Why Scoring Chances Are Important

Alex Ovechkin shooting

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson

They talk about them on the pre-game shows. Coaches lament about how many or how little they had. I write about them. They’re everywhere. Scoring chances are a new craze sweeping North America. By my count seven teams are currently being tracked, the Oilers by Dennis King at MC79hockey.com, the Flames by Kent Wilson at Flames Nation, the Rangers by George Ays at Blueshirt Banter, the Panthers by Derek Zona at Litter Box Cats, the Canadiens by Olivier at En attendant les Nordiques, the Leafs at Under the Helmet of Slava Duris and the Caps by yours truly. Find out why after the jump.

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Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth: Who you got?

There has been much debate over which young netminder should be the Caps number one option, with fans pledging their allegiance to either #TeamNeuvy or #TeamVarly, but I maintain it is not even close.

Looking at the scoring chance save percentage for each goaltender in different situations shows why Neuvirth seems to have the confidence of Coach Bodreau, even when the Caps were at their worst these last few games. Remember, I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online – which I finally updated. Merry Christmas!

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How To Guarantee a Caps Win

mf8b6d5466cf05273a765eb28bf28db1aPhoto credit: Luis M. Alvarez

If you’re like me, you’ve tried everything. Not shaving. Wearing the same clothes. Wearing different clothes. Eating weird foods. Anything that you did before the Caps stopped winning — now you’re doing the opposite. Yet, they’re still losing, and unfortunately not much is going to change unless Ovechkin’s line does one thing: convert on every fourth scoring chance.

When the Great 8 is on the ice and the Caps convert on every fourth scoring chance, they are 6-0. When it falls under 25%, they have been 10-16. Take a look:

Scoring chance convert% W L W% Individual Pts per game
less than 25% 10 16 0.385 0.88
25% or more 6 0 1.000 1.67

Convert% is simply goals scored on chances when Ovechkin is on the ice.

I know this seems like a “duh” moment, since most Caps fans will tell you that “as Ovi goes so does the team,” but this isn’t just about Ovechkin. This is about Backstrom, Semin, Knuble, and anyone else who is on the ice with him. They need to get their heads out of their asses and get it done, at least on one out of every four of their chances.

Game on.

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Poof! Goes The Offense

Bruce Boudreau: Bummin'

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Quite the depressing week. We don’t score. We got blown out. People are revolting. He-who-can’t-be-named is now front and center on our site. Despite it all, I still maintain we shouldn’t panic.

This week I am going to take a break from individual scoring chances and look at the team as a whole. I wrote over at WaPo that this is just a string of bad luck and wanted to go a little more in depth. As you probably know by now, I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. You can find the spreadsheet online that summarizes each week, and I promise I will get it up to date in the next few days.

First, I want everyone to see how the Caps have been converting their scoring chances to goals. Or rather how they haven’t. Convert percentage is simply goals-for divided by scoring chances-for. I’ll use a 10-game moving average to help smooth out the highs and lows. Period one on the chart is the average conversion percentage of games 1 through 10, while period two is the average of games 2 through 11, and so on. Stats from the Nov 27 game vs CAR are not included due to NHL.com errors.

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Zone Starts and Expected Scoring Chances

alex-ovechkin-vs-flyers

Ovechkin is out of sorts. Does anyone know why? (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semin cooled off, Marcus Johansonn started to heat up, Ovechkin is un-Ovechkin-y, and we saw the Caps get shut out for the first time in almost a year. Quite an up-and-down week. Despite it all, scoring chances are once again preserved for posterity.

I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

Coach Boudreau used every line combo imaginable this week (except for the much ballyhooed DJ King-Steckel-Ovechkin line), so I thought we would look at expected scoring chance percentage (SC%). Scoring chance percentage is the amount of scoring chances-for (SCF) that go in the Caps favor when a particular player is on the ice. For example, if a skater is on the ice for 6 scoring chances-for and only 4 against his  SC% would be 60% (6 chances for divided by all 10 chances when on ice). If we know how often a player is deployed in the offensive zone, we can calculate their expected scoring chance percentage. Then it is simple subtraction: subtract the actual from the expected and we can see each player’s true efficiency. All numbers are for even strength only.

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Breaking Down The Capitals Line Combinations

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom share a laugh on the bench.

Neil delivers Caps scoring chances through Nov 14, 2010 (Photo credit: Gerry Thomas)

Despite some terrible second period performances that made me want to use my new iPad as the world’s most expensive frisbee, I still managed to log the scoring chances for the week. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

The three of you that actually read these posts may notice a new format. Let me know if you think this is more helpful.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Nov 7, 2010

Boyd Gordon (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
Boyd Gordon leads in scoring chance percentage. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Another week in the books, and I have three questions:

  1. Is there a hidden value to having Sloan on the ice?
  2. Will we see more Uno Seis in our face or on the bench?
  3. Who’s with me on a”Vote for Boyd” campaign?

Luckily, these questions are easily answered because I log scoring chances every game. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Oct 31, 2010

Boyd Gordon

The Capitals are undefeated in games in which Boyd Gordon plays. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Another week has passed, and we saw Alex Ovechkin get his first power play goals, Perreault make a case to be sent back down to Hershey, and the duo of Erskine and Sloan have such a good game that NHL.com decided it would rather shut down its whole server than to acknowledge it.

With 13% of the season in the books, here is my weekly recap of the Caps scoring chances.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Oct 24, 2010

Semin scores, Perreault celebrates

Perreault’s debut yields two assists & a +7 scoring differential. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)

What a week. We saw the PK streak come to an end at 25, the Caps roster looks like a scene from M*A*S*H and even the owner called the team average. Then Atlanta got InSEMINated so my fervor for logging the chances of each and every game has been renewed.

scoringChanceDiagramMy definition as to what I consider a scoring chance is narrow by design – I am only looking to log quality scoring chances, not every shot directed at net. I look for a shot taken in the wedge shape pattern whose point is at the goal, extending outward through the faceoff dots and around the top of the circles. There is some great work being done on the topic of shot quality and as you’ll see in the diagram below, which has the latest 2009-10 Shot Quality data from Ken Krzywicki (including how shot type is not as significant as shot angle – neat stuff), there is a method to my madness.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Oct 16, 2010

jeff-schultz-slapshot

Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

With five games in the books, I survived my first week of logging scoring chances, including DVRing the game Saturday night and catching up Sunday. If you haven’t read it already, my first post explains what I consider a scoring chance. As always, you can see this spreadsheet on Google Docs where I update them every week.

The Caps are getting their money’s worth for Jeff Schultz, who hasn’t had a goal against yet – and that includes leading the Caps in PK minutes with only allwoing a paltry three scoring chances against a man down. When he signed the contract extension this summer, I wrote Schultz could be “one of the NHL’s best bargains two to four years from now. If not sooner.” So far, so good.

On the flipside we have John Erskine, who is the only Capital with a negative scoring chance differential in double digits. Put another way, the Caps give the opposition 2.5 more scoring chances for every 15 minutes Erskine is on the ice. Some of this can be explained because he is being used mostly in the defensive zone as Coach Bodreau’s shutdown blueliner. When John Carlson, the other half of this new shutdown pair is only a minus 2, what explains the rest of it?

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