Ramblings: Caps Advance; Leafs Force Game 7; Bill Peters; Chuck Fletcher – April 24

by Michael Clifford on April 24, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Caps Advance; Leafs Force Game 7; Bill Peters; Chuck Fletcher – April 24

We are going to get a Game 7 out of the first round thanks to Toronto’s 3-1 win last night over Boston. After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Leafs have evened things up and are one win away from their first series win since before the 2005 lockout.

Toronto, and Frederik Andersen more specifically, weathered the storm through the first half of the game and really locked things down in the second half. Kudos to the Leafs here; they went into a shell in Game 5 and were letting the Bruins shoot at will. They kept their foot on the pedal here and with a bit of luck, probably could have had a couple more goals.

Both Tomas Plekanec and Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist in this one with the former salting the game away with an empty-net goal. Plekanec has really showed up in this series for Toronto and it makes me wonder if they sign him as a free agent. Tyler Bozak probably isn’t getting another contract and Plekanec would fit in well as their third- or fourth-line centre.

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Washington closed out their series against Columbus with a 6-3 win in Game 6. Despite not starting the series in goal, Braden Holtby has largely played very well for the Capitals and that continued last night with 35 saves on 38 shots.

The back-breaker really came from Alex Ovechkin as he scored goals less than six minutes apart in the second period to make it 3-1. He finished the series with six goals in six games.

It’s tough for Columbus to lose in the first round again but with Artemi Panarin, the emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois, a dominant defence pair in Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, Sergei Bobrovsky in goal, and very nice ancillary pieces like Alex Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, and Boone Jenner, it seems a matter of time now. A good team with a lot of fantasy goodness to go around.

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The Calgary Flames announced former Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters will be their new bench boss for next season. Glen Gulutzan and his assistants were fired a week ago and Peters opted out of his contract with the Hurricanes. Now here we are.

You can read Dobber's fantasy slant on the hiring here

Calgary missed the playoffs but they still have a pretty good top-9 forward group and top-4 defence group. Well, maybe top-3. Either way, this is still a good roster. We’ll see what they do over the summer. I imagine at top-line right winger is in the cards. Maybe some depth on the blue line. Regardless, Peters is going to have the pieces of a postseason roster. Let’s see what he does with it.

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News from the Minnesota Wild:

Fletcher had been the general manager of the Minnesota Wild since 2009. He’s the one responsible for the contracts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, two players missing for parts, or all, of the playoffs this year due to injury.

Under his watch, the team had qualified for the playoffs in six consecutive seasons but had failed to move past the second round in any of them. The inability for his teams to manage deep playoff runs is undoubtedly the reason for his firing.

I’m curious to see what the Wild do here. They went heavy into analytics a couple years ago hiring both Alexandra Mandrycky and Andrew Thomas. Those names may be familiar to some because they were behind the site War On Ice, a favourite among many of the analytically-inclined until it was closed following their being hired. Hopefully they stick around because they’re both bright minds who can help this team down the road.

There is only so much that can be done in the near-term as the following players are signed through at least 2019-20: Parise, Suter, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Marcus Foligno, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Devan Dubnyk. Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba are pending RFAs, both of whom they should sign. That’s 12 players on the roster, most of them in the top-half, for the next two years. Unless significant trades are made, there’s not much to be done outside of filling out the bottom-half of the roster.

Since the start of the 2013 season, Minnesota, as a franchise, is third in the league in expected goal share at five-on-five. The rest of the top-5 includes San Jose, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh. They have clearly been one of the better teams in the league for a while but winning the Stanley Cup is hard (just ask San Jose).

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The review of the 2017-18 season continues. Last week I spent parts of my Ramblings discussing various aspects of productions from the blue line, including goal-scoring changes at different strengths and floors through shot generation/blocking.

These Ramblings will continue to discuss defencemen but the focus will be on the power play. Obviously, power-play production is a huge component of value for any skater but it’s especially true for defencemen; no forward among the top-10 in points was close to having half their production come with the man advantage (the closest was Sidney Crosby at 42.7 percent). Meanwhile Shayne Gostisbehere had over half his production come on the power play and Tyson Barrie had exactly half. Others like John Carlson were just under 50 percent.

