9, 2011 3:06 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 3:24 pm
Minnesota Wild forward Nick Johnson will not face any more discipline following his head-butt of Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla during a fight on Tuesday night. This according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The reaction by most was "What head-butt?" Well Iginla surely noticed one as during the scrap he began calling the official's attention to the perceived dirty move.
In case you missed it (the incident itself, not the head-butt, a lot of people watched and still missed that) here is the video again.
“I disagree with the call,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the game. “Jarome Iginla starts the thing, and then he calls it. He tells everybody on the ice that he head-butted him. All I saw was a guy trying to protect himself.”
Johnson was given a game misconduct after the fight.
“I just felt I got head-butted," Iginla said. "I haven't had that very often in a fight. I thought the refs made the right call and that was pretty much the end of it. You get fired up in a fight, and I felt like he got me a couple of times there in the head.”
This was the right call by Brendan Shanahan, and probably the easiest call he has had to make since taking over from Colin Campbell. I can see the head-butt, but it looks like a pure accident. Johnson is bobbing and weaving trying to avoid the fists of Iggy during a fight. In no way does that appear intentional. Unless maybe you live in Calgary.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:36 pm
By: Adam Gretz
During the second period of Tuesday's Minnesota-Calgary game, Wild forward Nick Johnson was ejected following a fight with Flames captain Jarome Iginla. The reason for the ejection? The referees determined that Johnson delivered a head butt to Iginla during the altercation.
The only problem is when you watch the video the alleged head butt is almost impossible to notice. Even on the slow motion replay. If it even happened.
You can also see the referee giving it to Wild captain Mikko Koivu when he tried to insert himself into the conversation between the ref and Minnesota coach Mike Yeo. Based on the video, the Wild have plenty of reason to be upset.
Johnson, acquired by the Wild on waivers before the start of the regular season, recorded an assist on Tuesday night before he was ejected. He entered the game with one goal and one assist in nine games this season.