Monday, November 19, 2007


Flames thru 20

Note: scroll to the bottom for the cumulative numbers; these are for Games 11-20 exclusively. Numbers for Games 1-10 here.

Record: 3-6-1 (2-3-1 Home, 1-3-0 Road)
3 Regulation Wins, 0 OT/SO Wins, 6 Regulation Losses, 1 OT Loss, 0 SO Losses

Scoring & Preventing Goals:
Much like their record, there is nothing here to like. Their penalty killing looks less atrocious than in the 1st 10 games, but it's not, really: they were equally inept down by a man, but had more success down two men (no goals against in 165secs of 3-on-5). Their PP scoring was worse, their EV scoring was worse, and their EV Goals Against was worse. Just about a clean sweep!

Player Rates:

(Click to enlarge; sorted by ESP/60) The discussion regarding which centre to put with which wingers is ongoing, but any questions regarding whether Mike Keenan likes and trusts Lombardi as a hockey player have been answered. As shown, Lombardi's +4 is one of only two positive +/- rates over this stretch (the Warrener was +1 in 6GP), and last night, he spent more time on the ice than any other Flames forward.

Silver Linings? Yeah, although I suppose it depends on how you want to look at it. What follows are a bunch of "records" for the Flames thru 20, shown as [Flames had more -- Opp't had more -- Equal]. For instance, in total goals scored, Flames are 8-11-1; outscored the opponent 8 times, been outscored 11 times, and scored the same # of goals once (the one shootout game). Hope that's clear enough.

Special Teams goals (including 6-on-5):
= 3-10-7
Even Strength goals:
= 11-8-1
Total Shots on goal:
= 10-7-3
Special Teams Shots on Goal:
= 11-8-1
Even Strength Shots on Goal:
= 11-9-0
Even Strength Shots Directed at the Net (Shots (incl. Goals) + Missed Shots):
= 12-6-2
Even Strength Shots Directed at the Net *including* Shots that are Blocked:
= 16-2-2

I guess the first thing this reinforces is how badly the Flames are getting trashed on special teams. They have only prevented the opposition from scoring a PP goal 3 times in 20 games, and 2 of those were against the league's worst PP (btw, Craig Simpson? My apologies, I guess it wasn't all you).

However, you will note that this is not due to getting outshot. Neither is it a discipline thing; they have taken 105 penalties and drawn 95, which is pretty close. The problem is some combination of getting out-goaltended, giving up too many high quality shots, and taking too many low quality shots.

The other thing is the two versions of the Corsi +/- at the end. I've been pondering this since it first came up, and this is where I'm at:

**The most interesting use of the Corsi metric is as a proxy for scoring chances for and against. I understand the concern that it doesn't really tell you about the quality of the chances, but at the same time, I don't see it as being different than any other stat in that sense.

Just taking goals as an easy example: the number of goals a player has scored in a season is not quite the definitive word on how good a goal-scorer he is. It doesn't tell you whether he's had any extremely lucky or unlucky bounces, or whether he's done it against the Zetterbergs and Lidstroms, or the Laperrieres and Lileses(es). But for the most part, the guys at the top of the leaderboard are the best goal-scorers, and the guys at the bottom are the worst.

For the most part, the teams (and players) who are directing the most shots at the net are going to be the ones who are getting the most scoring chances.

**As a proxy for scoring chances for & against, I think it works best if blocked shots are excluded. With blocked shots included, I figure it's a good proxy for zone time, or Where The Puck Is, which is interesting in and of itself. But if the NHL actually kept track of zone time, I wouldn't want to use that as a proxy for scoring chances, because then I'd be explicitly equating Player A, who can create chances out of O-zone possession, with Player B, who cannot. Why would I want to do that? It fails to apply Vic's famous common sense.

My other logic is here is viewing it from the perspective of the defending team. Blocking shots is better defense than not; creating traffic in shooting lanes is better defense than not; forcing the attacking team to keep the puck to the outside is better defense than not. If you treat blocked shots like a scoring chance, rather than a prevented scoring chance, then you are failing to credit the defensive team for doing these things that clearly prevent goals.

Consider the instance of Jarome Iginla coming down the right wing on a partial break and winding up. If he hits the post (or scores, or Luongo has to make a beauty glove save), then this obviously qualifies as a scoring chance. But if Willie Mitchell gets his stick out and deflects the puck up into the netting, I don't think it does -- and I'd be wary of any metric that deliberately treats these two things as equal. Your mileage may vary.

**What does this all mean for the Flames? I think what it means is that there's nowhere to go but up. There is nothing that would indicate that results should get worse at EV, only numbers that show they should stay the same, or get better. Past that, I think they've had some bad luck, and I mean luck in the rather technical context of what Tyler illustrates as Type I and Type II luck. Mainly:
But we shall certainly see. Go Flames.

Cumulative (Games 1 thru 20)


Blocking shots is better defense than not;

I disagree. I see blocked shots as mostly desperation defense. Heck, most blocked shots tend to involve the defender leaving his feet and leaving your feet is typically non-ideal (I'm feeling generous) for any defender in any sport.

