Wednesday, March 15, 2006

3/4 pole

The season is 75% over, and the Sharks currently have 71 points, 5 out of a playoff spot. San Jose has won their last three games, and have three more home games to go before a 5 game road trip. Here's my current status report, done in the same style as my half-season report:

Offense: The Sharks have scored 197 goals, 9th in the West. Their top line still scores very consistently (Thornton is the NHL points leader right now, and Cheechoo had his 4th hat trick of the season on Monday night). The problem is, the second and third lines aren't scoring as much as I would hope. I predicted that Marleau would score more, and he has (29 goals, his career high). But the other young players that I thought would flourish against 2nd and 3rd line D have come up short. Michalek has only 13 goals. Goc has 15 points, and is -12. I think the top line has as much firepower as any other in the NHL, but if they hit a cold streak, I've seen zero evidence that other players will pick up the slack.

Defense: Still spotty. I expected the Sharks to be in the hunt for a veteran defenseman at the deadline, but no big moves happened. Hannan has gotten his +/- up to a -3, which is quite an accomplishment given where he was earlier in the year. Erhoff looks solid, Murray hits like a freight train, but the jury's out on Gorges and Davison. On Monday, the Sharks gave up a goal twice on the shift following a Sharks goal. Everyone knows that a successful shift after you score is critical to keep the momentum, and the Sharks couldn't keep it. On the positive side, the Sharks have looked horrible with 1-goal leads late in the game, and this time, they kept it without too much scrambling.

Special Teams: Both the PP and PK have improved since midseason- both are middle of the pack. I think I saw a stat a few weeks ago that said that the Sharks are over 20% on the PP since the Thornton trade. It's amazing watching the D clear out when Joe has the puck on the half boards- they know how dangerous his passing is. I which he would shoot a touch more from that spot though.

Goaltending: I was very surprised to see the Sharks re-sign both Toskala and Nabokov, and not trade either. That being said, Toskala has clearly been the better goalie since the halfway point. It's a good feeling knowing you have two quality goalies for the playoff run, but I wonder if there will be a controversy next season if Toskala continues to play well. Nabby had a great Olympics and will want to be the starter.

Looking Forward: The Sharks are picking up speed at the right time, but their margin for error is now very small. With LA, Vancouver, and Edmonton struggling, the Sharks must win every game against inferior opposition. The last two and a half weeks of the season are absolutely brutal- 10 games in 17 days in April. If I had to choose right now, I would say that the Sharks will not make the playoffs. But as a fan, I think of all the opportunities they have this month. if SJ can beat STL twice, and win the Chicago, Columbus, and Phoenix games, that will put us at 81 points with 10 games to go. If the Sharks can get 11 more points in April, I think they will make the playoffs. Only two of the games in April are against teams not in the top 8 (and one is against the Ducks, who are ahead of us), so that's actually a pretty tall order.

Trading Note: I'm glad Niko Dimitrakos is gone, and I don't really care that much about the Ville Niemonen pickup. While it would have been nice for Doug Wilson to get another D man, I'm glad he didn't trade away high draft picks or young players to get a 3-month rental. There's plenty of cap room, so I'm hoping for some free agent fireworks in the off season.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


My friend Jeremy sent out an email recently where all NHL teams with PP% + PK% was over 100. His idea was that teams with PP+PK>100 will make the playoffs. Unfortunately, that list has a couple of weird teams in it. Minnesota is 106. Boston and Phoenix are over 99. And LA is third from the bottom, with 94.1. I tried to put the table in here, but I can't get blogger to put it in right. If I put in the html, it's looks like crap. I uploaded a gif of the table from Excel, but it shrinks it to nothing. If you want the data, email me.

This has all of those stats , plus a few more. The bottom line is how each column correlates to each of the states. 1 means a perfect correlation, 0 means no correlation. Wins has an almost perfect correlation to the number of points a teams has (duh!), and the number of games played has almost no correlation to the number of points (also duh). But lets look at the other stats. Wins and losses mean points, so seeing that those strongly correlate isn't really suprising or useful either. But let's look at PP%, PK%, and PP+PK. PP% correlates stronger than PK% to the number of points a team has, so that implies that it's better to have a good power play than a good kill. But PP+PK has a higher correlation still. Also, if you rank the teams by their PP and PK, and have a rank for the best PP+PK, that's an even better correlator than strictly PP%+PK% (but very close). Even though there are some outlier team in the PP+PK stat, it's still the best correlator to points.

The rightmost column is a little experiement of mine called Pythagorean Points. Rob Neyer and others have used the Pythagorean theorem for years to try and predict the number of wins and losses a baseball team has based on their run scored and runs allowed. This is a similar thing that I modified to try and apply it to hockey. Ties make it hard. I calculated the average number of points a teams scores in each game (1.11), then times that by two, then that by the pythangorean percentage. It's good to see which teams have been "lucky" this season. It stands to reason that if you score 200 goals and give up 200, your winning percentage should be about .500. If it's not, that means you've been somewhat lucky. Philly is a good example. Scored 213, given up 212, and are 35-20-10. Ottawa is somewhat unlucky. They've scored 252, only given up 152, and have 91 points. According to my results, on average a team with that GF/GA ration should have over 100 points already.

Anyway, something to think about and comment on.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

New Look Sharks

5-2 win over the Oilers? Sharks pull away in the third period instead of collapse? Sharks played physical hockey and bullied the finesse style Oilers?

Sounds like a dream, right? No Sharks fans - the boys had a new look tonight and it paid off as we pulled back to six points out of the final playoff spot. The Sharks sent out a physical line up with the return of Scott Parker, rookie Steve Bernier and new Finnish bruiser Ville Nimenen. Doug Wilson managed to get a third round draft pick for Dimitrakos - which means he basically swapped Niko for Nimenen, a deal I'd make any day in my sleep. Niko hadn't scored a goal since December 2nd - yes, that's right, December 2nd!! Mark Smith was the roster spot casualty tonight - the only notable healthy scratch. He could return if McCauley and Goc continue to sputter - although they had some jump playing along side Mr. Parker.

It was nice to see Doug Wilson not push the panic button and over pay for some mediocre deadline rental like Recchi or Mark Parrish. The Oilers gave up too much for Samsanov and Roloson laid a major egg in his first start for Edmonton. They gave up a first round pick for a guy who was 6-17-1 this year? Looks like Edmonton might have screwed the pooch here...

Nashville in town on Saturday. Huge game for the Sharkies. We have a huge homestand and if the boys can take four out of five - we'll be right back in this thing. Can they play like they did tonight? I think so.