Week 14 of the Nerdy 30: Weak storms but Powerful ‘Hawks

Fox Sports

Fox Sports

As we continue to dive deeply into the NHL season every week, we start to think whether certain teams can get into the Stanley Cup playoffs or not. However, with Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin waiting to get their names called in the 2015 NHL Draft, teams rightfully don’t have the motivation to go all-in for a playoff spot, draft lottery rule change or not. As a result, it only seems like Boston is the only team that is pushing from the outside. If the season were to continue as it is, the Bruins would only be a single point away from Florida for a final place in the Atlantic Division while Calgary is five points away from San Jose or Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the Pacific.

And while playoff spots look set and we should be paying more attention to what the playoff match-ups look like, it’s time to look at which teams deserve to be where they are in the standings. Let’s take a look at four of those teams in week 14 of the Nerdy 30.

  • 30. Buffalo (82-game standings points pace: 58 pts, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Edmonton (Pace: 54 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. Columbus (Pace: 80 pts, LW: 27)
  • 27. Arizona (Pace: 70 pts, LW: 28)
  • 26. New Jersey (Pace: 71 pts, LW: 26)
  • 25. Carolina (Pace: 63 pts, LW: 25)
  • 24. Colorado (Pace: 84 pts, LW: 24)

Despite being on pace for 63 standings points, the Hurricanes have 50.9% of the even strength score-adjusted shot-attempts . That’s only good for 18th in the NHL, but it’s also not one of the worst in the NHL. In fact, when puck possession is not adjusted, the Hurricanes move up to 11th in the league.

When looking at the score effects breakdown, Carolina is at or above league average in every score situation at puckon.net but there is one thing that did stand out. Carolina, by far, leads the NHL in total time on ice at even strength at when trailing by a goal at 658.5 minutes. The next closest is Calgary at 502.3. Guess what Carolina’s win-loss record is when trailing by a goal: 7-13-5!!!! However, if you are looking for something that will indicate that Carolina should bounce back into playoff contention next year, take note that teams like last year’s Sabres, the 2009 and 2011 Islanders and the 2012 Blue Jackets had the worst 1-goal game record that season. Clearly, you can’t be at a 63-point pace without being just unlucky.

One thing to pay attention to is that the vast majority of Carolina’s shots come from the outside on the left wing and absolutely nothing is coming from the middle at the point and in the crease. So clearly, “Crash the Net” is not their strong suit whatsoever. Having the center-line depth of Victor Rask, Riley Nash and Jay McClement after Eric Staal just isn’t going to cut it long term and it should give GM Ron Francis pause if he thinks about trading away Staal at the deadline.

  • 23. Calgary (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 23)
  • 22. Toronto (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 22)
  • 21. Philadelphia (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 21)
  • 20. Florida (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 19)
  • 19. Montreal (Pace: 110 pts, LW: 17)
  • 18. Ottawa (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 20)

While Boston is trying to chase them for a playoff spot and make papa Mike Milbury proud, Florida is quietly having a great season. Everyone in the hockey community is praising the season Aaron Ekblad is having, but not mentioning the presence that Willie Mitchell has had in balancing the rest of an already solid blue line is proof that people aren’t paying enough attention. Up-front is where things get dicey, however.

When looking at the Panthers’ shot chart, it is pretty clear that they loooooooooooove shooting from the point. When you see that Florida is only converting 13% of their power play, it makes this shot chart is even more hilarious. If this is not the most evident way of exploiting the living snot out of a strength in the NHL, I don’t know what it is. Ekblad, Bryan Campbell and Eric Gudbranson both shoot over one and a half shots per game, but no matter how good getting shots from your d-men are, shots from the point are not high percentage shots and are useless if rebounds don’t occur from them and forwards don’t collect those rebounds and crash the net. That’s potentially why you see Florida only shooting at a below-average 7.37% at even strength and that has to change if they want to no longer be one of the worst goal scoring teams in the NHL.

