Week 6 of the Nerdy 30: Going for Gold


John Locher/Associated Press

After months of apathetic expectations, the Las Vegas expansion team presented its nickname and logo. Almost as expected, nobody liked it. Pretty much this ownership group never had a chance to wow the audience ever since it spent the entire Autumn looking for patents that end in “knights”. Because, when I think of Las Vegas, why wouldn’t I think about dudes in armor storming make believe castles in over 100-degree Fahrenheit weather?

I did not watch the presentation live, but it can not be stated enough how ridiculous this introductory video was. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an owner like Garrison Anderson, I mean, Louis Keillor be so moved by a piece of digital art in my entire life. Dude, this is your time to take pride in being a sports owner, not a West Point Athletic Booster. Honestly, I can’t think of any sports logo that ever “exuded strength”. I just want my team’s name and logos to look cool, hope the jersey looks great too, and then just move on with my day. Sadly, not all of the my teams have made me happy in this regard (how ya doing Wizards?).

Also, how are you feeling University of Central Florida? You basically had a professional sports franchise copy-cat your whole name and color scheme! Maybe Daunte Culpepper, Blake Bortles and George O’Leary put you guys on the national spotlight for short bursts, but man, you guys aren’t taking advantage of this outrageous moment.

In short, this is another farce the NHL just can not help but be terrible at avoiding while under Gary Bettman’s leadership. There have been too many complaints that the league is too big and while the salary cap has made more franchises relevant, it has magnified which teams are struggling to stay economically safe. People have been crying for mercy to move as many as three to five teams every year to Canada with nobody in the New York office building even hearing their voices. I do wish Las Vegas the best of luck as an NHL franchise, but they have to be a playoff team and/or be relevant within the sport by the end of next decade and have T-Mobile Arena have good crowds every single night in order for this to be a success. I have my doubts, but for the sake of hockey, I would like to be proven wrong.

Meanwhile, here is the week’s edition of the Nerdy 30.

  • 30. Arizona (82-game standings points pace: 66 points, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Vancouver (Pace: 69 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. Calgary (Pace: 66 pts, LW: 28)
  • 27. New York Islanders (Pace: 73 pts, LW: 26)
  • 26. Buffalo (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 25)
  • 25. Colorado (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 27)
  • 24. Dallas (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 24)

Poor Sabres. Just as soon as you draft Jack Eichel and hope he joins Austin Matthews, Patrick Laine and Connor McDavid in taking part of a generational takeover on the NHL, he goes out with an ankle injury before the season even starts. Along the way, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Tyler Ennis and Dmitri Kulikov have all missed time this year due to their own versions of aches and pains.

With that, you get 19 different forwards that have played Buffalo’s first 19 games. Kyle Okposo has been the only player on the team to be on pace for more than one point every two games. Even Cal O’Reilly is getting playing time for this team!!! They might have no choice but to call up their first round pick from last summer, Alex Nylander.

Lastly, remember all those prospects that the Sabres were supposed to be storing up while they were bad. Welp, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Compher are in Colorado from the trade that gave Buffalo O’Reilly while Joel Armia is with Winnipeg from the trade that gave them Kane. That leaves us with all the first round picks like Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart and Eichel.

Buffalo will be better once the walking wounded return, but this lack of complete long term planning is why it took so long for Edmonton to be good. I fear the same could happen to Buffalo too if they keep wanting to purchase the Matt Moulsons, Brian Giontas and Josh Gorges’ of the world.

  • 23. Ottawa (Pace: 99 pts, LW: 22)
  • 22. Detroit (Pace: 73 pts, LW: 18)
  • 21. New Jersey (Pace: 96 pts, LW: 11)
  • 20. Winnipeg (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 14)
  • 19. Philadelphia (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 21)
  • 18. Nashville (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 23)
  • 17. Toronto (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 19)
  • 16. Chicago (Pace: 115 pts, LW: 13)

Just when you think the Philadelphia Flyers might be good at hockey, their goaltending decided to turn to poop again. After 20 games, the Flyers have been outscored 65-68 this year. However, corsica.hockey expected them to outscore the opposition 58.3-54.9. Even if their much more potent offense is scoring more than they should, their defense really should be giving up a full 13 GOALS (!!!) less than they have been so far this season.

When it comes to shot suppression at even strength, the Flyers are in the top ten in both shots on goal and unblocked shot attempts per hour. When you include the blocked shots, however, that number only gets them to 16th best in the NHL without score-adjustments. In today’s analytics world, however, that is a true sign that defensemen are getting in the way to put an end of possible attempts towards the net. Whether or not that is effecting goaltenders Michael Neuvirth and Steve Mason when it comes to staying in their crouched positions is another story. To go along with this, Philadelphia’s penalty kill is only bettered by Los Angeles and Vancouver when it comes to un-adjusted shot attempt suppression. Yet, they are only preventing the opposition from scoring in these situations 79.6% of the time.

