Ramblings: Carolina Injuries; St. Louis-Dallas Game 3; Calder Trophy – April 30

Michael Clifford



Carolina has called up goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the AHL. This is in response to Petr Mrazek’s injury in Game 2, where he seemed to take a shot at an awkward angle and looked to be favouring his lower body. He tried to gut it out but eventually left and was replaced by Curtis McElhinney. I would expect McElhinney in net for Game 3.


Sticking with Carolina, we got an update on their injuries and it’s not pretty. Saku Maenalanen won’t return this series, and it doesn’t look like Trevor van Riemsdyk will either. In the good news area, Mrazek is day-to-day while both Svechnikov and Ferland skated with coaches on Monday. Those two, plus Jordan Martinook, are still on a day-to-day basis as well.

With TvR out of the lineup, I assume Haydn Fleury draws back in. Jake Bean was also among the recalls, presumably to be the seventh defenceman. Selfishly, I would like to see Bean get some playoff action.  


Josh Anderson wasn’t practicing with the Jackets on Monday. Normally, I’d say maintenance, but they had Alexandre Texier on the second line (I don’t think he’s a place-holder) and Ryan Dizngel on the third line. Torts did say after practice that it was just maintenance for Anderson (and Riley Nash), but that feels like coach-speak to me. We’ll see when Game 3 starts.


Canada announced their roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championships. One guy I’m interested in watching is Dante Fabbro. The rookie blue liner played just 10 games in the NHL this year, including the playoffs, so this helps get a more extended look in a tournament with a lot of competition. There’s a massive logjam of defencemen in Nashville so unless someone is moved out, I don’t see much fantasy relevance in 2019-20, but it’ll help us gauge his talent level a bit better.


St. Louis took an early 1-0 lead over Dallas in Game 3 thanks to a redirect from Jaden Schwartz, his sixth goal of the playoffs. I said it after his hat trick game against Winnipeg to seal that series: it’s nice to see him have some big-time playoff success. With the injuries he’s endured combined with a low production season (a lot of it driven by percentages), he’s more than deserved this spotlight. In real hockey terms, I feel he’s been undervalued for years because he plays in the West and he’s oft-injured. But when he’s on the ice and healthy, he’s an impact, top-line winger. His lack of peripherals, though, will make it hard for him to be a true fantasy star, 82 games or not.

Alex Radulov continued his own sensational postseason, tallying his fifth goal to tie things up late in the first. Tyler Bozak would jam a Robert Thomas shot that leaked through Ben Bishop to regain the lead near the mid-point of the second period.

We had a wild finish to the game as Andrew Cogliano tied the game, scoring short-handed on a jam play off a play from Mattias Janmark, with about seven minutes remaining. A little over a minute later, Alex Pietrangelo ripped a slapshot short-side over Ben Bishop to take back the lead. Considering the angle and distance, it was a heck of a shot:



Not to be outdone, Tyler Seguin would score about two minutes after that off a great play and pass from Miro Heiskanen (more on him later). Finally, with a little over 90 seconds left in the game, Patrick Maroon shoved off Esa Lindell, picked up a rebound off the boards, and put it over Bishop’s right shoulder to give the Blues a 4-3 lead, which would finally hold up.

We had four goals in a little over five minutes in the third period in what was a wild range of emotions for fans of both sides.

St. Louis takes a 2-1 series lead.


Let’s have a discussion about the Calder Trophy.

On Saturday afternoon, the finalists were announced as Rasmus Dahlin, Elias Pettersson, and Jordan Binngington.

And the people weren’t happy.

The prevailing thought was that Miro Heiskanen deserved the nod over Jordan Binnington, given Binngton’s age (25) and the fact he only started 30 games, appearing in 32. There were also a few people I saw thinking that Heiskanen over Dahlin made sense.

There appeared to be a consensus that Elias Pettersson absolutely deserved to be a finalist, and I agree with that. Let’s look at the Calder case for each of Heiskanen, Dahlin, and Binnington, then. 

Right away, let’s dispel the He’s 25 Years Old argument. Artemi Panarin won Calder Trophy in his rookie season at the age of 24. All rookies are set against the same playing field. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.



What’s important to understand is that Dahlin spent the season having to carry his defence pair. He was lined up with Zach Bogosian for over 554 minutes at five-on-five, or nearly 40 percent of his ice time. When they skated together, Buffalo had a 52.2 percent shot share, which is very good considering the team was below 50 percent as a whole. When Bogosian was on the ice without Dahlin, he cratered from a 52.2 percent shot share to 45.4 percent. For Bogosian, the difference between playing and not playing with Dahlin was the difference between being above average and being AHL-quality. That’s how good Dahlin was.

When it came to things like shot assists (passes that lead to shots), shots on goal, zone exits, zone entries, as well as defending the blue line, Dahlin was good-to-excellent across the board:


One area that hurts Dahlin’s Calder campaign in comparison to Heiskanen is that of competition. According to PuckIQ, Heiskanen played about 35.9 percent of his ice time against elite competition and less than 30 percent against poor quality of competition. Dahlin, on the other hand, was sent out against elite competition only 28.3 percent of the time and over 34 percent of the time against poor quality of competition.

