Every NHL Team's Most Concerning Statistic in 2014-15January 9, 2015
Every NHL Team's Most Concerning Statistic in 2014-15
Statistics are as popular as they've ever been in the game of hockey. Some reveal more than others, whether it's measuring luck, skill or even determination and a mental capacity to compete in tough situations.
In an attempt to avoid as much duplication as possible, I looked for a wide range of stats to point to as a legitimate concern for every NHL team. They come from the standard tabulated numbers, the world of advanced statistics and some of my own number crunching where gaps exist.Click ahead to see my selections for every NHL team's most concerning statistic so far in the 2014-15 season.
The stat: The Ducks have a plus-two goal differential.
The concern: Despite winning 26 of 42 games and sitting tied for first in the Western Conference, the Ducks are not overpowering opponents. You could look at it as a glass-half-full situation with them winning tight games, but the negative part of the stat suggests they're walking a fine line. Things could go south if they don't tighten up the defensive side of their game.
The stat: The Coyotes have scored first in just 15 of 40 games.
The concern: The winning percentage is a decent .600 when they manage to get the first goal, but the Desert Dogs don't score first very often. They are dead last in the NHL in that department.
The stat: The Bruins are scoring 2.55 goals per game.
The concern: They've always been a sound defensive squad but with enough offense to compete with the league's elite. Not this year. The Bruins are in the bottom third in scoring average, and it has them fighting for a wild-card spot as opposed to the conference title.
The stat: The Sabres have a 37.6 Corsi-for percentage five-on-five.
The concern: Since Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com started tracking the advanced possession statistic, no team has finished with a Corsi-for percentage in the 30s. The Sabres are playing without the puck more than 60 percent of the time, and it's tough to win games that way.
The stat: The Flames are winning 47 percent of their faceoffs.
The concern: Improvement needs to be made in their possession game, with the Flames' Corsi-for percentage at 44.5—second worst in the NHL according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com—but it starts with winning draws to get the puck in their control in the circles. The Mikael Backlund injury might have contributed, since the lineup is riddled with young centers. His return could help.
The stat: The Hurricanes have a league-low 6.59 shooting percentage.
The concern: The Canes take plenty of shots, although they're not among the top 20 teams in that regard. The problem is they're not resulting in many goals—four more, in fact, than the NHL's worst in that category, the Buffalo Sabres.
The stat: The Blackhawks have dished out 622 hits this season.
The concern: Not that the team is designed to be overly physical, but the Hawks have the league's lowest total, even when you take out the sometimes inflated home stats. Yeah, it's nitpicky, but the Hawks are so darn good it's all I could find to worry about. Really, they have the puck so often they probably have no need to hit the way other teams might.
The stat: The Avalanche have a Corsi-for percentage of 44.8.
The concern: Last year, the advanced stats folks suggested the Avs couldn't sustain their impressive point-per-game percentage in the standings based on the awful underlying numbers. The worry now is that is absolutely true and that the team can't win without spectacular goaltending. Netminder Semyon Varlamov is having a decent year by the numbers; he has .919 save percentage—but that is far below last year's .927.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The stat: 249 man games lost.
The concern: Injuries played a big part in the Blue Jackets' struggles out of the gate this season. They're playing well in recent weeks and back over .500, but the hole could be too deep for them to climb out of to qualify for the postseason once again. Missing the playoffs would be a massive disappointment after the run they gave the Pittsburgh Penguins last spring.
The stat: The Stars allow an average of 3.25 goals against per game.
The concern: Kari Lehtonen was a big reason the Stars got to the playoffs last season and pushed the Anaheim Ducks to the brink in the first round. He has had a massive regression with about a half-goal per game more allowed this year and the lowest save percentage (.908) he's posted since his rookie season in 2006. His struggles with consistency are a big reason the Stars are on the outside looking in right now.
Detroit Red Wings
The stat: The Red Wings are 1-7 in shootouts so far.
The concern: Getting the extra point in even three of those seven losses would put the Wings into a tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings. It's a little troubling that with the kind of talent they have up front they can't find a way to pull off more wins in the showdown.
The stat: The Oilers have two wins away from home this season.
The concern: Two wins. The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes have double that. The concern of finishing dead last in the league is tempered by the idea they'll pick up a future star in Connor McDavid—or Jack Eichel—in the upcoming draft.
The stat: The Panthers have a 13.9 percent power-play success rate this season.
The concern: Within a realistic striking distance of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Panthers would be doing a whole lot better with a few more goals on the man-advantage. They sit third worst in the league in that department, above only Edmonton and Buffalo. The Panthers have just 87 goals on the season altogether—third worst in the NHL as well.
Los Angeles Kings
The stat: The Kings have allowed 37 goals against in the first period.
The concern: For some reason, the Kings traditionally play just well enough to get into the playoffs and then pick up their game in the playoffs to come away with championships. In similar fashion, they seem to be starting games slowly this season, allowing the third worst total in the opening 20 minutes.
It's a tough way to play, but they do most of their scoring in the latter frames and are more stingy over the final 40 minutes as well—especially the third period.
The stat: The Wild have a .895 save percentage.
The concern: Goaltending was a strength for the Wild a year ago at .914 in all situations; they were second best in the NHL at five-on-five with a .933 rating. Darcy Kuemper was a hot young prospect. Ilya Bryzgalov was enjoying a comeback. Josh Harding was the league's best netminder when healthy. Kuemper is struggling this year, and the team is on the verge of collapse. Its .903 save percentage at even strength is the league's worst.
The stat: The Canadiens have a 102.4 PDO, which combines shooting percentage and save percentage at even strength.
The concern: People consider this advanced stat the "blind luck" number, and the Habs have the second-highest number in the NHL. Aside from a pretty dismal power play that doesn't seem to be hurting them because of their good fortune at even strength, there's not much to criticize statistically for this team. At some point, luck usually balances out—at least for those who believe in Hockey Gods.
