SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 28: Joe Thornton #19, Brent Burns #88 Dan Boyle #22, Patrick Marleau #12 and Joe Pavelski #8 celebrates after Thornton scored a goal against the Vancouver Canucks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 28, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
As some of you may know if you've been reading a few of the recent FanPosts or caught my previous scoring chance roundup article, I'm Derek and I've been tracking scoring chances for every Sharks game this season at The Neutral. As a lifelong Sharks fan and someone very interested in the statistical analysis of the sport, joining the Scoring Chance Project as its San Jose chapter in order to do my small part in furthering the burgeoning field of hockey sabermetrics was a no-brainer. Jason and the rest of the phenomenal staff here at Fear the Fin were gracious enough to welcome me aboard to share the data I've collected as well as to take a few extra shifts wherever else I'm needed.
The goal of tracking scoring chances is straightforward. While goal differential, especially in the short term, can often be driven by things outside of a team's control, scoring chance differential attempts to provide a clearer representation of a team's ability. It does that on both a game-by-game basis and over the course of the season by examining the rate at which a team registered more (or fewer) quality shots than their opponents instead of merely focusing on the pucks that went in. It's a tool coaches have been using for ages, as evidenced on the last episode of "24/7" when Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette was irate after the Flyers were outchanced 7-1 in the second period of a game against the Avalanche.
Unfortunately, neither individual teams nor the league release their scoring chance data for public consumption. The online community has combated this issue as several bloggers watch their home team's games closely and note the times at which high-quality opportunities occur for either team. The fantastic Vic Ferrari's chance-recording script deciphers which players were on the ice for every chance and breaks it down by game state as well as providing individual plus-minus numbers. In this post, I'll review the chance data I've collected for the Sharks through three months and 34 games of the 2011-12 NHL season.
As a review, 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."
Overall Sharks scoring chances
|Total SCF||Total SCA||Total SCF%||ES SCF||ES SCA||ES SCF%||PP SCF||SH SCA||SH SCF||PK SCA|
SCF and SCA signify 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.
- San Jose's SCF% at even strength has actually improved by about 1.1% since I last compiled a chance roundup 13 games ago. At 55.01% it's only a shade lower than the Sharks' Goal% at even strength this season of 56.66% and a bit higher than their Fenwick% (percentage of all even-strength shots and missed shots taken by either team during Sharks games that have gone in San Jose's favor) of 53.2%.
- The Sharks have spent 202:06 on the power play so far this season and generated 150 scoring chances in that span, meaning the team has averaged about 1.48 scoring chances for every 2 minutes of time with the man advantage. In what should come as no surprise to followers of the Sharks, as good as San Jose is on the PP is as poor as they have been shorthanded. In 171:30 of penalty killing this season, the Sharks have allowed an average of 1.41 scoring chances against per 2 minutes on shorthanded. Thankfully for the Sharks, they're on the power play a lot more often than they're killing penalties.
- If the Sharks had won every game this season in which they outchanced their opponent, lost every game in which they were outchanced and "tied" every game in which they recorded the same number of chances as their opponent, their record would be 23-10-1 for 47 points and a 113-point pace over 82 games compared to their actual record of 19-11-4 for 42 points and a 101-point pace.
Individual forward on-ice even-strength scoring chances
|Player||ES SCF||ES SCA
||ES SCF%||QoC Rank
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 behindthenet.ca, is each Sharks forward's rank from 1-14 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 (for example, Logan Couture has started 131 shifts in the defensive zone and 165 in the offensive zone so he's -34 by this measure). And, finally, Adj. +/-, which this table is sorted by, takes each player's raw scoring chance +/- and adds 0.425 for each additional shift they began in the defensive zone, estimated by George Ays to be the value in scoring chances of each offensive zone start.
- Torrey Mitchell certainly sticks out like a sore thumb near the top of the zonestart-adjusted +/- rankings but one thing to keep in mind that his totals are boosted quite a bit by the fact that he was +22 for scoring chances in three games earlier in the year (he, Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn went an inexplicable 13-0 in chances in two games against Phoenix while Mitchell posted a ridiculous 10-1 chance differential in an early-season game against the Blues). Mitchell's even-strength SCF% over the last 14 games is 51.7%.
