(Note: This was written before TB's game vs. FLA.)
Oh man. Was sitting around last night. Doing a lot of sitting. Sittin’ and starin’. Starin’ at NHL standings. <sigh>. Even though the Sharks picked up a couple points along the way, man, *7* losses. Starin’ at streaks. <sigh>. Friends in commiseration? Oh, look at you, Tampa Bay...
In one of the previews during the losing streak, SBN's Raw Charge cited two reasons for the streak and one reason to keep calm. Reasons for streak: crap puck possession, not great conditioning/stamina. Reason to keep calm: long-term view (read: big picture).
I wondered if any of this was true. Did TB have crap puck possession so far in 2012-2013? How do they compare with San Jose’s? If folks over at Raw Charge are telling people to take a deep breath given these figures, should we? Are the numbers giving delusions of grandeur? And if so, why... are... they... DOING... THIS?!
<sigh>. Ok, numbers. Talk to me.
Now, first some context. Remember 2010-2011, when TB pushed Boston to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals? No. Well, you should. They were good! Here's (via behindthenet) their Fenwick numbers for that regular season (103 points, 5th in the East):
Pretty dang solid. FenwickClose% was 3rd in the league (behind... that’s right, you guessed ‘em: SJS and CHI). 2010-2011 5v5 numbers? Yup, here dey at:
About right. So this means that in most hockey play (non-special teams), TB was *good* in 2010-2011. Over the course of that season, TB had good puck possession and not driven by a hot goalie or inflated SH%. It means that if there is a difference between the numbers then and the numbers now, this is evidence that something is fundamentally wrong with the team (given the similar cast of characters).
So, what’s 2012-2013 look like for TB, and how do they compare to the Sharks’ numbers?
Oh, man. FenwickClose, FenwickDown1, FenwickTied. 10% difference between the teams, and a severe drop from 2010-2011 figures. Oh, man. You guys. Look at them. Look at those numbers. Man. If San Jose has these numbers, I’d defini--
(Dodging stuff from Tampa Bay.)
Ok, ok. How about 5v5 play?
This doesn’t look so bad. Shots For rate/60 minutes are about even. Goals For rate/60 minutes is great! Indeed, TB is +0.8 on goal differential. Problem is, they are giving up a lot of shots, and consequently more goals. Fenwick agrees. The real question here is something only someone following TB would be able to answer: has the identity (and strategy) of the team shifted from puck possession-cycle to firewagon-style hockey?
(Note: It is confusing that TB appears to have an even number of Shots For rate, a higher Goals For rate, and yet a lower Shooting%. I would speculate that this is because bedhindthenet Shooting% is Goals / (SOG + Missed Shots), and Shots For counts SOGs only. Indeed, this would mean that not only are they getting out-SOGged, they are giving up a lot of pucks toward the net in general, which Fenwick numbers would corroborate. But someone correct me if I’m doing it wrong. Which... probably.)
Bottom line: two points. First, let me assure Bolts fans that I’m not trollin’. I mean, you guys have a Cup for crissake. But even though you have scored the most goals overall in the league (via espn), if San Jose had your underlying figures, well, I’d be worried. This is probably because the Sharks aren’t built to be a firewagon hockey team. Their identity is to push when possible, but usually the objective is to play good entries, possess the puck in the offensive zone, and get puck at the net/into the slot from the point or in deep. Now, if you’re cool with firewagon hockey, as opposed to possess-and-cycle hockey, then the TB numbers might be fine with you. It just seems weird to be cool with that since in 2010-2011, TB was possessing the shit out of the puck.
Second. Now I’m not trying to hide behind numbers (Panic Button stirs from slumber). SJ’s lack of goals (Panic Button creeps out of closet) in 5v5 play unfort(Panic Button saunters over to the desk)unately has led to some significant worrying (Panic Button looks up at me) given the two tough road games coming up (press me, press--
Me: Listen, PB. I’m not ready for you yet. Please go away.
PB: Ok, man. Fair enough. <pause>. Does looking at the numbers help?
Me: Sortof. I think if I were TB I might be more into you, but I’m not just not there yet. Fenwick numbers still 10% above TB’s, you know. If those guys are still hopeful, why shouldn’t we? I still think everything is going to be ok once the D-men play together more and things get in sync.
PB: Hmm. Interesting. <pause>. Ever think the numbers are just deluding you?
Me: What? No. No way. That’s just crazy talk. You’re talking crazy. I’m writing this fanpost, you know, to get some of this out there, you know--and then people will agree, you’ll see. I mean c’mon, look at Tampa’s numbers. We got better numbers, we’re good. It’s all good. Really. I’m not even going to look at FTF until Tuesday. Seriously. Really. Really seriously.
PB: Ok, well, just remember, I’ll be right here by your desk. Don’t let me distract you. <pause>. Maybe see you Tuesday night, then?
Me: You just shut your mouth.
PB: You seem wound up. Maybe you should lay off the Fanpost-ing?
Me: I will drop-kick you into next week--
PB: Ok, Friday. Friday it is.