Week 4 of the Nerdy 30: Blashill’s Blemishes and Tylie Benguin Reigns Supreme

NESN via Deadspin.com

Finally, November is upon us and the advanced numbers are getting clearer as we progress further upon the season. Unless you are in DC, the weather hopefully will be showing signs of getting colder and we finally get to enjoy the harshness of the regular season. Sadly, we already have been experiencing some of that with the amount of harsh injuries that have happened to a handful of players. The biggest one of them all comes from Connor McDavid, the 1000th savior to ever making hockey a more popular sport in the world than soccer or basketball, who is out for many months with a broken clavicle.

Some injuries seem minor to others, but it goes to show how fragile normalcy is in the NHL and how much pressure there is for teams to take advantage of any potential great season that they are having. The same can certainly be said of players as any momentum from their development could be ruined with one fall, one hit, one shot block or one check into the boards.

Before we continue into this week’s edition of the nerdy 30, we have a new update into the formula!!! For those that don’t know, my weekly power rankings are credited with the work done by the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg who used the product of PythagenPat goals for percentages with PythagenPat Corsi For percentages to rank each NHL team 1 through 30. An explanation and the formulas for these two numbers can be seen in the following article. What I have done is change the regular five-on-five corsi for percentages and make them score-adjusted. Starting today, however, I will be using score and venue adjusted corsi percentage instead. This is based on the research performed by Micah Blake McCurdy on Hockey Graphs last year as they show a better correlation to winning future hockey games and scoring future goals and with the fact that such numbers are present in puckon.net. There maybe more modifications along the way as the eternal hope for these rankings is to pick the Stanley Cup winner every year out of supposed meaningless regular season data. Until then, here is the latest edition of the Nerdy 30.

  • 30. Columbus (82-Game Standings Points Pace: 27 pts, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Calgary (Pace: 44 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. Anaheim (Pace: 45 pts, LW: 27)
  • 27. Carolina (Pace: 68 pts, LW: 28)
  • 26. Colorado (Pace: 62 pts, LW: 26)
  • 25. Philadelphia (Pace: 75 pts, LW: 22)
  • 24. Toronto (Pace: 45 pts, LW: 21)
  • 23. Edmonton (Pace: 55 pts, LW: 25)
  • 22. Tampa Bay (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 20)

Yes folks, this is not the biggest shock in the world that Toronto is awful and Mike Babcock has warned everyone about this since he was hired in July. However, this is not without a lack of good advanced numbers behind their performances this year. So far, the Maples Leafs are generating close to 50% puck possession when score-adjusted. That is almost a full 7% higher than when Randy Carlisle was fired as head coach last year. Along with that, Toronto is in the top ten in both shot attempt numbers on the power play (2nd in the league at 112.2 shot attempts per 60 minutes!!!!) and on the penalty kill (9th in the league at 89.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes).

What is hurting them is their lack of shooting luck. So far, the Maple Leafs are shooting a shocking 6.7% at even strength and 9.5% on the power play. Both numbers are way below league average and should improve as the season progresses.

If the data falls into the wrong hands, this would be seen as a team that lacks real talent and maybe that’s true. So far, Dion Phaneuf does not have a perfect partner to play with and the supposed shut down line of Joffey Lupul, Nick Spalling and Daniel Winnik have not been great. But don’t discredit Babcock’s work so far and don’t count out the Leafs for making some form of an improvement when the season comes to a close.

  • 21. New Jersey (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 23)
  • 20. Ottawa (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 14)
  • 19. Buffalo (Pace: 68 pts, LW: 18)
  • 18. Detroit (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 24)
  • 17. Chicago (Pace: 96 pts, LW: 7)
  • 16. Minnesota (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 16)

Jeff Blashill, we need to talk! It is my understanding that you and Mr. Babcock are no different as head coaches and the transition would be a smooth one as you come from the AHL ranks of Grand Rapids into the NHL parent club. Yet, why on earth are you coaching the second worst puck possession team in the NHL?!?!? Yes, Pavel Datsyuk is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery and your goaltenders have been great at even strength (93.7%) and shorthanded (90.6%) so far. This still doesn’t excuse the fact that only New Jersey and Colorado generate less shot attempts at even strength and it’s not like you guys are that old of a hockey team any more.

