Scoring Chance Roundup: Games 1-21

Editors Note: Derek has been tracking scoring chances for each San Jose game throughout the season on his blog "The Neutral". It's a great read and we'll be featuring some of his pieces here at Fear the Fin. Enjoy!

As part of the Scoring Chance Project, I've been tracking scoring chances for the Sharks on a game-by-game basis this season over at The Neutral. With the Sharks set to begin their third month of action tomorrow evening against Montreal, now seemed like an appropriate time for me to share the results of the project so far with the Fear the Fin community.

First of all, the purpose of the project is to provide additional data about how the team as a whole, as well as individual players, performed in both single games and, eventually, over the course of the entire season. As we know, the final score can sometimes fail to tell the entire story. Teams can dominate their opponents only to end up losing the game due to a bounce or two going against them. That's hockey and it's why the advanced stats crowd in the sport have long been proponents of metrics like Corsi and Fenwick which evaluate teams based on shot differential instead of goal differential.

The most common criticism of those numbers is that they ignore the quality of shots that teams are taking. Tracking scoring chances is a way of verifying claims about an individual team's propensity for registering or allowing high quality shots as well as determining which players are most effective at generating and suppressing these chances. Another frequent retort to hockey sabermetrics is that those in support of them should try "watching the game" and, of course, all the data I've collected here is from watching Sharks games this season and using the incomparable Vic Ferrari's chance-counting script.

Scoring chance zone

I should probably start with a concrete definition of what a "scoring chance" is. A scoring chance is recorded when a player on either team directs a shot towards the net from the "home plate" area seen here, courtesy of Flames Nation:


Missed shots count but blocked shots do not (here's why). The area closely resembles this heat map by Ken Krzywicki via Russian Machine Never Breaks that details the likelihood of a shot directed at the net from a certain location on the ice ending up in the back of the net. I'm sometimes more generous in recording a shot as a chance if it's the result of a series of cross-ice passes that presumably force the goaltender to move laterally. When a chance is recorded, every player on the ice whose team the chance was in favor of is attributed a "chance for" while the players on the other team are given a "chance against."

Obviously not every scoring chance results in a goal but also not every goal is considered a scoring chance. Bobby Ryan putting the puck in his own net on this play was entertaining but wasn't counted as a chance. Neither was Joe Thornton banking the puck in off Jonathan Quick's glove from behind the net. None of the Canucks' three goals in their recent visit to San Jose were recorded as scoring chances either, all of them coming from outside the designated area.

Overall Sharks scoring chances

388 307 55.83% 262 224 53.90% 118 4 8 78

Definitions are probably in order here. SCF and SCA stand for scoring chances for and scoring chances against, respectively, which are then broken down by game state including even strength, power play and penalty kill with SH SCA representing chances recorded by penalty killers against the Sharks' power play and SH SCF the chances Sharks penalty killers recorded during the opponent's power play.

  • SCF% is the percentage of chances for either team during Sharks games that have gone in San Jose's favor. The Sharks' SCF% at even-strength so far this season (53.9%) is actually higher than their Fenwick% (percentage of even-strength shots and missed shots for either team during Sharks games that have gone in SJ's favor) of 51.58% but lower than their ES Goal% of 56.93%. It'll be interesting to see whether the Sharks' Fenwick% and ES SCF% converge as the season continues and which one does a better job of predicting their ES Goal% the rest of the way.
  • San Jose has spent 108:24 on the penalty kill so far this season (significantly less than any other team, although a lot of that is the fact that the Sharks have played fewer games than every other team) meaning that they're allowing about 1.44 scoring chances against for every two minutes of shorthanded ice time so far.
  • On the other side of the special teams coin, the Sharks have spent 132:18 on the power play so far this season and are generating an average of 1.78 scoring chances for every two minutes they've been on the man advantage.

Individual forward on-ice even-strength scoring chances

P. MARLEAU 323:48 98 78 55.68% 2 4.54 3.61 +4
J. THORNTON 322:11 91 77 54.26% 3 4.24 3.58 +6
J. PAVELSKI 321:25 90 78 53.57% 1 4.20 3.64 +1
R. CLOWE 314:44 91 74 55.15% 5 4.34 3.53 -21
L. COUTURE 302:16 84 75 52.83% 4 4.17 3.72 -17
M. HANDZUS 249:45 51 45 53.13% 11 3.06 2.70 +21
M. HAVLAT 245:21 58 66 46.77% 9 3.55 4.03 -18
J. MCGINN 224:21 50 37 57.47% 10 3.34 2.47 -1
T. MITCHELL 210:37 63 34 65.55% 6 4.49 2.42 +1
Forward average 203:29 52.4 43.7 54.52% N/A 3.50 3.21 -4
A. MURRAY 158:25 32 21 60.34% 13 3.03 1.98 -21
B. WINCHESTER 154:27 26 25 51.00% 14 2.53 2.43 -9
A. DESJARDINS 143:25 33 24 57.89% 12 3.45 2.51 -10
B. FERRIERO 41:19 9 11 45.00% 8 3.27 3.99 +7
F. MCLAREN 4:35 0 1 0.00% 15 0.00 3.27 +3