If you keep the puck out of your end and you're on top of your marks, you won't have to block shots.

If you treat blocked shots like a scoring chance, rather than a prevented scoring chance, then you are failing to credit the defensive team for doing these things that clearly prevent goals.

I don't see them as any less of a scoring chance than a missed shot. Personally, I think a scoring chance has to do with a shot from a dangerous (high percentage) area of the ice. Whether or not the shot was blocked or missed the net is of little consequence - the defender allowed the puck into a dangerous area and allowed a shot to get off. Sometimes that shot squeaks through the block anyway and you're left with an even higher quality scoring chance because now the goalie's view of the shot is impaired.

Let's use a recent example: Nilsson had a yawning cage in the last BofA and Rhett Warrener was all up in Kipper's junk and managed to deflect the puck nearly off the goalline. Are you going to tell me that because Warrener was in no-man's land, actually interfering with his goaltender, that Nilsson didn't have a legit scoring chance there?

I think you just leave them in there. It boosts the sample size, it's less subjective, and it tells you about the balance of play.

As a proxy for scoring chances for & against, I think it works best if blocked shots are excluded.

Perhaps this depends on what species of blocked shot we're talking about here. The anecdotal example you provide...sure, Im with ya...but I've certainly seen legitimate scoring chances turned away by blocked shots. For example, the Nilsson shot deflected away by the Rhett Warrener stick on Saturday night (assuming that registers as a blocked shot). 99% of the time, that puck is in the net. It was probably the Oilers best scoring chance all night (excluding their actual goal). Im writing my comment, rivers posts the exact same example. Day late, dollar short.

Surprisingly that one wasn't called a block. The pbp says it was a missed shot, but Warrener definitely hit that one and it should've been scored as a blocked shot... and a Corsi minus. ;)

This seems like agree-to-disagree material. Warrener on Nilsson is textbook Exception that Proves the Rule.

Last thing maybe: if blocking shots was a function of bad D and desperation, I don't think we'd see the same people leading the league in BS every year, would we? Wouldn't the blocked shot leaders either "improve" -- in which case they plummet down the leaderboard -- or not, in which case they get cut and go play Tier 2 in Germany?

On the whole 'blocked shots while he was on the ice' thing ... it doesn't seem to matter.

Look here for the Flames numbers, Matt.

Overwhelmingly the players who are on the ice for more shots-for than shots-against are on for about the same ratio of blocked shots for/against and missed shots for/against.

I mean what we really care about is scoring more goals than you allow. And we want to know the players that drive that. But all it takes is a few bounces or goalposts to screw that up this early in the season, there just aren't that many goals scored in the NHL. So we look at the numbers that drive the results, the shots directed at net. Because we know that's likely where the scoring chance ratio and difference is. And where the goals fo and against will inevitably head for the overwhelming majority of players.

I mean teams play different styles, and sometimes that changes by the game. I think leaving blocked shots in, when we talk about how many shots were directed at net in a game ... that makes sense. In a way it tells you how far off the boards the game was played, at least most of the time.

For this though, regarding individual players, after scrolling through a few teams with the link above (just change the last three characters to the team abbreviation EDM, VAN, COL, T.B, etc) ... I'd lean towards Matts opinion.

I've also added a "Fenwick +/-" column there, Matt. Which is the +/- of goals/saves/missed shots for each player. So nobody has to bother with mental arithmetic.

BTW: Check out Brad Richards Shots+/-, Fenwick+/-, and Corsi+/-. And check out the faceoffs by zone for T.B as well. Last year as off-year, but he's going to start looking damn good on the scoresheet soon. Elias too.

A thread at HF quotes Jason Gregor as saying that Richards is on the trade block. And now that MacLean is involved with that team, it's really possible I think.

Vic, thanks for that. I should have said this in fact:

Another big reason why I feel like it means less when BS are included is because the one team I've looked at in detail -- the Flames -- have BS ratios that are WAY HIGHER than their other ratios. I know after G15, the Flames big 4 fwds plus Phaneuf and Aucoin all had more than twice as many BS for than against.

When you add on the fact that most shots that are blocked aren't from the really prime scoring areas, then... well, it's my opinion. I have no problem with RQ or whoever disagreeing.


Yeah, it's hard to take a firm stand either way. Because both arguments have merit, and there just doesn't seem to be that much in it in any case.

The Flames do seem to have a lot of shots blocked. Then again, they have a lot more shots and missed shots too. And take more faceoffs in the right end of the rink as well. All arrows point in the same direction here.

And it's not like the Flames are from the "Hey, we're just happy to have a shot on net!" school, at least not that I've seen. And Keenan teams never are.

The Flames just need Kiprusoff to play to his salary. All the other problems fade away then I bet.

Easy for me to say I know, I'm not emotionally invested in the Flames games. Still, I have trouble understanding any Flames fan panic.

Still, I have trouble understanding any Flames fan panic.

More annoyance and frustration from me I'd say. partially born of their under achievement from last year.

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