That ain’t right for a team that demands more. Sean Couturier will be out for some time due to a leg injury, but Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton or Taylor Leier should be the call up to join the team and not have the goal scoring department skip a beat. Still, it has to be a worry to still see Mason struggle after such a scarring playoff series with the Capitals. If he can’t get it done and neither can Neuvirth anytime soon, either Ron Hextall has to grit his teeth and make Anthony Stolarz the starting goaltender or except that this was a messed up season for all around. Either way, there is no such thing as a perfect fix in Broad Street.

  • 15. St. Louis (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 20)
  • 14. Florida (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 9)
  • 13. Carolina (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 17)
  • 12. Edmonton (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 16)
  • 11. Anaheim (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 12)
  • 10. Los Angeles (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 15)
  • 9. Pittsburgh (Pace: 108 pts, LW: 8)

To be honest, it is really difficult to pin-point why St. Louis is not considered an elite team. Four of their six regulation losses have resulted in losing by three goals or more (they lost these four games by a combined score of 23-7) and has only been balanced by having three regulation wins by three goals or more (combined score of 14-4). If the Blues performed slightly better in any or all of their ugly losses, their total scoring margin would have been much better than the -2 and the expected goals margin of +1.6 they currently have this season. By using Neil Greenberg’s pythagenpat calculations, St. Louis would be a top ten team using expected goals with 94.7 standings points. Give or take a few points and you would see St. Louis as high as seventh in the NHL in the same category.

There is a strong chance that I am grasping straws here, but the point being is that the Blues are in a good place this early in the season. Yes, Alexander Steen is out due to an upper body injury. However, St. Louis is among the better teams again in score-adjusted puck possession and both special teams units are clicking at an elite level too. Their un-adjusted shot suppression while on the penalty kill is among the five best in the league again while their power play shot generation is significantly better than what it’s second worst in the NHL performance last season.

If anything, their puck luck at even strength can be even better. From a save percentage standpoint, almost all of that is tied to how badly backup Carter Hutton has played. Among all goaltenders with at least 200 even strength minutes played this season, Hutton is only worse the Philadelphia’s Neuvirth in save percentage at a shocking 88.4%. Meanwhile, Jake Allen is sitting at about league average in this category at 92.7%. With Brian Elliott out, it is important that Allen performs well and that when in need of a rest, the backup performs well too. It’s been discussed last year how Hutton just simply isn’t a good enough goaltender anymore at the NHL level. So that leaves St. Louis to call up possibly Phoenix Copley or Jordan Binnington from AHL Chicago. None of them seemed to be pegged as the starter at the moment, but I would definitely choose Copley due to his better seasonal and career save percentages at pro level.

In a conference full of mediocre teams, St. Louis has a shot of making a conference finals appearance again. All of that will be tied to patience and not panicking when things don’t go their way.

  • 8. Montreal (Pace: 123 pts, LW: 10)
  • 7. Minnesota (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 3)
  • 6. Tampa Bay (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 5)
  • 5. Washington (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 2)
  • 4. San Jose (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 6)
  • 3. Boston (Pace: 95 pts, LW: 4)
  • 2. Columbus (Pace: 111 pts, LW: 7)
  • 1. New York Rangers (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 1)

As for the Minnesota Wild, they continue to be among the most perplexing teams in the NHL. Nobody beyond Eric Staal can be guaranteed hit 50 points this season at the forward position and the team’s power play has been at a mediocre 14.8% despite a deep pool of talented forwards and their puck possession is still not elite despite having Bruce Boudreau as their head coach. However, their goaltending has been amazing all year thanks to the consistent efforts of Devan Dubnyk.

Already with four shutouts this season, Dubnyk is also on pace to smash his career high of 36 quality starts in a single season. Along with that, he is currently the best starting goaltender at even strength save percentage at a ridiculous 96.1%. If he keeps this up, he 30-year old should be in the running for this year’s Vezina Trophy. This is also because Minnesota’s defense is genuinely terrible.

Despite always getting high praise across the world, Ryan Suter and Marco Scandella are both giving up a full shot attempt every minute.Along with that, Jared Spurgeon has also seen his puck possession floundering. If anything, it is time to find a way to trust Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin more often as both have been solid at shot suppression this season. These small margins could make a big difference in a conference that is struggling to find a true contender.

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