Here are some stats that stood out to me among defencemen on the PP. I limited it to those with at least 100 PP mins (there were 71 of them). All data from Natural Stat Trick.

 

Shot Rate

I think the top-3 by shot attempts per minute may surprise a few: Shayne Gostisbehere, Roman Josi, and Colin Miller. Yes, Colin Miller took the third-most shot attempts of all defencemen with 100 power-play minutes.

Josi may be a surprising name because he’s never really been a shot monster. Guys like Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, and Dougie Hamilton are names we usually think of when it comes to shot volume. Josi, however, has averaged 3.2 shots per game in total over the last two seasons (it was 2.42 the three seasons prior).

On the power play, it was an anomalous season for Josi. For his career, he had never cracked the 25 attempts/60 minutes mark, and yet this year he was over 36. Initial guess: he was on the second PP unit for most of the season, away from shooters like Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. That will require further digging for another day. All the same, even spending much of the season on the second unit, he still managed 20 power-play points and his increased PP shot rate helped boost his overall shot totals.

As for Miller, he’s still not getting the respect he deserves across the league, be it by media or fans. His relative shot share at five-on-five is among the elite in the game since he entered the league:

Yes, I know that’s with favourable deployment in fewer minutes. All the same, he’s absolutely crushing the role he’s been given, and that’s what you want from your players.

He was given an expanded role with Vegas though a lot of it was allocated to the power play (and that’s just fine for fantasy purposes). He cracked the 40-point plateau, managed over two shots per game, and had a hefty hit total. A solid season all around.

I’m very bullish on Miller, as I was back in his Boston days. It’s fair to wonder if he gets an even larger role next year. He will still probably have to keep splitting power-play duties with Shea Theodore (among others), and maybe this team doesn’t score as much next year at five-on-five. Hopefully, an increase in ice time at five-on-five (he was sixth in this regard on the team’s blue line) can offset a potential decline in team scoring. If he keeps shooting like he has on the PP, though, his power-play point totals should be relatively stable.

Speaking of shot rates, Mikhail Sergachev finished ninth among all defencemen with 100 minutes of power-play time in this regard. He also finished ninth among all defencemen with 1000 minutes of ice time in five-on-five shot rate. His peripheral stats don’t look great because he just wasn’t given much ice time but it was a very impressive rookie campaign.

Sergachev’s short-term problem is that Victor Hedman is signed until I hit my mid-life crisis so getting those coveted top power-play minutes anytime soon is unlikely barring injury. As great as his season was, until he gets those minutes, his upside his capped, even with additional 5v5 minutes. All the same, a productive first season on the PP blue line.

 

Shattenkirk’s Weird Season

Shattenkirk had a weird season, short through it was. Out of those 71 defencemen with 100 power-play minutes, he was first in primary assists per 60 minutes. That’s good! He was also 66th in secondary assists per 60 minutes, which is the weird part.

Of course, that secondary assist rate won’t maintain next year given what we know about their randomness. But that primary assist rate is a pretty good reminder that Shattenkirk is still a top-tier puck-moving defenceman. I wonder if with the Rangers going through their “rebuild” and Shatty coming off a season shortened by injury if he’ll be at a huge discount at the draft table in September.

 

Morgan Rielly

Speaking of secondary assists, Rielly led all defencemen by a considerable margin. His rate of 5.73 per 60 minutes was 2.03 assists/60 minutes higher than the next-highest blue liner (Dustin Byfuglien at 3.70). The gap between Rielly and Byfuglien was similar to the gap between Byfuglien and 40th-place Noah Hanifin at 1.68. Rielly had 16 secondary power-play assists in 2017-18; he had 18 for his career before this season.

Toronto obviously has a lot of talent but don’t forget that they still split power-play minutes between two groups; there was eight seconds of difference in PPTOI/game between Rielly and Jake Gardiner. That secondary assist rate is going to crash next year. It’s not to say he can’t be productive again with the man advantage but expecting him to cruise past 20 PPPs again is misguided.