Mike Knuble’s Spring Fling

The legend of Mike Knuble goes something like this: as the season grows older, he grows more powerful. To Mike, the regular season is like Samson’s hair or Max Damage’s waking life: more makes him more better. His production has traditionally increased in the back half of the season, making him springtime’s sleeper threat.

At the tail end of what may become his worst season in a decade, Knuble is showing that pattern again. With three goals in his last five games, Knuble is no longer among the ranks of potential gameday scratches, and his ice time is finally increasing as well.

But I wonder: is Knuble’s spring awakening revival just a myth? And if there is fact behind the legend, what is driving it? Does Mike shoot more in the thaw? Or is he just getting lucky, exploiting Eostre’s blessing? (Spoiler: The answer is kind of a cop-out).

To figure this out, I sat down at my desk, put on some tunes from the pacific northwest, and started compiling Knuble’s shot and goal totals every month since the lockout. Here’s what I learned:

Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb March April
Goals Per Game 0.33 0.29 0.30 0.35 0.42 0.47 0.39
Shots Per Game 2.5 2.1 2.2 2.0 2.3 2.5 2.8
Shooting % 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.17 0.19 0.19 0.14

The myth is confirmed. Knuble’s production in the back half of the season is significantly– and astoundingly– higher. Knuble jumps from a 20-something goal pace in the fall to something nearer 40 goals a season in the spring. He peaks in the part of the season we call “The Stretch”, where teams are playing tight hockey and vying for playoff spots. Put another way: he’s best when it matters most.

And how is Knuble able to distinguish himself in the warmer weather? Well, it’s kinda two-fold. First, he makes a modest increase in his shot totals, which peak in April (which admittedly has the smallest sample since that’s when the regular season ends). Second, he gets lucky.

Yes, the real difference is in luck, the ineffable fates pulling his pucks netward as winter recedes. Knuble’s shooting percentage at the beginning of the season is a respectable 14%, but after new years he approaches a Stamkos-ian 20%1. Converting on one out of every five shots makes Knuble a weapon, and shooting more is like increasing your bets when the blackjack deck gets hot2.

2011-2012 has been exceptionally tough for Mike Knuble. He has missed 8 games this season as a healthy scratch, and in the games he has played, his effectiveness has been stifled. He has rang more iron than Mikken, the armorer of Winterfell. As a result, he’s fallen way off his pace3.

Yeah, the doldrums have filled way too much of Knuble’s season, and now he’s far behind where he should be. But do you see right around game 60? That’s what the kids are calling a hockey-stick curve. And this is what it means: Knuble is back, right when the Capitals need him most.

If you’re a hockey coach trying to get every point you can before April 7, you go with the hot hand. If we’re talking hockey in the springtime, there are few hands hotter than Kanooble’s.

Notes

  1. It’s possible that the variance in shooting percentage can be partially attributed to taking higher-quality shots. That is, crashing the net.
  2. Don’t gamble, kids.
  3. This chart shows games played, so missed games (injury or scratches) are excluded.
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  • Deathless

    OK, I will retire my Perreault jersey for the rest of the regular season (after tonight – already brought it to work) and will don my Kanoobs jersey.  

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