Welcome back to Week Eleven of the Detroit Power Play Update series. Each week, I’ll take a look back at the previous week’s power play performance. At the bottom, you will find links to the previous editions.
5v4 Stats Update
This article is accurate through the games of December 17th. Even though it will post on December 18th, it’s written the day before, so the Philly game will be included in next week’s edition.
First, here’s a quick update on the team metrics that this series is focusing on:
Goals / 60: 21st. Last week: 19th
Unblocked Shots / 60: 22nd. Last week: 23rd
High Danger Chances For / 60: 23rd. Last week: 24th.
% HDCF of Unblocked Shots: 22nd. Last week: 23rd
So Detroit played three games and had 4 total power plays. One of them was shortened by taking a penalty. This continues a season-long trend of Detroit not getting many power play opportunities. Through the games of December 17th, Detroit is more than 2 standard deviations below the mean of NHL 5v4 minutes. Their 130.4 minutes is dead last in the NHL. The league average is 167, and the standard deviation is 15.48.
In an upcoming installment, I plan to look at reasons for that. Sure, in individual games, you can point at imbalanced officiating, but I don’t think there is some league-wide conspiracy to give Detroit fewer power plays.
Unfortunately, the team’s dearth of power play opportunities came during a stretch in which the team played 3 teams that are all 20th or lower in giving up 5v4 goals. This would have been a great opportunity to make up some ground.
Here is a look at the stats of the teams we played last week.
Goals Against / 60: 27th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 9th
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 23rd
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 29th
Goals Against / 60: 26th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 31st
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 21st
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 4th
Goals Against / 60: 20th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 21st
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 30th
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 27th
Like last week, there weren’t enough shots to make it work making a weekly chart. Instead, this week’s installment is going to focus on something that Prashanth Iyer noticed and we discussed.
From Hockeyviz.com, here are 5v4 unblocked shot heat maps for Dennis Cholowski and Mike Green. Green is shooting from the middle of the ice more than Cholowski, who is mostly taking shots from the left side.
Looking at the following stats from Green, Cholowski, and Kronwall (the three defenders with 20 or more minutes at 5v4) shows a clear difference in the three through this point of the season.
The team has more shot attempts when Green is on the ice than Cholowski, but Goals For per 60 is reversed. Kronwall is third in all counts. Interestingly, Hronek is at or near the top in each category, but he needs to play more before we can gauge whether that’s something to get excited about.
The difference between the shot metric and the goal metric can probably be explained by the expected goals. The team is underperforming their expected goals with Green on the ice, and overperforming their expected goals when Cholowski is on the ice.
In the article that led to the idea for this series, I looked at ways to improve Detroit’s power play this season.
One of the main aspects I found was important was structure. From that article:
Matt Cane introduced the concept of a Structure Index, “a rough measure of how consistent teams are in generating options from the same location. A team’s Structure Index is the weighted average of each player’s average distance from their central shot location.”
The lower the Structure Index number, the more consistent teams are where each player takes his shots from. As Cane puts it: “a higher Structure Index indicates that teams are having trouble setting up plays, and that their players aren’t getting looks from the same spot on each power play.”
It’s important to realize this doesn’t mean you want your five players to just go to “their spot” and stay still. One of the reason Detroit’s power play is improved this season is because they are moving both the puck and themselves, all while more consistently shooting from their designated area than in year’s past.
First up is unblocked shots from the three Detroit defenders with more than 20 minutes at 5v4.
It’s not to say that the defender on a 1-3-1 should be shooting every shot from the point, but the formation is designed to typically have the defender near the middle of the ice. Cholowski’s shots should be coming from closer to the middle than we see here.
The next gif is all Detroit’s forwards with 20 or more minutes at 5v4. (Abdelkader is just under, but with the injury to Mantha, he’ll be over 20 minutes very soon).
The shot locations are tighter than they were last year. A couple players are shooting from a wider range of locations than others, mainly Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, and Gustav Nyquist. This is not surprising as the first two have moved back and forth from the slot position to the half-boards. Nyquist has moved from one half-boards to the other.
The following two are last season, with the top two defensemen and top eight forwards in terms of 5v4 time. The shots are more spread out overall compared to this year, showing an improvement so far in that area.
Meghan Hall is working on an updated version of her work with showing Matt Cane’s structure index that will show the data for the current season. You can expect more on this in a future edition, once that information is available.
Let’s Go To the Videotape!
Normally, I would have clips from recent Detroit power plays here. I do plan on looking more closely at the positioning of our point men on the power play. As you can imagine, that entails watching a lot of video because you can’t really detect a pattern from a few games.
I’m working on a tracking project where I’m going to be re-watching every Detroit power play this season, so I plan on also keeping an eye on the point men. You can expect an update on that in a future installment.
Still, I don’t want to leave you empty-handed, or I guess empty-clipped. So I’m going to do something a little different.
Since I’m talking about structure, I wanted to use a sequence from the game against the Islanders. I’m actually going to use a power play setup from the Islanders to illustrate how, while structure is very important, a power play unit also needs movement within that structure.
For this game, I was sitting about 10 rows up in the corner behind the goal the Islanders are shooting at here. I was right in back of Mathew Barzal, and in a great position to see him, a top playmaker in the NHL, stickhandle with no options. Lee is very good at screening the goalie, but he’s almost stationary. Watch how easy Detroit’s penalty killers have it against a power play unit that should be deadly.
Compare that to this clip from Detroit. It’s not the best they’ve looked, but even when they aren’t at their best, look at the difference in motion than the Islanders clip.
I want to end this installment with a question for you, the readers. Why do you think we can see the discrepancy between the position of Cholowksi’s shots on the power play and Green’s? I have a few potential reasons in mind, but I’m curious to see what you think.
Put your answers in the comments, and hopefully we can have a good discussion about it. Thanks as always for reading.
I’m taking a week off to give myself a breather and to work on the manual tracking project I mentioned above (and in last week’s comments). I hope all of you enjoy the holiday season, and come back in 2 weeks for another installment.