VANCOUVER, CANADA - JANUARY 21: Logan Couture #39 celebrates with Patrick Marleau #12 and Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in NHL action on January 21, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
As most of you probably know by now, I've been tracking Sharks scoring chances this season, both here on Fear the Fin and previously at The Neutral. For an in-depth review of what constitutes a scoring chance, please see this post from about a month ago (the most pertinent stuff, including a diagram of the scoring chance area, is right after the jump). Since it's only been 16 games since the last roundup, I won't inundate everyone with a complete breakdown of the numbers but seeing as there's some downtime here during the All-Star break, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at zonestart-adjusted scoring chances for individual players.
Obviously, not every player in the league starts an equal percentage of their shifts in the offensive and defensive zones. Coaches make strategic decisions based on players' strengths and weaknesses, as well as the overall composition of their rosters, to shelter some players with more shifts in the opponent's end of the ice and rely on others in a defensive role, most frequently sending those players over the boards to take care of business in their own end. The most extreme example of zonestart distribution happens in Vancouver, where Henrik and Daniel Sedin have begun 79% of their EV shifts in the offensive zone this season while former Shark Manny Malhotra allows them to do so by starting a ridiculously low 13% of his own shifts in the opponent's end of the ice.
While Todd McLellan doesn't take as extreme an approach to zonestarts as Alain Vigneault, it's still imperative to contextualize data like scoring chances, Corsi or Fenwick at the individual player level by correcting for the advantages that come with starting a large number of shifts in the offensive zone as well as the inherent disadvantage facing a player who begins the majority of his shifts with a defensive zone draw. Thanks to the great George Ays, we can do that for the Sharks' even strength chance numbers this season. George, who tracks Rangers chances, was able to conclude that each additional shift a player begins in the offensive zone at even strength is worth 0.425 scoring chances. Coming up, we'll take a look at how the Sharks' forwards and defensemen have performed with regards to EV scoring chances this season by adjusting for zonestarts.
||Adj. SCF/15||Adj. SCA/15||Adj. SC +/-/15||QoC|
SCF = Total Sharks scoring chances that have occurred when player has been on the ice at even strength; SCA = Total opponent scoring chances that have occurred when player has been on ice at even strength; ZSD = Shifts player has started in the offensive zone at even strength subtracted from shifts player has started in the defensive zone at even strength; Adj. SCF% = [SCF + (0.425*ZSD)]/[(SCF + (0.425*ZSD)) + SCA]; Adj. SCF/15 = SCF per 15 minutes of even strength ice time; Adj. SCA/15 = SCA per 15 minutes of even strength ice time; Adj. SC+/-/15 = Adj. SCF/15 - Adj. SCA/15; QoC = Rank, from 1-13, of average Relative Corsi of opponents player has faced at even strength weighted by head-to-head ice time, courtesy of behindthenet.ca
As most of us who have paid close attention to the team this season recognize, the top line (or at least the three players who have most frequently comprised the top line) has been more than pulling their weight all year long, regardless of the fact that the puck hasn't gone in for them on a consistent basis, especially as of late. It's a really safe bet that will change. Joe Pavelski in particular is just having a monstrous season. It isn't extremely wise to compare quality of competition metrics across teams due to differences in schedule and other anomalies, but I'll do it anyway; among players who have appeared in at least 20 games this season, only Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross of the Flames have faced tougher competition on aggregate than Pavelski, who has also begun more shifts in the defensive zone than any other Sharks forward and third-most on the team overall behind just Vlasic and Boyle, and yet 58% of all EV scoring chances he's been on the ice for have been generated by the Sharks. Two questions immediately come to mind: first, what the hell is Brent Sutter doing in Calgary? And, more importantly, can we just hand Pavelski the Selke Trophy already?
The fourth line has been excellent as well, which is a huge turnaround from the possession black holes that Ben Eager, Scott Nichol and Jamal Mayers were a season ago as Jason pointed out in his terrific post on Thursday. Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue examined the effectiveness of fourth lines around the league a little while back and the Sharks' trio came out looking quite good, which is further validated by their chance ratios. Todd McLellan deserves a hat tip for their success as he's done a great job ensuring they're pretty much exclusively on the ice against opposing fourth lines, who they've feasted on.
No, the issues with the Sharks' forward corps this season lie squarely on the shoulders of the middle half of the roster. First of all, it bears noting that Logan Couture has been better than his chance ratio would indicate as a rough spate of games recently, not the least of which was the Windy City Fiasco that resulted in a -8 EV scoring chance rating for Couture, have sunk his totals that were consistently in the 0.525-0.535 range (even after adjusting for zone starts) for the first 35 or so games and, as you can see, has faced tough competition despite being sheltered a bit in terms of starting position. The third line, meanwhile, have been spiraling downward for quite a while now as Jamie McGinn, Michal Handzus and Torrey Mitchell are all well underwater by the chances over the past 15 games with ratios over that span of 0.436, 0.456 and 0.473, respectively. With Pavelski and Joe Thornton taking on the toughs, it really opens up room for the third line to make a killing playing against some of the least talented players on opposing rosters. Unfortunately, that just hasn't panned out. As we inch closer to the February 28 trade deadline, adding a piece or two to the third line should be a priority for Doug Wilson. In addition, of course, to hoping that Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat return from injury performing at a higher level than they were prior to their placement on IR, an expectation that probably isn't too unrealistic given their performances in past seasons.
|Player||SCF||SCA||ZSD||Adj. SCF%||Adj. SCF/15||Adj. SCA/15||Adj. SC+/-/15||QoC|
What's left to say about how Vlasic has played this season? As awesome as Pavelski has been, Pickles would get my vote for first-half MVP. No Shark has started more EV shifts in his own zone and no Sharks defenseman has faced tougher competition. The chance numbers tell the story of what Vlasic has done in what would be, for the vast majority of NHLers, insurmountably difficult minutes.
As you can see, Brent Burns has benefited from a fair amount of sheltering but still comes out looking awesome in the adjusted numbers. At the other end of the spectrum, Jason Demers has just had a rough go of it all season long. He's been paired with Burns, Colin White, Jim Vandermeer and Justin Braun at different times this season but has invariably hemorrhaged chances against playing alongside all of them. A Demers turnaround in the second half would go a long way to giving the Sharks the excellent third pairing preseason prognosticators were clamoring about when discussing this team. Frankly, I'm not holding out much hope for that.
|Player||SCF||SCA||ZSD||Adj. SCF%||Adj. SCF/15||Adj. SCA/15||Adj. SC+/-/15|
Although I said I wasn't going to get into a breakdown of the numbers, it's certainly worth mentioning the Sharks have overall, on the season, recorded 598 EV scoring chances and given up 509, for an SCF% of 54.0%. This is slightly higher than their Fenwick% on the season of 53.3% and slightly lower than their EV Goal% (excluding empty netters) of 54.4%.