Also, the Panthers puts up the second most even-strength shots per 60 minutes at 31.8, but when we get to unblocked and total shot attempts, their rank drops to seventh and 13th, respectively. On the backend, the Panthers may give up the sixth least shot attempts per 60 at evens, but that ranking drops to 16th at unblocked shot attempts. Roberto Luongo has been fantastic all season long, but at 35, who knows how sustainable his save percentage will be come playoff time and all his saves will matter by the Springtime.

  • 17. Vancouver (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 18)
  • 16. Dallas (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 16)
  • 15. San Jose (Pace: 95 pts, LW: 13)
  • 14. Minnesota (Pace: 80 pts, LW: 12)
  • 13. Anaheim (Pace: 114 pts, LW: 14)
  • 12. Boston (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 15)
  • 11. Washington (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 11)
  • 10. Winnipeg (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 10)
  • 9. New York Rangers (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 9)

Speaking of Luongo, his former team might be one of the more overrated teams in the Western Conference. In fact, all the teams in the Pacific have something about them that screams overrated, whether it is their weak schedule, the fact that a few teams are rebuilding when really they are in a playoff spot or the fact that Edmonton and Arizona gave up on the season or that their PDO is too high.

The Canucks match the first two of those points and their puck possession has them struggling at 50% while doing so, worse than when John Tortarella and Mike Gillis were on the payroll. One thing that is strange is that Vancouver might have the best penalty kill in the NHL by a pretty big margin. It also helps when the team’s save percentage goes from 91.4% at even strength to a seventh best 90.6% with a man down and having an ex-NHL head coach in Glen Gulutzan work on that unit.

Two things to watch out for is that the Canucks really don’t like to hold onto the lead and that they like to be a bit too selective offensively. When winning by two goals or more, they only have 37.3% shot attempts: the fifth worst mark in the NHL. They are fortunate to only be in that situation at even strength with the ninth fewest minutes and they are solid when it comes to performing when trailing or tied. When the Canucks do have the puck in all scoring situations, they have the potential to being a solid offensive team by putting up an above average rate of shots on goal (11th in the NHL) and off target (13th) at five-on-five, but when blocked shots are added, that mark drops to 19th.

The Canucks should be a playoff team again, but they once again could play Los Angeles in round one and that will give them nightmares if parts of their game don’t get fixed up front and their defense continues to be mediocre while goaltender Ryan Miller struggles to find the fountain of youth.

  • 8. Detroit (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 8)
  • 7. Los Angeles (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 7)
  • 6. Tampa Bay (Pace: 106 pts, LW: 2)
  • 5. St. Louis (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 6)
  • 4. Pittsburgh (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 5)
  • 3. New York Islanders (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 4)
  • 2. Nashville (Pace: 121 pts, LW: 3)
  • 1. Chicago (Pace: 11 pts, LW: 1)

Even if my team in DC beat Chicago in an amazing Winter Classic, the Blackhawks are still the best team in the NHL by some distance. They once again lead the league in any puck possession metric and they have the best offense in the NHL. Their PDO isn’t super high just yet, but there are things to watch out for the ‘Hawks.

Their defense is a bit susceptible of giving up shots on target at 29.1 per 60 minutes at even-strength (good for 20th in the NHL). However, that ranking decreases as we add shots off target (13th in the NHL) and blocked shots (10th), which proves that opponents might be thinking too hard at putting the perfect shot on goal instead of throwing the puck at will. Teams are able to find spaces along the left-hand point position and the right-hand scoring chance area this season, so Chicago does have openings along their lineup, but having left-wingers like Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp miss time to injury could have an affect on how the shot chart’s looks. If that sounds like being nit-picky, it probably is, but when you consider Chicago will have to face tough offenses like Dallas or Nashville or stingy defenses like Winnipeg or St. Louis in the first two rounds of the playoffs, it’s never too bad for Joel Quenneville’s men to find weaknesses within their team and improve upon them the rest of the season in the smartest way possible. After all, nobody likes winning more than him.

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