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Reference Post: OtF's Look at Predators' Even-Strength Weakness (And Follow-Up Penalty/Line Analysis)

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That's an awful lot of glass for a place called Smashville.
That's an awful lot of glass for a place called Smashville.

One of the themes developing in the series previews for the upcoming Red Wings vs. Predators matchup is how much special teams will play a factor. While one series won't prove anything concrete, it's almost too perfect that Detroit will take their league-best even-strength numbers and their relative garbage special teams play into Nashville to face off against a team which consistently gets outshot, but has the third-best Bowman Index Score for special teams effectiveness (11 to Vancouver's 10 and Pittsburgh's 8).

Dirk Hoag at On the Forecheck takes a look at Nashville's numbers this year

  • At no point all season long has the team had a 10-game moving average above the .500 mark. The skaters are consistently getting out-shot, period.
  • Indeed, those first 10 games were awful, and there was improvement from Games 10-20, but again, not to the point where the team could break even in terms of shot attempts for & against.
  • Since the Trade Deadline (AK46 & Gaustad started playing around Game 65), there hasn't been a noticeable improvement in this performance.
  • Dirk's got a great graph up that tracks the balance of all shot attempts for and against the predators in close game situations (to eliminate how the score effects both team's propensities towards shooting more/less).

    Hoag goes on to point out that the Predator's moderate even-strength success has come largely from an unsustainably high shooting percentage as well as what is still believed to be unsustainably good goaltending (although Rinne's numbers are approaching sample sizes which may indicate he'll "come down to Earth" to a significantly less-severe degree than some may think).

    I highly recommend reading the entire piece.

    As far as how it all relates to a seven-game series? Well, you'd have to play the same series 100 times or more to get a great feel. The statistics tell us that we should expect the Wings to outscore the Predators while at even-strength and for the Predators to have a large advantage during times of manpower differentials. I think Dirk is spot-on that they will have to rely heavily on goaltending and special teams to win this series.

    With that in mind, let's take a look at the penalty differentials and see where we can find trouble spots:

    For this look, I've taken the number of penalties drawn (thanks to Behind the Net) and taken for each player individually and grouped players with the teammates/opponents they're expected to share ice time with. The science is somewhat inexact and always tends towards the negative differential here. This is because does not credit every penalty as being drawn by somebody. Generally, positive differential players are very strong two-way forwards, penalty killers (who are much more likely to draw a call to even up the manpower than they are to take a follow-on penalty to put their own club down 5-on-3, net-front forwards, and "positional" defensemen (as opposed to the "physical" type).

    I'm only looking at minor penalties here. Most majors are for fighting and have no real effect on manpower. Non-fighting majors are fairly rare in the playoffs. Obviously it only takes one to become a factor, but I can't say for certain that either side is at a disadvantage in this series for players at risk to take a five-minute penalty.

    Red Wing's Expected F1/D1 vs. Predators' Expected F1/D1

    Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference
    P. Datsyuk 17 7 10 A. Kostitsyn 11 13 -2
    T. Bertuzzi 10 27 -17 D. Legwand 8 13 -5
    J. Franzen 13 20 -7
    A. Radulov 1 2 -1
    N. Lidstrom 1 14 -13 S. Weber 5 23 -18
    I. White 7 11 -4 R. Suter 3 15 -12
    Total 48 79 -31 28 66 -38

    Red Wing's Expected F2/D2 vs. Predators' Expected F2/D2

    Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference
    H. Zetterberg
    15 16
    S. Kostitsyn 8 17 -9
    V. Filppula
    13 7
    M. Fisher
    7 14 -7
    J. Hudler
    11 21 -10 M. Erat
    13 15
    N. Kronwall 11 19 -8 H. Gill
    15 -9
    B. Stuart 11
    R. Josi 3 7 -4
    Total 61 75
    -14 37
    68 -31

    Red Wing's Expected F3/D3 vs. Predators' Expected F3/D3

    Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference
    D. Helm
    28 6
    P. Hornqvist
    26 14
    D. Miller
    10 9
    N. Spaling
    14 9
    D. Cleary
    8 15
    G. Bourque
    3 3
    J. Ericsson
    9 21
    -12 K. Klein
    K. Quincey
    -30 F. Bouillon
    11 14 -3
    Total 62 88
    -26 58

    Red Wing's Expected F4 vs. Predators' Expected F4

    Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference Player Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken Difference
    G. Nyquist
    2 1
    J. Tootoo
    20 21
    J. Abdelkader
    22 15
    P. Gaustad
    8 18
    T. Holmstrom
    -2 M. Halischuk
    11 6
    Total 42 36
    6 39

    I'll get to the line matchups in just a second, but it's worth noting that in total, Detroit games saw 108 more penalties (1.32 more per-game) than Nashville games did. Overall, Detroit was -65 to Nashville's -59.

    As far as line matchups go, these figures do seem to fit the budding narrative that Detroit's top two lines are going to have to get the job done while hoping that Nashville's depth advantage doesn't make a difference in the series. The +36 overall differential by the 1st, 2nd, and 4th lines (with 1st and 2nd pair d-men) is negated entirely by the -42 gap that exists with the third lines and third pairings out there against one another. What's more is that if you take out Darren Helm and the +22 he brings to the table (knowing that he's not scheduled to return until game 2 at the earliest) and replace him with Cory Emmerton's -3 (11 drawn to 14 taken), the situation gets even more dangerous for Detroit's bottom lines.

    The Red Wings are going to need their top-flight stars to shine in this series. If it becomes a grinding battle which disrupts smooth line flow, then the Predators could find themselves being able to capitalize on the special teams advantage they carry into this series.