Time for more defintions. ES SCF and ES SCA refer to the number of scoring chances that went for and against the Sharks, respectively, in even-strength situations when each player was on the ice. QoC Rank, courtesy of the indispensable, is each Sharks forward's rank from 1-15 of the average Relative Corsi of opponents that player faced, weighted by head-to-head ice time. In English, it's a barometer of how good the opposing players each Sharks forward faced generally were. SCF/15 and SCA/15 are the on-ice chances for and against that each San Jose forward averaged per 15 minutes of even-strength ice time. ZSD is the number of times each individual forward has started a shift in the offensive zone this season subtracted from the number of times that forward has started a shift in the defensive zone. More on that one later.

  • I can't seem to figure out how to make these tables sortable so I just listed the players in order of even-strength ice time.
  • The top four Sharks forwards in raw SCF% should be extremely surprising to most as Torrey Mitchell, Andrew Murray, Andrew Desjardins and Jamie McGinn lead the way in that category but as you can see all of them apart from Mitchell have started more shifts in the offensive zone than their own end with Desjardins and Murray doing so against the opposing team's worst players night in and night out. I'll correct for that later.
  • San Jose's on-again, off-again top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski all look fantastic here. Despite starting about an even number of shifts in the offensive and defensive zones and consistently playing against the opposition's best, all three have SCF%s firmly in the black with Marleau leading the team's offense even after normalizing for ice time which hurts Patty the most since no other Sharks forward plays as much as he does at even strength.
  • Handzus looks good by these numbers. He hasn't generated much in terms of chances but he seems to be living up to his resume as a reliable defensive center with one of the lowest SCA/15 ratings on the team despite starting 21 more shifts in the defensive zone than he has in the opponent's end. Of course, it should be noted that he isn't exactly facing Datsyuk and Henrik Sedin every night as McLellan prefers to go strength-on-strength with his line matching.

So obviously the fact that players like Desjardins and A. Murray are near the top of the list in SCF% is going to raise a few eyebrows although it's at least comforting to know that the fourth line is not an area of concern for the Sharks. Thanks to George Ays who tracks chances for the New York Rangers, there's a way of adjusting players' scoring chance numbers so that players aren't excessively rewarded or penalized for favorable or unfavorable zone starts. Using scoring chance data from last season, Ays was able to estimate that each additional start in the offensive zone was worth about 0.425 scoring chances. For example, Andrew Murray has been on the ice for 32 chances for and 21 against for a SCF +/- of 9. But he's also started 21 more shifts in the offensive zone than his own end, so 9+(0.425*-21) gives us an adjusted +/- of 2.075. So by correcting each player's raw SCF +/- using this information, we get a table that looks like this:

Player Adjusted SCF +/-
T. MITCHELL 29.425
M. HANDZUS 14.925
J. MCGINN 12.575
J. PAVELSKI 12.425
R. CLOWE 8.075
A. MURRAY 2.075
L. COUTURE 1.775
F. MCLAREN 0.275
T. WINGELS -2.975
M. HAVLAT -15.65

That looks a lot more reasonable although there's still a lot of interesting and unexpected stuff to parse through, not the least of which is the fact that Torrey Mitchell still leads the team's forwards in scoring chance differential. He isn't exactly known as an offensive weapon (unless tacos are on the line, apparently). Some of that is the fact that Mitchell has had the good fortune to play with Clowe and Marleau recently but it isn't just luck; Mitchell's speed and forechecking ability, though far from consistent, have been the direct cause of a lot of those chances. I wouldn't expect Torrey to stay atop the team in this category for much longer, just as I wouldn't expect Havlat to remain in the basement, but kudos to a great first quarter for #17 as the coaching staff's decision to trust him with second line minutes when looking to spread out the offense by moving Havlat to the third unit appears to have been more than justified.

