Tag Archives: damned lies and statistics

Predicting the NHL is a fool’s errand…or is it?

As I’ve said a lot recently, there are a lot of stats that don’t tell us anything in the early part of the year–basically any individual player’s on-ice stats, even most his counting stats–you can look at them and try to squeeze some meaning out of them, but at the end of the day, the sample size is too small and to predict anything from them would be foolish. Also, we talked on a recent podcast about how PDO is only a backward-facing stat and it has zero predictive power. More on this in a second.

One stat that I do watch closely and do put stock in from the start of the season is goal differential. The shot-based side of analytics has gotten a major boom, as people have wrapped their heads around using the larger sample of all shot attempts to measure possession than just shots on goal. However, I feel like a lot of times, the goal-based metrics are ignored or sort of taken for granted. One thing that I think most people don’t know is that despite all the time and energy we put into shot-based metrics, goals are a better predictor of future success than shots. (See: here, and here, and here.) Continue reading Predicting the NHL is a fool’s errand…or is it?

Pulkkinen’s path to #MNWild ice time is on the Power Play

On Tuesday, the Wild claimed 24-year old Finnish winger Teemu Pulkkinen off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings. He will be 25 in a couple of months, so we pretty much know what his skill set is in terms of his development. But, he hasn’t been given much opportunity to show what he can do over long periods of time (just over 11 minutes per game with DET). Apparently Bruce Boudreau and his coaching staff didn’t like what they saw from the Wild prospects this preseason, but signing Pulkkinen is also just a smart move for a team that needs to improve its scoring to remain competitive in the ever-improving #ConferenceIII.

One way to judge a player transaction is to see how the opposing team’s fans react to it. Detroit Red Wings fans have all generally said the same thing since Pulkkinen was put on waivers, “Well that was stupid move by Detroit,” which makes me feel good. Teemu is known for having a Howitzer of a slap shot and has been deployed primarily in the offensive zone (61.5% in 2014 and 67.5% last year, excluding NZ ) so we need to change our perception of what the Wild’s fourth line will do this year.

As I tweeted yesterday, Pulkkinen shows good underlying possession numbers. His 5v5 CF% in his career has been 56.2% (14-15) and 57.7% (15-16).

Let’s take a look at his HERO chart:

pulkkinen-hero-chart

Just above where it says ‘Performance Tiers’ in the figure, you can see Pulkkinen’s composite WOWY stats, or how his line mates did in terms of possession and goal scoring both with and without him. His linemates experienced ~58% CorsiFor when playing with Teemu, and just over 50% without him. Similarly, their expected goals scored saw a jump from about even to just over 55% when skating with him. The hero chart takes both his pro years into account, so what that shows is a guy who consistently drives possession and scoring.

But there is another angle that I think could present itself over the next couple of weeks as the season gets going–Pulkkinen has put up excellent power play stats in his limited NHL time. Yes, he’s only got 2 PPG and 3 PPA, but check out his 15-16 PP numbers compared to the other Wild forwards:

pulkkinen-pp-numbers

I didn’t do that very systematically, it was only intended to be a quick check off the top of my head. So I’m sure I’m forgetting someone in that table–but, you can see how valuable Pulkkinen can be on a second PP unit for the Wild. Notice that Teemu’s expected goals/60 is higher than anyone on the Wild last year other than Parise. With great playmakers like Granlund, Staal, and Koivu, and more finishers like Pulkkinen along with a step up from Coyle/Nino/Zucker, this could be the year that the Wild PP takes the next step. Also, don’t forget that Charlie Coyle ranks among the league leaders in penalties drawn, and Staal has consistently drawn a lot of penalties over the course of his career.

If nothing else, I think Pulkkinen’s success on the team is tied to his success on the power play. The better the team does with the man advantage, the more job security this guy has. Obviously that could mean we don’t see Tuch or EE this year, but Teemu Pulkkinen is better equipped to help the Wild win this year.

My next post will be on the Wild’s penalty kill, but that may not come out until early next week. Check out the podcast this Friday, and see our first episode from yesterday!

Thanks for reading and dont’ forget to follow @BobaFenwick and @HTHPod

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Damned Lies and Statistics: A brief history of Marco Scandella PLUS why don’t he and Brodin generate offense?

