This week we’ve got a the guys who take the most punishment on the ice (hits), a better save percentage using an adjustment for the penalty kill (which puts a certain Caps’ goalie in pretty good company), the snipers who score goals more than one would expect, and a look at which Conference is stronger and what that means for who could end up in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Taking a Beating: League Leaders in Getting Hit
“We all know who the big hitters are, but have you ever wondered who gets hit the most?”
Looking only at roads hits to remove some of the scoring bias, Stephane Robidas (191) and Douglas Murray (187) are the guys who have gotten hit the most over the last two years.
Recently departed Capital Michael Nylander is 6th in getting hit ratio, having dished out just 7 hits while taking 53 himself. No Caps were amongst the top 19 in hit ratio, with Trent Hunter leading the pack there (153 hits, 63 hits against).
With the high-powered offense, there isn’t a ton of need for Washington to be overly physical.
Save Percentage Adjusted for the Penalty Kill
While save percentage may be one of the better stats for goalies, it still doesn’t take into account the quality of the shots faced. That issue can be ameliorated a bit by adjusting for how well and how often goalies face the penalty kill.
“As of now the top ten goalies in SV% with at least ten games played are:
1. Ryan Miller .936
2. Tukka Rask .930
3. Jimmy Howard .928
4. Jaroslav Halak .927
5. Mikka Kiprusoff .926
6. Henriq Lunqvist .926
7. Peter Budaj .925
8. Evgeni Nabokov .925
9. Seymon Varlamov .924
10. Tomas Vokoun .924
What I’m going to do though is make an adjustment for the Shot Quality effect on the PK, and thus make an adjusted SV% for that situation; here are the top ten in that stat:
1. Ryan Miller .941
2. Seymon Varlamov .941
3. Peter Budaj .938
4. Jimmy Howard .937
5. Tomas Vokoun .937
6. Mikka Kiprusoff .933
7. Henrik Lunqvist .932
8. Martin Brodeur .932
9. Tukka Rask .931
10. Evgeni Nabokov, Jaroslav Halak and Ilya Bryzgalov .930″
Varly hasn’t done particularly well on the penalty kill (.844 SV%), so when making an adjustment for that he vaults up to virtually the top of the rankings. Now if he could spend more time on the ice, that would be fantastic.
The NHL’s Best (Even-Strength) Shooters, 2005-09
Hawerchuk “estimated the expected number of goals that each player should have scored each year based on the locations of the shots he took – because rebounds are high-percentage shots… only looked at initial shots to assess pure shooting” and then compared to the actual number of goals scored. Ilya Kovalchuk was easily tops, having scored about 51 more goals than would be expected. The Capitals’ two Alexanders were 7th (Ovie, 27 more goals) and 12th (Semin, 19 more goals). Nice to have a couple of sharp-shooters like that on one’s team.
Survival of the Fittest
The Western Conference has been stronger than the Eastern Conference this year:
“Through last weekend, in head-to-head matchups between Eastern and Western teams this season, the West has won 70 in regulation and 16 more in overtime or shootouts, compared to the East’s marks of 47 wins in regulation and 17 in overtime. In those games, the West has outscored the East by a total of 44 goals and outshot them by 155 shots…
While the worst team in the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes, has an address on the East Coast, even the better teams in the Eastern Conference have trouble with the top Western teams: of the 42 East-West games between the top eight teams from each Conference, the West has won 29, the East just 13.
This is not to say that the Eastern Conference is without elite teams. The New Jersey Devils may be the most complete team in the NHL, the Washington Capitals have the most explosive offense, the Buffalo Sabres have the best goaltender and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup champions. But of the three teams that can lay claim to being at the head of the class at the halfway point of the season, two reside in the West, with the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks joining New Jersey.”
Despite having to go through the tougher competition, the Blackhawks are still the team with the best odds to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
"Team Odds Blackhawks 31% Devils 29% Capitals 21% Sharks 19% Sabres 16% Canucks 15% Flames 11% Penguins 10%
“Ultimately, you have to beat the other conference’s top team to win the Cup and the two favorites both reside in the West. Both the Blackhawks and the Sharks would be favored in a head-to-head matchup with any Eastern team, while the Canucks (predicted to pass over the Avalanche in our projections) and Flames would be underdogs to the Devils and Capitals, but favorites against the Penguins or Sabres.”
(Almost) anything can happen in a short series, and being one of the top few contenders for the Cup is about as good as any team can reasonably expect.