Individual defenseman on-ice even-strength scoring chances

Player ES TOI ES SCF ES SCA ES SCF% QoC Rank SCF/15 SCA/15 ZSD Adj. +/-
D. BOYLE 389:42 105 94 52.76% 2 4.04 3.62 -11 6.325
M. VLASIC 385:25 112 82 57.73% 3 4.36 3.19 +9 33.825
D. MURRAY 360:53 85 83 50.65% 1 3.53 3.45 +19 10.075
B. BURNS 345:50 106 94 62.35% 4 4.60 4.07 -19 4.35
Defenseman average 256:75 65.5 59.9 55.15% N/A 3.55 3.41 -4.25 3.82
C. WHITE 185:24 45 36 55.55% 5 3.64 2.91 -17 1.775
J. DEMERS 154:13 24 50 32.43% 6 2.33 4.86 -5 -28.125
J. BRAUN 134:02 30 22 57.72% 7 3.36 2.46 -6 5.45
J. VANDERMEER 98:28 17 18 48.57% 8 2.59 2.74 -5 -3.125

I included the zone start-adjusted +/- in the final column for the d-men. I would think this list is a lot less surprising for most Sharks fans than the forward summary.

  • Even ignoring his recent scoring binge, I think it's fair to say most Sharks fans or people who have paid any attention to the team this season will agree that Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been the team's most important blueliner and his adjusted scoring chance +/- (or even his raw SCF%, for that matter) emphatically agrees.
  • Burns' results are very impressive but he has been sheltered to a fairly substantial degree. I would predict that to change as the season continues with the coaching staff having become less and less reliant on Murray/Boyle as the premier shutdown pairing over the last little while.
  • By eye, Vandermeer has looked better in his brief stretch of games than White has this season although the scoring chance numbers tell a different story. It'll be interesting to keep an eye on the comparison between the two as the season progresses.
  • And speaking of similar-style (and aged) defensemen, Braun appears to have lost the battle with Demers, having been sent back down to Worcester yesterday afternoon. Demers' season has been a disaster so far but after showing so much promise last season I highly doubt his sub-40% SCF percentage will sustain much longer.

Individual on-ice power play chances for

P. MARLEAU 78:01 83 2.13
J. PAVELSKI 77:03 80 2.07
J. THORNTON 80:48 83 2.05
D. BOYLE 108:33 100 1.84
B. BURNS 86:30 76 1.75
J. BRAUN 26:34 23 1.73
J. DEMERS 27:02 19 1.40
R. CLOWE 53:16 35 1.31
L. COUTURE 55:26 33 1.19
M. HANDZUS 10:41 6 1.12
M. HAVLAT 43:35 21 0.96

This one's sorted by PP SCF/2, which is the same idea as SCF/15 but tracking power play chances for every 2 minutes of time with the man advantage instead of even-strength chances per 15.

Individual on-ice shorthanded chances against

J. PAVELSKI 40:40 22 -1.08
A. MURRAY 14:20 8 -1.11
J. THORNTON 35:01 21 -1.19
M. VLASIC 61:36 37 -1.20
M. HAVLAT 13:13 8 -1.21
B. BURNS 26:34 30 -1.25
D. MURRAY 43:32 29 -1.33
D. BOYLE 35:36 24 -1.34
T. MITCHELL 15:06 11 -1.45
P. MARLEAU 29:19 22 -1.50
C. WHITE 18:00 14 -1.55
M. HANDZUS 39:30 31 -1.56
L. COUTURE 21:33 17 -1.57

  • In case you weren't sufficiently convinced of Vlasic's awesomeness so far this season by his even-strength numbers, consider this: Pickles has spent 18 more minutes on the penalty kill this year than second-place SH TOI leader Douglas Murray.
  • Marleau and Handzus certainly aren't flattered by these numbers but it's also important to keep in mind that each of them has spent a considerable amount of time against opposing top units.

Player-attributed scoring chances

Player Ind. Chances

  • Apologies for the confusingly-worded title; these numbers are just the amount of scoring chances each player has individually taken. Not included in this data is Game 1 against Phoenix for which I forgot to record individual chances.

I don't know how many people actually made it through all of that but, if you did, I hope you found the data useful. I'm planning on continuing to track chances at least through the end of the season so feel free to stop by The Neutral to check out the game-by-game numbers which I usually update fairly soon after the final horn. If you have any questions or suggestions by all means drop me a line in the comments. Thanks for reading.

This item was created by a member of this blog's community and is not necessarily endorsed by Fear The Fin.

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