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If Thursday’s matchup between the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators evokes a metaphor, it’s a tug-of-war involving a very short rope and a lot of mud. There was a good deal of push-and-pull, sloppy play, and an overall choppiness to the flow of the game. It didn’t make for the most exciting sixty minutes of hockey, but an exciting four minutes and 43 seconds of overtime was enough to compensate.
In keeping with that back-and-forth theme, the advanced statistics paint a picture of a tightly-played, evenly-matched game. At even strength, the Jets held a slight Corsi advantage, and an even smaller margin in Fenwick. Winnipeg fired 50 shots toward the net: 29 recorded shots, 14 blocks, 7 misses. On the other side, the Predators answered with 41 attempted shots: 26 shots on net, 10 blocks, 5 misses. Overall, this represents a close game in terms of possession, with Winnipeg taking the Corsi category 55 to 45 percent and Fenwick 54 to 46 percent. The Predators never trailed in the game, and with their biggest lead being a single goal, so there’s a good chunk of time we can classify as 5-on-5 close, about 42 minutes.
In this view, the gap grows even less substantial, with the Jets holding a 53/47% edge in Corsi and a negligible 51/49% in Fenwick. Without watching the game, one could draw the conclusion that this was either a nail-biter chessmatch or a game in which neither team ever really got its footing. Having watched it, I would lean toward the latter. Interestingly, a longstanding cornerstone of puck possession, faceoff wins, heavily favored the Predators at a ratio of nearly 2 to 1. With such an advantage in this well-loved statistic, I would normally expect to see a correlating boost in overall possession. The inference we can make here is that while the Predators started with the puck, they didn’t do a great job of maintaining it or cultivating the initial possession into meaningful productivity.
The first five minutes of the game made for an interesting sub-story. Coaches often emphasize the importance of coming out hard with a strong start. The Winnipeg Jets certainly seemed to get that memo, generating 12 Corsi events to Nashville’s one. While that in itself may not be all that interesting, sometimes one team just has a little bit more “jump” before things even out. The impact on the overall picture of the game is such that if you were to remove that span, the Corsi total goes from 50/41 in favor of Winnipeg to a 38/40 advantage for Nashville.
INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS OF NOTE
Seth Jones: I wanted to be sure to record and watch the TSN broadcast of this game to get an idea what the Canadian media is saying about Jones. They gushed about the all-around skill and poise that Jones has demonstrated. And why not? His 28 minutes were third among all skaters, behind only Weber and Byfuglien. In addition, he also posted a team-best 53% Corsi-For and +13% Corsi-Relative. His 20/18 total came in a perfectly balanced deployment: 24 even-strength zone starts, eight in each zone. A strong all-around game for the youngster.
David Legwand: Legwand’s possession numbers are typically pretty consistent, hovering around “even” on most nights. Like his on-ice presence, he’s not going to dazzle you with his statistics, but you can typically count on his dependability. As such, it stands out when he turns in a team-worst 33% Corsi rating, despite a lower-than-average defensive zone-start concentration. I wouldn’t say there’s cause for concern, a one game sample isn’t enough to alarm me, but it bears mention that this looks like an “off” night for David Legwand.
Matt Hendricks: If you’ve been reading this feature, you know that Hendricks has had a rough season to this point in terms of possession. However, in a reversal, Hendricks actually had an uncharacteristically strong night. His 50% Corsi rating tied with Mike Fisher for the second best among all Nashville forwards (Patric Hornqvist had 52%). On the ice for nine Corsi events for and against in 14 minutes of even strength time, this is a step in the right direction for a player that is typically at the bottom of the chart on most nights. Over a large sample, it’s a similar aberration to Legwand’s poor numbers. We will hope that this is a sign that Hendricks is getting comfortable with his new team.
Statistics Courtesy of The Extra Skater
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