Saturday, February 6, 2010

Avalanche Chances - Games 21 to 30

For those unfamiliar with the scoring chance metric:

- A player is awarded a chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score, much like +/-.

- A scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes I'm slightly more generous depending on the movement of the puck and the players - or a screen shot that reaches the goaltender. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are (if they are taken from a dangerous scoring area).

- The graphs are broken down into three game states, EV situations, PP situations (excluding 5v3) and SH situations (also excluding 5v3). At EV I've also included a "scoring chance percentage" which is the number of "chances for" divided by the total number of chances for both teams when a given player is on the ice. The players are all represented by both their jersey numbers and initials.

- Special thanks are due to Dennis King for starting the scoring-chance counting trend and to Vic Ferrari for creating an application that makes the game-to-game tallying much easier. The first table presented below is the scoring chance tally for games 21-30 and the second will be for games 1-30 of the 2009-10 Colorado Avalanche. For games 1-10, look here and for games 11-20, look here.

This segment of games is virtually indistinguishable from the first two in terms of the overall scoring chance percentage for the Avalanche at EV. In games 1-10 they also put up a percentage of 46.3% and in games 11-20 it was 46.0%. At this point the Avalanche seem to have established that they're not going to be a particularly good team at EV and will likely end up somewhere between 46% and 47% on the season. Their record over this ten-game segment was 3-4-3 and is much closer to what I expected from them at the start of the year. In all three segments they've gone 7-1-2, 5-4-1 and now 3-4-3. The first segment looks, to me, like a mirage. Should the Avalanche play .500 hockey from now until the end of the year, it probably won't be good enough to make the playoffs but they'll be in the race until the very end.

This was a rough stretch of games for Wojtek Wolski in terms of EV scoring with no EV goals through all ten games despite taking 25 shots. Despite the lack of goal-scoring he continues to outchance the opposition at EV. If you look at the table below you'll notice that he is in fact the team leader both in scoring chance differential. And on top of that, he continues to be a really fun player to watch!

Another player I wanted to talk about is Chris Durno, a 29-year-old rookie who has managed to put up positive results in a fourth line role. As the Avalanche continue to get healthy it would behoove them to leave Durno in the lineup (so long as the positive results persist) and move out, say, David Koci (+2 -13 and all those penalties... get him out of there) and/or Matt Hendricks (that first M.H. isn't Milan Hejduk, although the real Milan Hejduk hasn't done all that much better).

Finally, only because I lambasted him so much earlier in the year, John-Michael Liles improved substantially in this ten-game segment. He's still getting nothing but soft opposition and he's still not up to 50% at EV but if did have to deal with some injury problems at the start of the year so there is some chance that these numbers will continue to improve.

Now we have the broader picture of a thirty game sample and can really start to see some things crystallizing. The first thing that I notice is that only seven players have managed to play in all 30 games for the Avalanche this year. I follow the Edmonton Oilers and know how injuries can affect a team's performance so it's a real credit to the Avs that they've been able to hang in there with so many players in and out of the lineup.

The most concerning line on the chart probably belongs to Milan Hejduk. He's been a dominant player in the NHL at times in his career but it looks like those times may well be in the past. He's one of those players who has had to deal with some injuries and I would suggest that if the injuries are bothering him he's better off taking the time to make sure they're fully healed. If that's not the problem, that's almost worse news because it means he's just not able to handle tough opposition like he has in the past.

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