The stat: Predators rookie Filip Forsberg has 18.2 percent of the team's game-winning goals.
The concern: The Preds are leaning heavily on their rookie forward, who has four of the team's 22 game-winning goals and 14 of 89 goals altogether. Forsberg has been up to the challenge so far, but if he stumbles down the stretch, then the team will be relying even more heavily on goalie Pekka Rinne—who sits third with a 2.00 goals-against average and fourth with a .929 save percentage.
New Jersey Devils
The stat: The Devils are averaging 25.3 shots per game.
The concern: That number is second lowest in the league despite the presence of strong shooters such as Michael Cammalleri, Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder. As Wayne Gretzky said, you can't score if you don't shoot—and that's one of the reasons the Devils are one of six teams with fewer than 100 goals scored this season.
New York Islanders
The stat: The Isles are allowing 2.78 goals-against per game.
The concern: Strong first-half performances from a deep group of forwards and timely goaltending from Jaroslav Halak have helped propel the Islanders into the upper crust of the Eastern Conference standings. Allowing that many goals against, however, leaves little breathing room for the offense. Scoring three or more or risk a loss is a difficult way to play.
New York Rangers
The stat: The Rangers have a 10.25 shooting percentage in all situations and 9.36 at even strength.
The concern: Those are well above team averages, which typically fall between eight and nine percent in all situations. Leader Rick Nash is sniping at a career-high 18.7 percent, and the team's top six in that department are all above their career averages. Some of them may be able to keep up the pace, but certainly not all of them.
The stat: The Senators have only won 37.5 percent of the time after scoring first in games.
The concern: The good news—the Sens scored first in nearly half of their first 39 games. The bad news—they lost them more often than not. The team hasn't been good at keeping momentum going after generating some initial excitement. Its .375 winning percentage is worst in the NHL—yes, even more atrocious than Edmonton's.
The stat: The Flyers own a 75 percent penalty-kill success rating.
The concern: That's the worst of all but the Arizona Coyotes as of Thursday morning. The Flyers have a nearly 10-point deficit to make up in the Eastern Conference standings if they want to get back into the playoff picture. You can't accomplish that kind of leap without strong special teams play.
The stat: The Penguins are the league's most penalized team and average 14.8 penalty minutes per game, second most in the league.
The concern: Fortunately for the Pens, the penalty killers have done a great job, with the NHL's second-best success rate of 87.9 percent as of Thursday morning. If they fall back toward the league average, however, and continue to lack discipline, their goals-against could rise and cost them valuable points in the standings.
San Jose Sharks
The stat: Seven goals for Patrick Marleau.
The concern: The former Sharks captain is in a major funk with one assist in 11 games prior to Thursday night. His goal total is more distressing. After starting with four in his first five games, he's scored just three times in 36 contests. Marleau is on pace for 15 goals. He hasn't scored fewer than 20 in a non-lockout season since 2008 when he fell one short.
The Sharks rely on their offensive depth for wins, and Marleau's performance over the coming months will be a huge factor in whether they make the playoffs—or do any damage if they get there.
St. Louis Blues
The stat: Backup goaltenders Martin Brodeur and Jake Allen both have .899 save percentages.
The concern: Starter Brian Elliott is only recently healthy, and the Blues were so disappointed with the development of Allen, they brought in Brodeur off the streets midseason. The Blues thought so highly of Elliott last season they traded for Ryan Miller for the playoffs, so the stats of the two guys behind him now are troubling in case Elliott struggles or is injured again.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The stat: Backup goaltender Evgeni Nabokov's .892 save percentage.
The concern: After the Lightning lost in the first round of the playoffs while injured starting netminder Ben Bishop sat out, the Bolts looked for a better insurance policy than Anders Lindback. But newcomer Nabokov has not been what they'd hoped.
Not only is his save percentage dismal, but his 2.82 goals-against average in his 10 games is in stark contrast to Bishop's 2.35 GAA.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The stat: The Maple Leafs average 34.2 shots against per game.
The concern: Only the Buffalo Sabres have given up more on average. The sloppy defensive play and lack of possession game (44.8 Corsi-for percentage, according to Puckalytics.com) are putting too much pressure on goaltender Jonathan Bernier, whose current .916 save percentage is much lower than the .923 he posted in his first year as a starter last season.
The stat: The Canucks have a five-on-five goals for/against ratio of 0.95.
The concern: That stat is eighth-worst in the league and the lowest of all teams in playoff positions as of Thursday morning. The Canucks have not been a strong team at even strength this season, and their 48.9 percent Corsi backs that up as well, via Puckalytics.com.
They are 11th in the NHL with nearly three goals per game, but that includes 10 empty-net goals, four short-handed markers and 23 on the man-advantage. Down the stretch, their five-on-five play could keep them from qualifying for the playoffs if their special teams slump.
The stat: The Capitals have a league-worst .063 winning percentage when the other team scores first.
The concern: While they're the league's second-best at 20-1-2 (an incredible .872 win percentage) when they get the first lead of the game, the Caps have won just one game all year when giving up the opening goal. It could be interpreted as a lack of fight when games don't start their way. The good news is they score first more often than not.
The stat: 1.98 goals per 60 minutes even strength ice time.
The concern: The Jets are averaging a little more than 2.5 goals per game but are the worst among all teams in a playoff position Thursday morning at even strength. They're getting great goaltending from rookie Michael Hutchinson and more solid performances from fellow netminder Ondrej Pavelec but can't expect to make the postseason without more offense.
All statistics are via NHL.com, Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, Puckalytics.com or my own calculations unless otherwise noted. All are current through Wednesday, Jan. 7.