- And, of course, we have Martin Havlat likely raising eyebrows by ranking dead last here. It's been a tough season for one of the Sharks' prized offseason acquisitions who now occupies the injured reserve list. Unlike Mitchell's clear trend downward, Havlat wasn't markedly improving in his last stretch of games. In his ten games prior to the unfortunate injury, Havlat's SCF% was 48.65%.
Individual defenseman on-ice even-strength scoring chances
|Player||ES SCF||ES SCA||ES SCF%||QoC Rank||SCF/15||SCA/15||ZSD||Adj. +/-|
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been phenomenal this season by nearly any measure and comes out sparkling in this table. Despite starting 20 more shifts in his own end than the opponent's -- more than any other Sharks forward or defenseman -- 57.7% of the scoring chances that have occurred when Vlasic has been on the ice have gone in the Sharks' favor. If defensemen who don't put up a boatload of points had any shot at winning the Norris Trophy, you'd have to think Vlasic would be an early favorite.
- It's been a disappointing year so far for Jason Demers. It's almost been easy to forget that just seven months ago he was a top four defenseman on a Western Conference Finalist (of course, an injury prevented him from appearing in that conference finals series but that's not the point!). Demers has been better as of late, though, with 56 SCF/65 SCA at even strength in his last 14 games for a 46.3% SCF percentage.
- Brent Burns is getting somewhat sheltered ice time what with all those offensive zone starts but he's undeniably making the most of it. His offensive production thus far has probably been somewhat of a disappointment to most but expect his even strength point total to increase as long as he keeps creating scoring chances at his current staggering rate.
- I think the difference between what I've seen out of Dan Boyle this season and his actual chance numbers is the greatest discrepancy between perception and reality I've experienced with any Shark in my few months of doing this. Boyle was a neutral zone turnover machine for a while there and appeared to be guilty of multiple poor defensive reads a night yet generally came out on the positive end chances-wise. To his credit, Boyle has improved lately, both in my subjective opinion and by the chances (58.82 SCF% over his last 14). I think a lot of it has to do with having Vlasic as a regular partner.
Individual on-ice power play chances for
|Player||PP TOI||PP SCF||PP SCF/2|
This table is 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. Not much in the way of unexpected results here I would think, although the disparity between the first and second unit is really illustrated. Justin Braun also appears to be deserving of more power play ice time than he's currently receiving. It's always a confusing experience for me when Vlasic sees time a man up during games in which Braun, Demers, Boyle and Burns are all dressed.
Individual on-ice shorthanded chances against
|Player||SH TOI||SH SCA||SH SCA/2|
- Vlasic's name has been all over this post but with good reason. The penalty kill is another area in which Pickles has outright excelled this season despite the fact that it hasn't at all been the Sharks' strong suit.
- Since the other tables make Havlat look terrible, it's only fair that I point out his effectiveness shorthanded this season. Both by eye and based on the chance data, he and Couture have been the Sharks' best semi-regular PK tandem although they aren't facing opposing top units with regularity. Perhaps McLellan should attempt using them in that role; it isn't like he has a lot to lose with how the Sharks have played down a man this season.
Player-attributed scoring chances
- There isn't a ton to dissect here as the usual suspects are near the top of this list but Jamie McGinn's performance this season in terms of registering chances is somewhat intriguing. McGinn averaged 0.9 chances a game through 21 contests this year, scoring two goals in that span. He's averaged 1.29 chances a game in the 13 he's played since and has lit the lamp six times. So while McGinn's recent hot streak is obviously somewhat unsustainable, it's also at least somewhat the result of playing improved hockey as the Sharks forward has averaged 43% more scoring chances per game.
I'll be FanPosting game-by-game scoring chance summaries here on Fear the Fin from now on if you're interested. Hopefully that was at least a somewhat informative read. Suggestions and questions are more than welcome; please get at me in the comments and thanks for reading.