2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Moneypuck Awards for the First 2 Rounds of the 2014 NHL Playoffs

Rob VollmanContributor IMay 17, 2014

Moneypuck Awards for the First 2 Rounds of the 2014 NHL Playoffs

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Wins and goals are all that matters in the postseason, but they are created in many ways. Winning faceoffs, drawing penalties and driving possession are just a few of the less recognizable ways that the world's best players are providing that extra value for their teams. Who have been the moneypuck giants after two rounds of playoff action?

    To answer that question, I made use of some lesser known but exciting new statistics that have relatively recently become available via the NHL's published game files and the sites that mine and amalgamate them.

    Selecting 10 interesting categories with proven links to goals and wins, we have identified a handful of players who are delivering all the little extras, like most notably Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews.

    Who are the players who have been making those additional contributions over the first two rounds of this year's playoffs? Let's find out.

Sidney Crosby, Driving Possession

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Moneypuck Category

    While the advantage to having possession of the puck is obvious, there is not a precise stopwatch-based measurement of how frequently a team has the puck with each player on the ice.

    There is an excellent proxy, however. The percentage of all attempted on-ice shots taken by a player's team serves as a reliable estimate of how frequently his team had the puck. More puck possession means more opportunity to score and generally leads to more wins.

     

    The Winner

    The Pittsburgh Penguins took 241 attempted shots to their opponents' 150 at even strength when their captain, Sidney Crosby, was on the ice. That means that they had the puck an estimated 61.6 percent of the time when he was out there, compared with only 51.3 percent when he was not. That difference was the second-largest in the league, just slightly behind Boston Bruin Reilly Smith's.

    While Crosby's lone goal and nine points in 13 games were a disappointment, as was the Penguins' second-round exit, the portion of time the team spent controlling the play was not.

     

    Runners-Up

    Boston's Patrice Bergeron had comparable success but while playing much tougher minutes.

    When you consider only close-game situations, where each team is truly playing its standard game, Claude Giroux bubbles up ahead of them both.

Anze Kopitar, Scoring Rate

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    The Moneypuck Category

    A player's scoring totals can be boosted by additional ice time, especially with the man advantage. That is why the best way to evaluate a player's scoring is by measuring it as a rate per 60 minutes and considering even-strength situations only.

    Obviously, a player's statistics can still be boosted by great linemates, weak opponents, favorable playing conditions and some good puck luck, but it is still a superior way of measuring scoring success.

     

    The Winner

    Anze Kopitar is scoring 3.74 points per 60 minutes at even strength, the highest rate in the league among those with over seven games and virtually double that of a typical top-six forward.

    The regular-season leader, the Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf, scored 3.12 points per 60 minutes at even strength. Kopitar led the Los Angeles Kings with 2.10.

     

    Runners-Up

    James Sheppard and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks each bested Kopitar's total with 4.37 and 3.96 points per 60 minutes, respectively. This was in just seven games, however, and in especially limited action in Sheppard's case.

    Colorado Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon's playoff scoring rate was just a notch lower than Kopitar's.  

Claude Giroux, Drawing Penalties

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The Moneypuck Category

    Drawing penalties is a highly undervalued way to stop an opposing team's momentum, kill two minutes and create a roughly 20 percent chance of scoring a goal.

    The league's best at drawing penalties can have different styles but are generally the same players year after year. Their impact can be measured and quantified using a system described in an earlier Bleacher Report piece this season.

     

    The Winner

    Claude Giroux drew only six penalties, but did so in only seven games, and while taking only one of his own. He was also near the top of the regular-season leaderboard.

    There were five players who drew more penalties than Giroux, three of them by only one, but each of them required twice the games and took on average over four times more penalties of their own as the Philadelphia Flyers superstar.

     

    Runners-Up

    Anze Kopitar of the Kings and Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers were two of the five players to draw more penalties than Giroux and the only ones to match Giroux's penalty differential (five). They required twice as many games, however.

    Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury leads goalies with a penalty differential of five, in 13 games.

Tuukka Rask, Even-Strength Save Percentage

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The Moneypuck Category

    A goalie's save percentage can be significantly affected by the number of times his team is penalized and how effectively it kills those penalties, very little of which the goalie has any control over.

    That's why looking at a goalie's save percentage at even strength has been the analytic world's preferred go-to method for evaluating a netminder's value.

     

    The Winner

    Boston's Tuukka Rask led the NHL with a .945 save percentage in even-strength situations this postseason. He also led the NHL in the regular season at .942.

    Perhaps the next big step in goaltending analytics will be to devise a method for establishing to what extent Rask is to credit for this accomplishment and how much is thanks to Boston's great defensive play.

     

    Runners-Up

    After some rough patches in the regular season, the world's arguably best goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, stayed neck and neck with Rask throughout the playoffs, ending the second round in a close second with .944.

    Darcy Kuemper is next, but in less than half the action, followed by Montreal's Carey Price at .936.

Jonathan Toews, Facing Tough Competition

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Moneypuck Category

    The average quality of a player's opposition can be estimated in a variety of ways, two of which are battling for prominence in the analytic world.

    The first was the average attempted shot differential of one's opponents, and the second the average ice time of one's opponents. The latter system is based on the premise that a team's best players will get the most ice time.

    The two systems measure up quite closely in most cases, but we're using the second method here.

     

    The Winner

    Jonathan Toews is facing the toughest competition this postseason. His opponents average 31.9 percent of their respective teams' available ice time, which is incredibly high. Only eight players are within 1.0, and Toews' league-leading regular-season total was just 30.3.

    Regardless of how you measure it, the Chicago Blackhawks lean on Toews heavily against top opposing lines. This says a lot about their confidence in their captain and also explains why he should be cut some slack on those nights he's kept off the scoresheet.

