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The Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche got together for a highly entertaining, if somewhat chaotic, contest last night. If you’re a fan of goals, you probably came away happy. If it’s defense and goaltending you enjoy–well, not so much. While the game didn’t lack for excitement on the surface, the underlying statistics are pretty interesting as well. When you examine the numbers, it quickly becomes evident that the game shouldn’t have been as close as it was. The Predators dominated possession, but the Avalanche made them pay for every mistake. It’s a testament to the skill of players like Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. Whether you credit Colorado’s opportunistic offense or raise an eyebrow at the Predators’ team defense/goaltending, the statistics suggest that the Predators played an efficient game with the emphasis going to cutting down mistakes.
As usual, we will start with Corsi-For. In 32 minutes of 5-on-5 close, the teams combined for 64 Corsi events. Of that total, Nashville owned 40, good for 63% total. They bested the Avs by a slightly slimmer margin in Fenwick: 27 to 18. The Predators had 17 shots, 13 blocked, and 10 misses to make up those 40 attempts. At the other end, Colorado’s 24 Corsi events were made up of 11 shots, 6 blocks, and 7 misses. We recently used the Avalanche as a sort of case study to discuss PDO, and while their impossibly-high shooting percentage certainly won’t take a hit, their likewise-unlikely save percentage most certainly will. The Predators are in pretty much the same boat. Their poor shooting percentage had nowhere to go but up, and on the strength of goal totals of six, four, and four in their last three games–it certainly has.
While the events of the game suggest the universe may be righting itself for the Predators, it also represents the Avalanche coming back to earth a tiny bit. Pretty interesting how that can be the case, when you consider that the two teams put up similar totals on the night–Colorado shot 18.2 percent to Nashville’s 17.6 percent, while Varlamov had an a 5-on-5 close save percentage of 82.4, compared to Hutton’s 81.8. It’s all about context and knowing the trends the two teams have ridden into the game. The gulf between Nashville’s sub-six percent shooting percentage for the year and the nearly 18 percent they shot last night is more substantial than the 82 Sv% compared to season average 93%, whereas the Avalanche were already shooting close to 12 percent, but with a Sv% of over 96 percent.
Of course, in a one game sample, it’s impossible to say that this is some sort of turning point for the Avalanche. They could be right back to their old, improbable shooting and saving tricks. The Predators, on the other hand, seem to have turned a corner in the past few games in this regard. We are talking about the statistical impact of “luck,” so an open mind is necessary, regardless. It’s pretty abstract, something to definitely remember.
INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS/LINES OF NOTE
Filip Forsberg: I might not have highlighted Forsberg here, if not for the recent news of his temporary demotion to Milwaukee. I actually felt like he played one of his better offensive games last night, carrying the puck and making plays with confidence. Of course, trust and accountability are difficult to earn and harder to keep. Forsberg’s possession numbers, over the small sampling of 5-on-5, are extremely good (75%), to lead the team. That’s a pretty objective way to determine that when Forsberg was on the ice, good things were happening. However, that ever-nagging “context” comes into play–Forsberg was also responsible for a particularly horrendous giveaway that lead to a Colorado goal. As young players like Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, and even David Legwand once had to learn, a lot of little positives can quickly be undone by a glaring negative. At any rate, I was enthused by what I saw from Forsberg, and am hopeful that a few games with the Admirals will help with figuring out expectations with added minutes and responsibility.
Ryan Ellis/Mattias Ekholm: A good example of sheltering for this young pairing, last night. They were among the team leaders in CF%, but consider that Ekholm had only one 5-on-5 close defensive zone start. Ellis? Zero. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with utilizing players to their strengths, and I think that’s what we’re seeing there, especially in such a volatile game. I do wonder if these softer situational minutes are more about Ellis than Ekholm, given that Mattias is starting to see a little bit of penalty kill time.
Victor Stalberg: Last night I stated that even though Colin Wilson outscored him, Stalberg was the Predators’ best forward in terms of total body of work. His possession numbers back it up–20 Corsi-For, 15 Corsi-Against. Overall, after a slow start, his numbers of late have been steadily improving. He came to Nashville with an impressive resume in this regard, it’s good to see that he might be back to his “normal” self.
I want to close this edition of the Advanced Stats Breakdown with a couple of quick thoughts on the recall of Taylor Beck. Germane to the spirit of this blog, Beck’s possession numbers were solid last season on a team where not many of his teammates could say the same. In 16 games played, he had 196 CF/CA, good for a flat 50%. For as bad as the team was and as inexperienced as Beck was, I’m encouraged by those numbers. I really felt that he played well enough in preseason to win a spot, and while I wouldn’t put him on the team full-time at the expense of Filip Forsberg, I do think there are a couple of other players he could supplant, at least on a trial run. We’ll see what he does with the opportunity.
Statistics Courtesy of The Extra Skater
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