The other night after the Wild thoroughly pummeled the Flames in what was a super awkward return-to-Minnesota-and-thanks-for-the-goals game for Niklas Backstrom, I got to thinking about Marco Scandella. [Side note, I always appreciated the time Backstrom spent with the team when they stunk out loud in the early 2000s, and it was pretty lousy of a few fans to jeer him at the end of the game.] Anyway, after we all looked at the possession charts, and after taking into account the score effects, it appeared that Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin had a pretty terrible night in terms of possession:

cgymin diag chart 32516

The x-axis above is the total shot attempts when the player(s) were on the ice, and the y-axis is the net difference (so if they drove possession, they’d be above the red line and vice versa.) Down in the bottom right corner, you see Koivu-Coyle-Parise, but even farther down you see Brodin and Scandella. I checked into their zone starts and didn’t see anything glaring. Then I got to thinking about when they’d played together recently, and I couldn’t really remember a time in recent memory. Naturally I went to the interwebs, and realized they haven’t played together much at all in the last two years.

Scandella started getting paired with Jared Spurgeon at the end of the 2010-11 season, and played the bulk of the 11-12 season with the mighty mite. Shout out to hockeyviz.com for his awesome visualizations, by the way.

history-1112-MIN-scandma90

Scandella went back to Houston (remember them?) for most of 2012-13, and then had his breakout year in 13-14 and made a name for himself as a good two-way player with a rocket slap shot. In that season, he had the third-most 5v5 ice time of any blueliner, and split time with Spurgeon, Prosser, and finally Brodin.

history-1314-MIN-scandma90

While Brodin and Scandella were on the ice, the team clocked in at a 46% GF, 45.5 CF/60, and a 48.9% corsi rate. Not terrible, but nothing to write home about. Looking at his WOWYs from that year, when Scandella skated with all other defenders, he had a 65% GF, 51.8 CF/60, and 49.7% CF%. In 2013-14, the pair skated together for just sixty-two minutes on the year, telling us Mike Yeo pretty clearly recognized the two just didn’t complement each others’ games.

Obviously, this season gives us an interesting dataset because we have two guys setting the lineup in the same year. Here’s this year’s info, with some extra data added in.

history-1516-MIN-scandma90

A couple things stand out here–for a good chunk of this season, Yeo was deploying Scandella with Prosser, Brodin, and Dumba in the same game. I tried to estimate the spot where Torch took over (vertical red line), and you can clearly see that he deployed Scandella and Dumba together until very recently, when Scandella and Brodin have been almost literally joined at the hip. In the middle chart, you can see that Scandella’s power play deployment has dropped, and his possession numbers have spiked wildly–oddly coincidental that his for/against tanked right when he got back with Brodin, don’t you think?

I dug thorough the WOWY number some more, and put together a couple of simple bar charts that look at Scandella’s body of work when paired with each of the other guys who have been regulars in the lineup over the last few years. I wanted to look at more than just this year, so I set it to include 2013-2016.

scandellawowy5toi

Scandella and Spurgeon have more than 30% more time together than the next group, which is fairly even among Brodin, Prosser, and Dumba. We all know about Suter’s disgust of being paired with another left hand shot, which is why he’s got less than 200 minutes with Marco.

scandellawowy4ozstart

It’s too small of a sample to make any conclusions but look at that OZ start number for Suter-Scandella. The obvious trend in defensive zone deployment holds for Brodin and Prosser (both around 65% defensive,) but the 57% offensive zone deployment for Scandella-Dumba is probably about as high as you’ll see among any pair in the league.

scandellawowy2cfpct

Here’s where Scandella-Spurgeon really shine, posting nearly a 54% shot attempt percentage when together. With this type of visualization, we can look across the “Scandella apart” rows to get a sense of his true ability since each bar reflects a larger proportion of the player’s minutes. When apart from almost all the other guys, Marco was just about even in Corsi percentage. When apart from Spurgeon, it was a little lower, but the main takeaway is their excellent possession when together.

Conversely, the Scandella-Brodin pairing just seems to be on their heels out on the ice. The team’s CF/60 has been just 43.28 with those two, and when you compare that to numbers like 59.39 (Scandella-Spurgeon) and 52.45 (Scandella-Dumba), you start to just get a sense that Brodin is the one dragging down the offense. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Jo Bro does defensively, but the numbers are not kind. If I can find the time, I’ll try to look through some game footage of the last five games or so when they have been paired together. In the meantime, hit me up on Twitter @BobaFenwick if you have other theories about what might be going on.