So here we are, ladies and gentleman! We’re into the heart of March with five more weeks to go until we finally experience the true reason why we love professional hockey; the playoffs. The weather is getting warmer and society is getting more confused why we’re watching professional athletes play in cold rinks as a result of it.
For some, the regular season is already over with little to no battles left to decide all 16 playoff teams. For me personally, this season has been fun because there has been so much twists and tales with all 30 teams. Once you feel like you have a grasp on one team in November, they start making trades or fire a coach or change their systems to improve or worsen themselves dramatically. This week is such a big example of that. After calling it a day with Minnesota when Mike Yeo got fired, they are back in the rankings because John Torchetti is having his veteran players learn to play the right way not really a good coach but has been catching all the lucky charms in the world right now. Meanwhile, New Jersey and Arizona are starting to have their bad puck possession catch up to them and have been the latest teams eliminated in the latest edition of the Nerdy 30.
30. Buffalo (82-game Standings Points Pace: 76 points, Last Week: 30) 29. Vancouver (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 29) 28. New Jersey (Pace: 84 pts, LW: 18) 27. Columbus (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 28) It has been written for decades that the Devils have always been the most boring team in the NHL because of their neutral zone trap. This year certainly is no different because their score-adjusted shot attempt event rate (sum of all shots for and against) is at 93.2 per hour. Florida is not even a close second place in that category at 98.3. Even if you think slowing down the pace for their slow veterans and young low ceiling players is a good strategy, consider that New Jersey is only having 42.5 of those attempts per hour come from their own sticks. This extreme lack of offense can only be topped by the 2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers (42.5) and last year’s Buffalo Sabres (40.4!!!). To top it all off Corey Schneider might be broken physically and analytically. Since Valentine’s Day, the 29-year old has only saved 86.9% of his shots and New Jersey only went 1-7-0 as a result. Schneider also played every game during that stretch until he sprained his MCL in last week’s game against Dallas. Along with that, Mike Camalleri continues to be the least surprising injury casualty of his generation as a result of missing 25 of a possible 67 games this season and 133 of a possible 868 games since the 2004-05 lockout. It’s a real darn shame for him, because the 33-year old has actually played well with 38 points in 42 games. Now that the Devils are out of the playoffs, I would like for John Hynes to play Damon Severson more as the 22-year old has seen his minutes plummet from 21 to 18 minutes per game. Also, can Joseph Blandisi continue his white-hot production. After scoring 112 points in 68 OHL games last season, the 21-year old is continuing to rack up points with 14 in 28 games. Can his 15.6 percent shooting continue though? I say no, but if he can surpass his NHL equivalencies of 10 goals and 23 points every season, good for him! I do like Hynes as a coach, but as always, New Jersey needs to keep adding young top talent in order for them to hit the NHL’s elite again. 26. Arizona (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 19) 25. Calgary (Pace: 73 pts, LW: 27) 24. Edmonton (Pace: 70 pts, LW: 26) 23. Ottawa (Pace: 84 pts, LW: 25) 22. Toronto (Pace: 67 pts, LW: 24) 21. Winnipeg (Pace: 73 pts, LW: 23) 20. Montreal (Pace: 83 pts, LW: 21) Oh Coyotes! You finally went in the tank. Losing eight of their last nine and going 4-11-1 since the All-Star Break will do that for them. At the end of the day, even with the welcome additions of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, their leading scorer is still a defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson. While the 24-year old Swede is a really good defenseman, he’s still only sixth amongst defenseman in points with 49 and 13th amongst defensemen in hockey-reference.com’s point shares with 7.8. In any other year, 49 points in 65 games for a defenseman is possibly Norris Trophy-level good. Unfortunately, we are in an era where the emphasis of shots coming from is more profound than in recent memory. After the 2009-10 season, the NHL had 24 defensemen record 41 points and 22 racking up 10 goals. This season, we are on pace to see 28 d-men reach half-a-point per season and 30 reach double digits in goals. Again, Ekman-Larsson’s a good piece to build around, just not good enough to be your best player by a country mile. Up front, Shane Doan is still getting too much playing time and the likes of Kyle Chipchura and Boyd Gordon are now just novelty pieces; constantly getting defensive zone starts and fighting from crumbs of playing time they could get. Having two first round picks in this summer’s draft is huge for them (their own plus the one from the New York Rangers from the Keith Yandle trade), and hitting on every one of them will be the most important moment in recent franchise history. Otherwise, they will continue to flounder in a small market and a national audience that wonders why they haven’t been contracted or moved back to Canada already.
