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Monday, January 07, 2008

Ducks Gameday—Who’s responsible for this improvement?

Nashville Predators (20-18-2, 12th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (21-17-6, t-6th in west)

It’s certainly been a weird sort of year for the champion Ducks. If you wanted to overgeneralize this season, you could say the team started the year minus Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, and suffered both offensively and defensively because of it.

Since Scott’s return, the team has certainly performed better standings-wise, but it’s clear where the improvement is kicking in—on the defensive end. In the 34 games prior to Scott’s return, the Ducks allowed 2.82 goals per game; in the 10 games since that number has dropped to 1.60. A lot of that can be attributed to the penalty kill, which allowed 41 PPGs in the first 34, and only 4 in the last 10.

However, the offensive end still remains stagnant; as a matter of fact the Ducks were scoring more goals before Niedermayer (2.38 goals per game) than since his return (2.20 goals per game). Does this mean that the team still needs a return out of Selanne (who per the OC Register has begun skating)?

On the surface, it seems to be so. I do want to caution, however, against attributing too much of improved results to the returning player. Yes, the Ducks are a better team with Niedermayer in the lineup, but if you look at the numbers, it’s not necessarily Niedermayer that seems to be driving the results.

The two tables below show the top-six defensemen before and after Niedermayer’s return. The tables show games played, even-strength (EV) minutes, EV “plus” events per 60 minutes, EV “minus” events per 60 minutes, the resulting EV goal-differential per 60 minutes, shorthanded minutes, and shorthanded goal-differential per 60 minutes.

Before Scott's return:

Player

GPEV MinEV Plus/hrEV Minus/hrEV Diff/hrPK MinPK Diff/hr

F. Beauchemin

34

659

+1.55

-2.55

-1.00

157

-10.32

C. Pronger

34

600

+1.80

-2.10

-0.30

175

-5.50

S. O’Donnell

34

467

+1.29

-1.80

-0.51

154

-6.23

K. Huskins

29

432

+3.06

-1.67

+1.39

60

-6.97

S. Hnidy

32

381

+1.73

-1.57

+0.16

38

-3.15

M. Schneider

19

328

+2.93

-1.65

+1.28

9

-6.65


Since Scott's return:

Player

GPEV MinEV Plus/hrEV Minus/hrEV Diff/hrPK MinPK Diff/hr

F. Beauchemin

10

179

+1.34

-2.35

-1.01

36

-5.07

C. Pronger

10

170

+2.11

-0.35

+1.76

42

-1.44

S. Niedermayer

10

168

+2.15

-2.87

-0.72

27

-4.42

M. Schneider

10

155

+1.94

-0.78

+1.16

12

+0.00

S. O’Donnell

10

132

+2.74

-0.46

+2.28

38

-1.56

K. Huskins

9

115

+2.61

-1.57

+1.05

4

-16.90


In terms of improvement, you have to be struck by the numbers associated with Chris Pronger and Sean O’Donnell. Both have improved by more than 2 goals-per-60 at even-strength differential and both have improved by more than 4 goals-per-60 while shorthanded. It’s a whopping improvement, more than I’d expect, especially since Scott Niedermayer isn’t really sharing minutes with either of them. And it’s not as if Scott’s stepped in and taken shutdown defensive role either; Pronger and O.D. are still facing the best the opposition has to offer.

I really don’t have a lot of answers as to what’s really changed about Pronger’s minutes, but the results are there for discussion. Is it just a matter of lockerroom accountability, or is Scott’s minute-sharing somehow making the shutdown job easier to accomplish? I’ll probably do some more of this segmented analysis going forward; one thing about this season is that it is very interesting to see how results change as the roster changes.

Prediction: In its last trip to California, Nashville lost all three games by a combined score of 12-1. Here’s hoping their west-coast affliction continues. Ducks 4, Preds 2. Goals by Pronger, Kunitz, Pahlsson, and Bertuzzi.

Go Ducks.

6 comments:

PJ Swenson said...

This game is going to be streamed online on Yahoo at 7PM for those in the U.S.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl

Itlan said...

Solid, solid win tonight. Ducks seemed to wake up about halfway thru the 1st period. Then exploded in the first half of the 2nd. Great to see the 3 youngters each get 2 points. Kunitz, Getzlaf, and Perry are monsters!

Duckbill said...

Good predictions, although I'm surprised you went with Sammy knowing he'd be doubtful for tonight. I'll chalk it up as saying Moen scored in his stead.

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah, I got a real weakness for Pahlsson in the predictions, but I figure if he's scratched, that only slightly reduces his likelihood of scoring anyway.

Good work deciphering the code, though. Pahlsson goal = Moen goal, and Bertuzzi goal = Perry + Getzlaf goal.

Nice note about last night's game: Both times a player took a penalty that led to a NSH goal, he was able to redeem his mistake later by scoring a goal of his own.

spade-in-victorhell said...

great win...besides the first period....the ducks played "ducks" hockey...they must have heard me screaming at the tv to start forechecking hard and hitting...

earl u need to do a matrix for this year on faceoff wins and what that does(im pretty sure u did one last year)...carter is an ace on the face-off circle...when sami comes back that guy is gonna have to find some minutes...hes also palying the PK...would RC really sit marchant?...I think carter is gonna be a solid guy for us...hopefully he doesnt go drew miller and disappear...well c...with all these forwards...bochenski...carter...suthersby...may...selanne(maybe)...bobby ryan....someone is gonna get the short end of the stick...whats your preffered lineup earl?

Earl Sleek said...

Hm, well Spade, here's a few things.

a) I don't know if I've ever done any faceoff analysis, probably because I consider faceoffs to be one of the more overrated statistics of our time. Yes, it's preferable to win faceoffs rather than lose them, and sure, there are goals that are direct results of faceoff wins, but on the level I'd say they're about as important as sixth defensemen. This is just a personal viewpoint; I don't get a lot of info from faceoff totals.

I might take a look, but I've got zero data on it thus far.

b) Carter has been real good, enough to make this Pahlsson fan worry a bit. I owe the guy a post, though--he's been kick ass. I particularly like how he's adopted the Pahlsson strategy to shoot the puck from everywhere on the ice.

I got nothing against Drew Miller, though. That guy is quietly good even when he's not producing.

c) Yeah, now it seems there's a glut of interchangeable forwards for the bottom two lines, and if Selanne does return, that is a big factor too. I'll think about an ideal what-if lineup, but that's probably a later post.