Ramblings: Playoff Recap, Jacob Trouba, Calgary Goaltending (May 6)

by Michael Clifford on May 6, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Playoff Recap, Jacob Trouba, Calgary Goaltending (May 6)

Recapping the postseason games, Jacob Trouba in fantasy, penalty killing, Calgary, and more. 

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It was an incredibly fast-paced start to the game, with both teams getting their chances to score. Brent Burns would catch Pekka Rinne cheating, and score short side over the shoulder to tie the game 1-1 after Colin Wilson opened the scoring. Mike Fisher would score off a rebound to give the Preds the lead, and Nashville was rocking.

Nashville’s second goal, the Fisher rebound tally, was created by Roman Josi screaming through the neutral zone and setting up the initial shot on Martin Jones. Josi’s name will come up later in this Ramblings, and remember this play when it does:

The Sharks would tie the game in the second on a controversial power play goal. Joel Ward was clearly offside when the puck re-entered after a Forsberg turnover, but he tagged up just before Paul Martin entered, so the goal would stand. It caused quite the chaos in the stands, the broadcast, and on social media. In this GIF, you can see Ward getting to the blue line just before Martin enters, which was the reason the goal stood.

The Sharks took a 3-2 lead in the third on the power play, as a Burns shot looked to deflect off a Predators defenceman in front, and past Rinne. San Jose's PP has been absolutely lethal these playoffs, sitting over 27% (or 9/33) through last night. Teams would be wise not to give them the man advantage, which is much easier said than done. Neal tied the game with a little over four minutes left, and we were off to overtime. 

San Jose's Pavelski scored in OT, but the goal was immediately called off. It initially looked like he batted it in with his hand, but replays should he tapped the puck in beforehand. The no-goal call stood, though, due to his interfering with Rinne. Gaustad had given him a shove from behind right before he went into Rinne, so it was not an easy call to make. All I will say is I'm glad I didn't have to make the call on this play:

We would get our first triple overtime game of these playoffs, and it was ended by Mike Fisher after the Sharks failed to capitalize on Shea Weber's second overtime penalty. A rebound off an Ekholm shot was deflected to Fisher, who swept the puck around Jones, and the series is now knotted at two games each. 

Blues/Stars

A Dallas lost meant a chokehold on the series for the Blues. A Stars win would bring this series to a best-of-three. Dallas gutted out a win in St. Louis, winning 3-2 in overtime. It was an incredible game to watch for almost the entire contest. 

The Blues would open the scoring about mid-way through the first period, on Vladimir Tarasenko’s sixth goal of the playoffs. He was sent in all alone on a breakaway and sniped five-hole. It wouldn’t normally be a big deal except the Stars had six skaters on the ice, and no one noticed. None of those six skaters noticed Tarasenko, either, which seems like poor defence, but I’m not an NHL coach. This is the goal, and if you look closely, you can count the six white sweaters:

St. Louis seemed to be in cruise control through the second period, until Joel Edmundson put a breakout pass right on Radek Faksa’s stick, and he tied the game. A Blues penalty, and Dallas power play goal under 90 seconds later, turned this from a 1-0 Blues lead to a 2-1 Stars lead very quickly. The Edmundson pass was, let’s say, ill-advised:

Paul Stastny would tie things at two on the power play, and in a fitting manner, this pivotal Game 4 would be tied going into the third.

Dallas had their chances for the lead in the third period, but to no avail. A fairly even game, with the shots at 25-24 after regulation in favour of the Stars, would go to overtime.

It wouldn't take long as a 3-on-2 led to a Cody Eakin shot that was an absolute snipe over the short side shoulder of Brian Elliott. The Stars evened the series, and with Seguin skating, there may be good things on the horizon. 

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I will be keeping a very interested eye on the Calgary coaching search. Teams that rely on percentages, as Calgary has for years, tend to not have any sort of sustained success. Calgary certainly has not had sustained success.

I’m kind of excited to see what a coach can do with this roster. A blue line with Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton, and a forward group with Gaudreau, Monahan, Frolik, and Backlund is a very good core to build with. Of course, there are guys like Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, and Jakub Nakladal who can take a step forward, as well as some other decent pieces. Sure, the West is a very tough place to make the playoffs, but that Flames roster doesn’t really look much worse than Minnesota’s outside of goaltending.

That last point is what especially intrigues me. Every goalie the Flames had last year is a UFA save for Joni Ortio, who is an RFA. Not only does that clear about $11-million in cap space even if they bring back Ortio, but it opens up their options when it comes to a trade or free agency. James Reimer would be a great addition, as even a league-average goaltender could perform well fantasy-wise in a system that values puck possession over chip-and-chase. The Flames also have three second round picks this year (one of those is conditional from the Kris Russell trade, so they could have two first round picks), which means they could make a pitch for an RFA like Frederik Andersen.

There are reasons to be optimistic in Calgary for next year, presupposing they don’t hire a bad coach. Notably for us, their goaltenders may finally have some fantasy relevance. The Entry Draft, and ensuing free agency, will be of great interest to fantasy owners everywhere.  

Of course, if you’re on Team Entropy, or generally don’t like the Flames, throw a quarter into the wishing well that they hire Randy Carlyle. I’d like to see this team with a structured coach, but I do enjoy chaos, so…

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Now that Jacob Trouba has three years in the NHL, it’s a good time to really evaluate where he is as a player. Of course, this is with fantasy in mind, but on overview of the player to this point gives us an idea of what we’re dealing with here.