According to quanthockey.com, Detroit is just the 14th oldest team in the league based on weighted average at a sliver over 28 years of age and their forwards alone are the 9th youngest at 27.2 years old. In defense, Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Eriksson have been awful together and it should be a sign that your systems are failing that Mike Green is sitting in the red in puck possession. Things have to change in Michigan, otherwise this team might miss it’s first playoff appearance in a generation.

  • 15. Boston (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 17)
  • 14. New York Islanders (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 15)
  • 13. Pittsburgh (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 19)
  • 12. Vancouver (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 11)
  • 11. San Jose (Pace: 89 pts, LW:6)
  • 10. Arizona (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 12)
  • 9. Winnipeg (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 4)
  • 8. Los Angeles (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 10)

After one year of seeing the Kings lock out their head coach from the dressing room after a season-defining loss, force themselves to release some players due to a sexual assault and a couple of cocaine distribution charges and inexplicably see their shot attempts not result in goals, they seem to be back on track. As of now, Los Angeles is, once again, among the best teams in puck possession. This time, however, their shot generation is leading to a high level of scoring opportunities. So far, their 27.0 scoring chances for per 60 minutes of even strength ranks seventh in the NHL.

Also, Jonathan Quick and “insert good backup goalie here” (fine…it’s Jhonas Enroth this time around) are performing really well, saving 94% of their shots faced at 5-on-5. The top line of Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli and Milan Lucic seems to be performing well and unlike previous years, Dustin Brown doesn’t look like a shell of himself in puck possession as he has been partnered with all-world center Anze Kopitar. The defense pairings are still sketchy looking as time will tell whether Brayden McNabb has any business partnering with Drew Doughty, but it has not prevented Los Angeles from getting back to where the levels that they used to hit.

  • 7. Nashville (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 3)
  • 6. St. Louis (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 5)
  • 5. Dallas (Pace: 126 pts, LW: 9)
  • 4. New York Rangers (Pace: 123 pts, LW: 13)
  • 3. Florida (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 8)
  • 2. Washington (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 2)
  • 1. Montreal (Pace: 135 pts, LW: 1)

What do you know. My choice for the perfect hipster team to watch just so happens to be a possible Stanley Cup contender. If anything though, the Stars are where they are because they are continuing the momentum that they had from last season. So far, they are once again one of the best teams in 5-on-5 shot generation with a league-leading 62.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes. However, they are still atrocious in the shot suppression end, whether it is at even strength (23rd in the NHL at 56.2 shot attempts against per 60 minutes) or on the penalty kill (2nd to last at 106.1 shot attempts per 60 minutes). What has made them better is that goaltending has almost improved by a half-percentage point (91.0% vs. 91.5%) than last season at even strength and while the power play is experiencing plenty of lucky charms, it has gone from an inexcusable 16th to a slightly better 11th in shot generation (93.5 vs. 97.1 shot attempts per 60 minutes).

Along with that, there has been plenty of turnover along the blue line. While Johnny Oduya is not that much of an upgrade to Trevor Daley, John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski are receiving more starts in the offensive side of the rink this season and scoring points at will as a result. Also, Tylie Benguin continues to be the league’s greatest power couple; combining for 18 goals and 40 points in 13 games. Add in Patrick Sharp and the trio have shredded teams at five-one-five and while he’s getting inserted in the lineup gradually, it is nice to see Valeri Nichushkin getting back to playing NHL hockey and making a positive impact. The key the rest of the season is to see how Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky can stop being negative possession players.

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