Sharks Gameday: The Big Pavelski



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To say that Joe Pavelski has had a disappointing season thus far would quite the understatement-- a dismal -8 is at the bottom of the barrel for all San Jose Sharks, and six points in fourteen games is just about half of what we would expect based on his career averages over the last two season. Pavelski is a long ways away from his production during last season's playoffs where he was San Jose's best player for a long stretch, and that has many following the team concerned.

He hasn't scored a goal since October 23rd, the entirety of his goal scoring came in back to back games against Colorado and Edmonton, and four out of his nine points have come with the man advantage. Questions on whether or not a newborn son and spiffy sixteen million dollar contract has effected Pavelski is being asked in the media, and rest assured that topic has been tossed around like a wet turd in damn near every bar and message board located within the confines of Santa Clara County.

Coupled with the Sharks struggles as a whole, and you can just feel a storm beginning to brew.

However, an in-depth look at the numbers behind his season indicate something a little different than what you may read in the box score. Although he hasn't racked up points, and his +/- is atrocious, there are some underlying factors that seem to show Pavelski hasn't been as bad as his stat line is making him out to be.

Factors that indicate a resurgence could be just around the corner.

Joe Pavelski, Even Strength (2010-2011)

QualComp Shots s %
ZoneStart GFON/60 GAON/60
PENDrawn PenTaken
-0.023 (4th)
64 (1st)
59.3% (11th)
0.70 (12th)
2.79 (9th)
37.3 (1st)
23.3 (4th)

This is pretty much the basic Gospel According to Gabe Desjardins of Behind The Net when it comes to advanced statistics. There's much more in terms of hardcore mathematical number crunching being provided over there (that I highly encourage everyone to check out), but if you want to take a snapshot of an individual player, this is where you start.

From left to right, here's what these numbers are saying.

Joe Pavelski is currently playing the fourth hardest minutes amongst all Sharks forwards-- in other words, he's going up against opposing team's best players on a nightly basis. That makes sense considering his track record, and allows us to make the claim that he isn't struggling to score against Charmin toilet paper soft third liners. He has seen top four defenseman and top six forwards every night.

Pavelski has taken a team-high 64 shots on net this year, a massive thirteen more shots than second place Logan Couture. And yet, he is converting at a 4.7% rate, the lowest amongst all Sharks forwards who have scored at least one goal. That's phenomenal in the sense that his career average was 10.2% coming into this season-- if Pavelski had been converting at the rate we've seen from him before, he'd have six goals on the year, be tied for the team lead, and on pace for 38 markers.

The situation is similar to the one Pavelski went through last postseason except the shoe is on the other foot now. As we observed in May 2010, he was lighting the lamp at a 23.3% rate against Colorado and Detroit, something that was pretty unsustainable over the long run. Small sample sizes can wreak havoc with numbers as fourteen games (and the postseason) will attest to. I'm honestly willing to wager a few vital organs that, if Pavelski continues to shoot the puck 4.57 times a game, he'll break the thirty goal mark. Both quantitatively and qualitatively speaking he's gotten his chances. And he's going to begin to bury them. Guys just don't drop off the face of the Earth out of nowhere like this, especially a player of Pavelski's caliber.

Zone start sets up what we're going to look at soon, shots for and against when Pavelski is on the ice. This category (zone starts) is working against some of Pavelski's numbers to a degree-- he's taking 59.3% of his draws in the offensive zone, which is the "softest" start on the team outside of Ryane Clowe. In essence, Pavelski and Clowe are getting the best opportunity to put the puck in the net because they don't have to move it through the neutral zone 40% of the time off the draw.

Which makes Pavelski's horrendous +/- over sixty minutes of ice time so frustrating. It's been covered to death, so I'm not going to delve too deep into it, but one doesn't have to look very far to see he's been on the wrong end of the red lamp way too many times this year.

But then you look at the chances Pavelski is putting up versus the chances he's giving up and start to question if he's just getting the short end of the stick. In terms of shots when he's on the ice, Pavelski is leading the team with 37.3 per sixty minutes and fourth best in shots against with 23.3 per sixty. Those are probably amongst the best numbers in the entire NHL for a guy who is last on his team in +/-. By these metrics he's been driving the play in the right direction, and setting up his teammates for opportunities as well. They're not bleeding chances out there in the least-- in fact, opposing players have been bleeding chances when number 8 hits the ice. Toss in the fact that Pavelski leads the team in drawn penalties with eight (a good indicator that he's moving his feet) and has only taken two? Good indicators of future success.

Now this isn't to say Pavelski can't improve-- scoring more goals than the other guys is the most important part of hockey, and Pavelski, along with his linemates, hasn't been capitalizing. At the end of the day that is what really matters.

But his quality of competition, massive shot totals, unsustainably low shooting percentage, excellent SF/SA differential, and penalty ratio tells the story of a guy who just can't catch a break right now. He hasn't had an atrocious season by any means-- in fact, if you take stock in these numbers, Pavelski has been pretty damn good at doing the little things that lead to being successful on the scoreboard.

Mark it down folks-- Pavelski turns it around soon.

And don't be surprised if it happens tonight.

Prediction: Sharks win 4-0, exacting revenge for the Flames slaughter last month. Goals by Pavelski (x2), McGinn (from the press box or the left circle), and Clowe. Brent Sutter blows a gasket.

Go Sharks.