This past year wasn’t very good from a production standpoint. He had his lowest points/game mark, shots/game mark, and time on ice/game mark of his career. On top of that, his shots/60 minutes and points/60 minutes at five-on-five have decreased every year he’s been in the league. Initially, these aren’t good signs for a defenceman that looked to be one of the top up-and-coming blue liners just a couple of years ago.

Of course, there is a lot more than meets the eye here, and it’s worth digging deeper as to why last year was so bad for him. In this case, it’s prudent, in fact.

Trouba’s two most-common defence partners in his career have been Mark Stuart and Dustin Byfuglien. These have been the results for Winnipeg when Trouba is on the ice with either, or neither, of those two players, all at five-on-five (from Hockey Analysis):

 

With Byfuglien

(829:49 TOI)

Without Byfuglien

(2724:58 TOI)

With Stuart

(2050:26 TOI)

Without Stuart

(1504:21 TOI)

CorsiFor/60

62.69

56.94

56.68

60.46

CorsiAgainst/60

54.18

54.08

55.51

52.53

CorsiFor%

53.5%

51.3%

50.5%

53.5%

 

The Jets were a pretty good team with Byfuglien and Trouba together, or when Trouba was with anyone else but Stuart. That’s because Stuart is essentially a boat anchor on this team. Below, again from Hockey Analysis, is a list of Stuart’s 10 most-common line mates, forward or defence, over the last three years. The names in red boxes are the ones that perform better, possession-wise, away from Stuart.

Three names aren’t highlighted: two goalies (intentionally not highlighted, for obvious reasons), and Chris Thorburn. Every other player was at least two percent better possession-wise away from Stuart, some upwards of seven percent. To put a reference on the difference between, say, Blake Wheeler playing with Stuart and Wheeler playing away from him, in terms of how teams performed over the last three years: with Stuart and Wheeler on the ice together, the Jets were the Canucks, and when Wheeler was on the ice without Stuart, the Jets were Chicago.

It would be obvious to say that if Trouba wasn’t with Stuart, he was probably with Byfuglien, and that’s what drove up his numbers away from Stuart. Well, from Puckalytics SuperWOWY, Trouba was a 52-percent possession defenceman with any other partner except Stuart and Trouba. So, no, it’s not Trouba’s numbers being inflated by playing with a very good defenceman in Big Buff. It’s Trouba’s numbers being dragged down by Stuart.

Stuart has two years left on his deal, and there may not be (m)any shakeups to the defence corps next year. For that reason, I can’t imagine being optimistic about Trouba. He could gain some points on the power play and maybe with a bit of luck, crack 30 points. But I don’t see that true breakout season happening next year. Very few defencemen can be incredibly productive with a piano on their back, and asking a 22-year-old to do that is unreasonable. Unless we get some sort of confirmation in the preseason that Stuart won’t be anywhere near this roster, Trouba won’t be anywhere near my fantasy teams.

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Speaking of d-men, there was a very good article at Sportsnet posted by Dimitri Filipovic with regards to one special skill that the best d-men have: being able to transition the puck from defence to offence. Work done by Eric Tulsky – who is now working for the Carolina Hurricanes – showed four years ago, gaining the opposing blue line with control is paramount to generating offensive chances, and sustaining pressure. Of course, players can’t gain the opposing blue line with control without having it in the first place, so transitioning from defence to offence is the first step in the process. Mr. Filipovic’s work was done by tracking every game in the first round of the playoffs.

I recommend going through that article, and the enclosed tableau, thoroughly. There are the familiar names like Nick Leddy, John Klingberg, Drew Doughty, Keith Yandle, Roman Josi, Duncan Keith, and others. There are a lot of players, though, that had high exit success rates that may not immediately come to mind, like Florida’s Michael Matheson and Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon. Knowing which d-men can help transition effectively will often lead to fantasy production, and this is information I’m sure most fantasy owners will not be using.

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There were 27 goalies in each of the last two years that had at least 200 minutes of short-handed ice time. Of those 27 goalies in each of the two seasons, there were 17 goalies who appeared on both lists. This is how they fared by save percentage while on the penalty kill in both seasons:

 

2014-2015 PKSV%

2015-2016 PKSV%

Change

Andersen

.884

.883

-0.01

Bishop

.908

.910

0.02

Crawford

.884

.878

-0.06

Dubnyk

.903

.845

-0.58

Elliott

.883

.905

0.22

Fleury

.912

.877

-0.35

Holtby

.886

.878

-0.08

Lundqvist

.859

.850

-0.09

Luongo

.866

.859

-0.07

Mason

.846

.827

-0.19

Miller

.891

.870

-0.21

Niemi

.861

.852

-0.09

Quick

.859

.870

0.11

Rask

.870

.851

-0.19

Rinne

.861

.851

-0.10

Schneider

.893

.886

-0.07

Varlamov

.941

.864

-0.77

This was something I found incredibly interesting to look through. Of the 17 goalies that had at least 200 minutes played on the penalty kill, only three improved their penalty kill save percentage from 2014-2015 to this year.

A topic like this requires a lot more digging. It could be an anomaly, it could be statistical noise, or it could be the start of a trend. It is worth also noting that the league-wide success rate on the power play was 18.66-percent, the same as it was last year. That is what made this really interesting to me. I suspected that power plays would be getting more proficient – compared to most of the post-2005 lockout era, it was – but nothing changed from last year. Teams learning goaltending tendencies? Noise? I will dig further throughout the summer of course, but theories are very much welcome in the comments.

Some stats from Hockey Analysis, Hockey Reference, War On Ice, and Puckalytics. Cap information from Cap Friendly