- 19. Colorado (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 20)
- 18. Minnesota (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 22)
- 17. Carolina (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 15)
- 16. Philadelphia (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 17)
- 15. Boston (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 16)
- 14. New York Rangers (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 14)
- 13. Detroit (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 12)
- 12. Florida (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 10)
- 11. St. Louis (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 13)
While the entire hockey world thinks that John Torchetti has solved all the ailments of the Minnesota Wild, I’ll just go ahead and put some numbers on the table
2015-16 Mike Yeo: 23-22-10, 49.1% all-situations goals for%, 48.4% score-adjusted corsi, 7.3% Evens Sh%, 93.1 Evens Sv%
2016 John Torchetti: 8-4-0, 59.2% all-situations goals for%, 46.9% score-adjusted corsi, 8.1% Evens Sh%, 94.5% Evens Sv%
In short, this is still the same Wild team. Maybe Matt Dumba and Charlie Coyle are seeing more playing time, but overall, luck alone is turning the team around. After being about league average in on-ice goal percentages, Minnesota’s skaters are shooting well above league average and Devan Dubnyk and Co are saving well above league average too. Mike Yeo seriously should be feeling like he got fired for no reason.
On a more positive note, Minnesota is back from the dead in these rankings because making the playoffs looks more realistic than what it was a month ago. However, this is simply because they are dueling with the Colorado Avalanche for one of the last wild card spots in the Western Conference. Here’s Colorado’s numbers during three time frames this season
Oct. 8th-Dec. 11th: 12-16-1, 48.2% all-situations goals for%, 44.3% score-adjusted corsi, 8.8% Evens Sh%, 91.9% Evens Sv%
Dec. 12th-Jan 27th: 15-6-2, 57.2% all-situations goals for%, 44.6% score-adjusted corsi, 6.8% Evens Sh%, 93.9% Evens Sv%
Jan 28th-Present: 7-8-1, 41.8% all-situations goals for%, 42.8% score-adjusted corsi, 7.0% Evens Sh%, 91.8% Evens Sv%
Colorado will always be a historically bad possession team as long as Patrick Roy continues to be their head coach. Until then, however, Minnesota should be fortunate that the offense and goaltending have not come together at the same time at any long stretch this season.
While Colorado will continue to be trapped into their defensive zone, it is critical that Semyon Varlamov plays well in Roy’s system. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with Varlamov experiencing a 91.4 percent all-situations save percentage (league average is 91.6 percent) and a quality start percentage of only 46.7 percent (league average is roughly 53 percent).
Yes, I am talking about Colorado in Minnesota’s space, but it’s important to mention the big picture context here to understand why St. Paul is experiencing a “resurgence”. I still don’t like the makeup of this team, the future is still as bleak as ever because of the huge contracts general manager Chuck Fletcher has brought in since 2013 and they shouldn’t be able to last beyond April even if they do make it into the playoffs.
- 10. San Jose (Pace: 99 pts, LW: 8)
- 9. New York Islanders (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 11)
- 8. Pittsburgh (Pace: 99 pts, LW: 9)
- 7. Nashville (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 7)
- 6. Anaheim (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 6)
- 5. Chicago (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 5)
- 4. Dallas (Pace: 106 pts, LW: 4)
- 3. Tampa Bay (Pace: 102 pts, LW: 3)
- 2. Washington (Pace: 127 pts, LW: 2)
- 1. Los Angeles (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 1)
Yep, Tampa Bay is back to being elite again. Since looking at splits is fun, let’s take a look at Tampa’s numbers with and without Ondrej Palat.
Oct. 1st-Nov. 7th (pre-injury): 7-7-2, 50.7% all-situations goals for%, 51.0% score-adjusted corsi, 7.9% Evens Sh%, 93.6% Evens Sv%
Nov. 8th-Jan 1st (only 2 games played for Palat): 11-9-4, 52.3% all-situations goals for%, 52.0% score-adjusted corsi, 7.0% Evens Sh%, 92.9% Evens Sv%
Jan 2nd-Precent (Palat’s regular return to the lineup): 21-7-1!!!!!!, 56.2% all-situations goals for%, 53.6% score-adjusted corsi, 8.7% Evens Sh%, 92.5% Evens Sv%
Yeah, the Lightning are really good and Ondrej Palat plays a huge part in that. With him back in the lineup, the top two lines are completely balanced like it was last season. The same weaknesses are their last season along their blueline, but Ben Bishop has been playing much better than he did last season. Can he keep it up to prevent any of the miscues that usually happen by defensemen not named Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman? Either way, it’s looking like another solid Cup run is in the works for John Cooper’s team. Just don’t have Steven Stamkos thinking about Toronto at any point in time for the next seven months and they should be good to go for awhile too.