Failing to score on six power play opportunities raises questions, no matter your pedigree. The Sharks entered Thursday’s game against the Blues with the 12th best power play percentage in the NHL but gave their rate a serious dent by failing to get a puck past Jake Allen while up a player.
A few weeks ago I said it wasn’t time to panic about the Sharks’ power play. It’s still not time to “panic,” because ... well, it’s never time to panic. Semantics aside, a one game sample size (yes, even one with six power plays) isn’t a reason to make wholesale changes.
Besides, power play rate is an objectively bad stat. I frankly should stop using it altogether, but even nerds who live in their parents’ basements get stuck in bad stat using habits. Exhibit A: the Sharks sixth power play only lasted 55 seconds but will count the same as every other power play they went on last night. That doesn’t make any sense.
So let’s use something better. How about expected goals per 60 minutes? I know, this stat seems scary because we can’t easily calculate it by just watching the games but hang with me — I think you’ll like it. I’m using the model developed by Emmanuel Perry because it’s good and because his website, corsica.hockey is my favorite for advanced stats. Here’s his intro. I know it’s long — so here’s the gist:
Here’s what my model does account for:
Shot type (Wrist shot, slap shot, deflection, etc.)
Shot distance (Adjusted4 distance from net)
Shot angle (Angle in absolute degrees from the central line normal to the goal line)
Rebounds (Boolean – Whether or not the shot was a rebound)
Rush shots (Boolean – Whether or not the shot was a rush shot)
Strength state (Boolean – Whether or not the shot was taken on the powerplay)
Each of the six shot types provided by the NHL forms its own category, and these are further subsetted by rebound and non-rebound. Only unblocked shots are used due to the unfortunate fact blocked shot coordinates are unavailable.
To put it bluntly: Yes, the model accounts for shot quality and yes his model shows to be more predictive of future goals than goals themselves. Assuming you haven’t bailed because of all this nerd talk, here’s how the Sharks expected goals per 60 minutes on the power play this season compares to the rest of the league and to seasons past.
The Sharks are fourth in the league in xG60 this season, which offers a stern rebuttal to thoughts of mixing things up. We can wring our hands about finishing ability, but don’t lose sight of how many chances the Sharks are creating while on the power play. Not convinced? How about some data to compare this season to previous seasons.
So the Sharks aren’t just doing fine compared to other teams this year, they’re doing fine compared to past seasons, too. San Jose may benefit from mixing things up to a small extent — whether that’s moving Marleau to the second unit or giving Kevin Labanc a shot — but there’s no reason to do anything more drastic than that. So, we’ll be okay. I promise.