     

    Runners-Up

    We look to Chicago for the blue-line leaders as well, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson. But they're coming up on the next slide. 

Johnny Oduya, Playing Tough Minutes

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Moneypuck Category

    The ability to take on the top opponents in defensive-zone situations is one of the league's most undervalued skills. Handling these tough minutes leaves the team's talented superstars with far greater opportunities to score.

    Whenever there's a player whose scoring totals have been boosted with a lot of shifts that started in the offensive zone and against secondary lines, there's usually a teammate playing tough minutes who should be thanked.

     

    The Winner

    Johnny Oduya and his partner Niklas Hjalmarsson started taking over Chicago's toughest minutes a few years ago. The result? A likely Norris trophy for Duncan Keith and potentially a Conn Smythe for Brent Seabrook.

    Oduya's estimated average level of competition is ninth-highest in the NHL this postseason, and he started only 35.4 percent of his non-neutral shifts in the offensive zone, third among the league's defensemen. It's truly amazing that the team is somehow plus-three with Oduya on the ice.

     

    Runners-Up

    No one is really that close to Oduya and Hjalmarsson in the difficulty of their minutes this postseason.

    Perhaps among forwards a case could be made for the Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec or Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado.

Anze Kopitar, Setting Up Shots

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The Moneypuck Category

    The NHL counts goals, it counts shots and it counts assists, but it doesn't count the passes that result in shots. Why not?

    Fortunately, we do have a rough estimate based on primary assists and a team's on-ice shooting percentage. It was used in an earlier Bleacher Report article to find this year's top playmakers. While it does have some value, be warned that it is notoriously unreliable over small sample sizes, as recently studied by Ryan Stimson of In Lou We Trust.

     

    The Winner

    Anze Kopitar is estimated to have set up 115 shots in 14 games so far this postseason, which has no doubt been the secret to igniting the Kings offense.

    The Slovenian ranked eighth in the regular season with 567 setup passes in 82 games, a pace that would put him at 97 in his 14 postseason games.

     

    Runners-Up

    Mathieu Perreault is technically estimated to have set up 118 shots so far this postseason, tied with Boston's Dougie Hamilton for the NHL lead, but in one fewer game and in over 90 fewer minutes played.

    This estimate is almost definitely skewed by the small sample size of having only three primary assists each. Torey Krug, whose estimate of 115 shots is based on five primary assists, is likely a little more accurate.

Jonathan Toews, Winning Faceoffs

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    The Moneypuck Category

    Winning games requires scoring goals, which requires taking a shot, which requires having the puck. The faceoff is one of the more obvious ways of getting that puck in the first place.

    As explained in more detail in an earlier Bleacher Report piece ranking the greatest faceoff artists of the regular season, the impact of a player's faceoff wins can be quantified. The most valuable faceoff specialists take a lot of draws and win at least 55 percent of them, especially on special teams.

     

    The Winner

    Jonathan Toews has won 58.0 percent of his faceoffs. His record is 137-102 at even strength and 40-26 on special teams. That overall 177-128 record gave Chicago the puck 49 times more than their opponents off the draw.

    There's an excellent chance that his success has already produced and/or saved Chicago at least one goal so far this postseason.

     

    Runners-Up

    The Minnesota Wild's Mikko Koivu had almost identical numbers to Toews in every regard, and Boston's Patrice Bergeron was behind the two of them by only the very slightest of margins. 

Dustin Brown, Throwing Hits

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Moneypuck Category

    Hits can be a misleading statistic, since they are recorded differently from one arena to another and since they generally mean that the opposing team had the puck. That's also why no analytic value to throwing a hit has ever been proven.

    That being said, the NHL player who throws the most hits is at the very least a point of interest.

     

    The Winner

    Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown is usually among the league leaders in the regular season. He has thrown 79 hits so far this postseason, which is 21 more than the individual in second place, teammate Jarret Stoll.

    Brown has been on the receiving end of only 31 hits, which is tied with Lars Eller for 28th. That gives him him a net differential of plus-48 in 14 games, 13 better than Boston's Milan Lucic in second place.

     

    Runners-Up

    Among defensemen, who are obviously on the receiving end of more hits than the throwing end, the leader is Zdeno Chara, whose 45 hits for and 16 against award him a plus-29 differential. It's quite understandable why opponents aren't too eager to hit the huge Slovakian!

    New York's Dan Girardi is the only defenseman to throw more hits than Chara, edging him by one, but taking 55 in return.

Tanner Pearson, Drawing Icings

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Moneypuck Category

    A brand-new statistic that just became available is the number of icings that occur when a player is on the ice, both for and against. A great differential gives the team additional faceoffs in the attacking zone against opponents who weren't allowed to make a line change. Some great scoring opportunities can result!

    While its newness prevents a definitive word on its actual value to the game, it at least indicates that this player was part of a team unit that was particularly effective at pressuring opponents.

     

    The Winner

    Tanner Pearson has been on the ice for 25 icings by the opposing team and only eight by Los Angeles. His plus-17 differential is the highest in the league, and his 75.8 icing percentage is the best among those who have been on the ice for at least 20 icings.

    There is obviously a strong team effect at play. Pearson was only 20-15 in the regular season, but teammates such as Drew Doughty were among the league leaders in both the regular season and the playoffs.

     

    Runners-Up

    Ryan Suter is the league leader in absolute terms, being on the ice for 39 opposing icings but also 31 of Minnesota's own.

    Doughty is next with 37 drawn and only 25 taken. That plus-12 differential is bested by very few.

     

    All advanced statistics are via Extra Skater unless otherwise noted.

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.

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