In fairness to Dahlin, one adage I’ve adopted from other people is that the toughest minutes any hockey player endures are minutes with bad line mates. Some people might think this would be a point in favour of Dahlin, then, considering all the minutes he had to play with Bogosian. Some people would be mistaken, as Heiskanen had to play nearly 533 minutes with Roman Polak. Not better, and possibly worse.



As already mentioned, Heiskanen had to play tough competition more often than Dahlin and did so with a partner likely worse than Dahlin’s. How did he do in those minutes? Not as well as you’d think.

Below is from HockeyViz and shows unblocked shot attempts allowed at five-on-five this year, relative to the team of the respective players. This first one is Dahlin with Bogosian:



And this one is Heiskanen with Polak:



Green indicates shots against above the average of the team, purple indicates shots against below the average of the team, and the darker the colour, the further above/below average it is. Bogosian and Dahlin did a great job shutting down the low-slot area right in front of the net while Heiskanen and Polak were largely run over.

We can argue about how much competition played a factor, but I'm not nearly bright enough to parse that out. 

Of course, Heiskanen did all this while playing about two minutes more per night than Dahlin did. That makes a big difference; Heiskanen’s 1895 total minutes of ice time is the most for a rookie in the NHL since Tyler Myers in 2009-10. League-wide, among all players, Heiskanen played about as much as Jeff Petry and Morgan Rielly. That’s a lot.



One of the biggest knocks against Binnginton is his games played total so let’s start with that.

Binnington had just 30 starts and 32 appearances. Normally, when we compare any two players, we try to equalize the playing field as much as possible. With goalies, we’d use rates like per game or some type of per-minute rate. With the idea that Binnington’s games played is the biggest mark against him, we’ll use the entire season.

Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) is one measurement used to determine how many goals a netminder saved his team when comparing to a league-average netminder. It’s not a rate stat like points per 60 minutes, it’s a cumulative stat like points. The more games played, the more chances to save goals. Makes sense, right? It's not a perfect stat (none of them are), but it's one data point. 

According to Corsica Hockey’s GSAA, Binnington was fifth in the NHL in 2018-19. His mark of 13.52 was better than Robin Lehner (11.34), Frederik Andersen (9.88), and Pekka Rinne (9.64). The only goalies higher than Binnington were John Gibson (18.66, and a guy who probably should have been a Vezina nominee given how atrocious his team was), Ben Bishop (18.21), Jaroslav Halak (16.3), and Thomas Greiss (14.87).

Let’s use a different measurement. Wins Above Replacement and Goals Above Replacement (WAR and GAR) were developed by Corsica and try to show the overall impact of a player. For skaters, it takes everything from even strength offence and defence, to power play prowess, to drawing/taking penalties, and more. You can find the methodology here. It’s another cumulative stat, which means more games played bring more opportunity to accumulate WAR. For the season, Binnington (2.45) had nearly an identical WAR to Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.48).

These are two season-long cumulative stats, and Binnington performed similarly in both to two goalies nominated for the Vezina Trophy.

Finally, we need to look at goaltending through a new workload paradigm. Reducing appearnaces is becoming the norm, which is why two of the three goalies nominated for the Vezina played fewer than 50 games. In 2017-18, we had 12 goalies make at least 60 appearances. In 2016-17, that number was 13. For the last few years, the number of goalies with at least 60 appearances has been between 10-15. This past season? Eight. In that sense, if 43 starts is enough for the Vezina, why wouldn’t 30 be good enough for the Calder? We’re a year removed from Brock Boeser missing a quarter of the season and finishing as runner-up in the Calder race. If we’re looking at goaltending through a new workload paradigm where 40-45 starts is enough to be nominated for a Vezina Trophy, and Boeser's nomination established that a rookie player three-quarters of a season is enough to be nominated for the Calder if they're truly exceptional, why wouldn’t 30 starts be enough for Binnington given his performance outlined above?


I don’t know what the right finalist combination is. As mentioned, I think Pettersson should be a lock. There are three other very worthy nominees besides him. Any way this is cut or sliced, someone was going to get the shaft. But if we’re going to argue about which players are and aren’t deserving, we need to be honest about how good each player was. Just saying Binnington only started 30 games, or Heiskanen had to play with Polak, or Dahlin’s team was below average doesn’t do any of them justice. There’s also a lot more that should go into the analysis beyond games played, points, or minutes, particularly in a race that is as tightly contested as this. Even the 1200 words above isn’t enough to do each of them justice. They should each get 1200 words, rather than 1200 words covering all of them in total.

Again, I don’t have a strong opinion about which player should be left out. (And someone like Brady Tkachuk had a great year beyond his 22 goals and 45 points). I just don’t think we should dismiss one person or another out of hand before we measure their true impact. 


I know there was a lot of hubbub around the Hart Trophy finalists, namely Connor McDavid for being on a non-playoff team and Sidney Crosby… actually I’m not sure why people are complaining about Crosby. Anyway, I don’t have a problem with the finalists – the third being Nikita Kucherov – and will probably write something more about it later this week.


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