Frozen Tool Forensics: Winners of the Losers
We have successfully made it to the end of another week. We have had our first casualties of Bubble Hockey, and thankfully it was all the teams losing kind. We saw eight teams bow out, or rather play themselves out of the playoffs. This week I wanted to take a quick look at how players on those teams were used and see if there were any changes from the end of the shortened regular season.
Normally I have a hard time with playoff data predicting future NHL success. There are just too many examples of it not being a fantastic predictor. This year is no exception, with an odd schedule and another break before a potential December one season start date. What is interesting to me in the playoffs though, and particularly in these playoffs, is which player's usage changes. The playoffs can be a slightly different animal, a lot of matching lines, potentially extended series against the same team. It can be a little tricky to draw too much inference these series, but at the end of the day these are the games that matter the most and coaches are going to play players that give them the best shot at winning tonight. So with full grains of salt aside, what do we know so far about which players are up and which are down in their coach's eyes?
This week we are going to focus on the teams that are no longer in the running. It leaves us with Pittsburgh, New York (Rangers), Toronto, and Florida from the east and Edmonton, Nashville, Minnesota, and Winnipeg in the west.
In order to look at this, we can run our standard 2019-20 Big Board Report, which contains time on ice data, and compare that to the Big Board Report for the 2019-20 playoffs. We could also use the Ice Time report, but since I don't need all of the breakdowns of that report, I settled for the Big Board.
The table below shows that export Big Board Report, sorted by players who saw the largest increase in time on ice.
A couple of things stand out here. One is that we are seeing a lot of defensemen on this list. That could be for a number of reasons, which include coaches shortening the bench a bit because these games are do or die, line matching, or simply small sample sizes with more penalty kills etc. Defensemen also take up a disproportionate amount of the total time on ice (meaning they just play more), so their ability to have bigger shifts in total time is also baked into the equation. I did just want to briefly point out Ryan Ellis though. He has been a beast for Nashville the past couple of seasons, averaging more than 23 and a half minutes a night. In this round of the playoffs, he was just short of 27, about a two-minute increase from his playoff numbers of the last several years. All in all, this is just your now annual reminder not to sleep on Ellis.
The other thing that stands out on this list is just how many Toronto players are on it; Austin Matthews, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, and Justin Holl (?). I mean you certainly don't need me to tell you those are players to watch (with the possible exception of Holl), but the increase in time is impressive, it isn't like those guys were getting short shifted during the regular season.
Cody Eakin also makes this list, but for doing pretty Cody Eakin things (p.s. how many of you remembered he is on Winnipeg now?). The trade certainly had something to do with his increased ice time. He saw a pretty big bump up to a bit over 17 minutes a night, but it was mostly from the third line. He spent most of the time with Mathieu Perreault, with only minimal opportunity on the power play.
On the flip side, we have a number of players who lost time. Makes sense, all the gains above have to come at the expense of someone. Again, we have the same table as above, except the TOI Difference column is measuring lost time not gained time (so high numbers here are not a good thing).
We can definitely see who lost out when Matthews and co. upped their time on ice. Andreas Johnsson, Kyle Clifford, and Jake Muzzin lost big chunks of time. It does kind of beg the question as to what Toronto was doing with their lines. In fact, during their last game, they were running a top unit of Matthews, Tavares, and Marner. They were definitely putting it all on the line (but clearly it didn't work).
For the rest, we see a lot of lower-pairing defensemen and third line players. It definitely makes sense for teams to lean on their top players, but it does dampen enthusiasm a bit for guys like Calle Jarnkrok. He teases occasionally during the regular season, and particularly this year with the opportunity he was getting, but when he is buried with Auston Watson and Colton Sissons instead of opportunities with Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, or even Ryan Johansen for the games that really matter, it doesn't make me optimistic about his ability to keep those chances in the long term.
That is all for this week. Thanks for reading.
Stay safe out there.
Want more tool talk? Check out these recent Frozen Tool Forensics Posts.
No data at this moment.