Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The 'shorty' specialists

NHL leaders in shorthanded goals per minute:

1 PATRICK SHARP CHI 56 2.56 2.93
3 RADIM VRBATA PHX 53 1.84 1.85
4 RENE BOURQUE CHI 39 2.63 1.76
5 NIKLAS HAGMAN DAL 63 2.26 1.69
7 TOM KOSTOPOULOS MTL 52 1.53 1.51
8 CHUCK KOBASEW BOS 57 2.31 1.37
9 MIKE RICHARDS PHI 59 3.06 1.33
10 RICK NASH CBJ 59 2.39 1.27

Shorthanded points per minute:

1 SHANE DOAN PHX 57 1.69 4.37
2 PATRICK SHARP CHI 56 2.56 3.76
3 ERIC PERRIN ATL 60 2.43 3.29
4 RADIM VRBATA PHX 53 1.84 3.08
5 RENE BOURQUE CHI 39 2.63 2.93
7 JONATHAN TOEWS CHI 40 1.55 1.93
8 STU BARNES DAL 63 2.56 1.86
10 R.J. UMBERGER PHI 57 2.45 1.72

Patrick Sharp has really made a name for himself as a defensive player this season by scoring on the penalty kill, which strikes me as a bit of a strange situation. I've always regarded shorthanded goals as statistical anomalies, occurrences that really don't happen often enough to justify having a "threat" killing penalties.

It seems to me that, if a player has scoring ability, he should be out there when the team scores 28 per cent of its goals — not when they're as rare as empty netters.

(Then again, the Blackhawks' goal-scoring rates when Sharp's on the ice aren't that different on the power play (4.92), even strength (3.36) and penalty kill (3.76).)

I guess I've always looked at shorthanded situations as a one-way street: You're basically out there to prevent goals, and if that's all you accomplish, it's a job well done.

Take someone like Mike Peca, who has played 2.53 PK minutes per game and been on the ice for two goals for and six against. He's the second best forward in the league this season, behind Stu Barnes, in 4-on-5 situations (among regulars) at 3.09 goals against per 60 minutes.

Sharp's defence has been a little worse, at 3.76 per 60, but with a league-leading nine shorties scored when he's on the ice, he's been more valuable than anyone at the wrong end of the rink.

A statistical anomaly? Or just plain old good penalty killing?

And what does it tell us when perennial Selke winner Rod Brind'Amour always has some of the worst 4-on-5 goals against rates in the league?



At 11:07 a.m., February 19, 2008, Blogger YzermanZetterberg said...

Just out of curiosity -- and not to take anything away from Patrick Sharp or anyone else -- I was wondering if these calculations take fatigue into account?

At 11:37 a.m., February 19, 2008, Blogger Chemmy said...

Scoring a shorty is way different than scoring on the power play.

Shorthanded gives you the setup of blocking a puck with your shin guards and having a clear breakaway uncontested from the red line. You almost never see breakaways on the power play.

It's an uncommon skill set in that you need a player who can step up and block shots as well as put the pedal to the metal on the breakaway.

At 12:17 p.m., February 19, 2008, Blogger JavaGeek said...

The real question then, where ae last year's leaders? (Goals/Hr)

At 12:34 p.m., February 19, 2008, Anonymous noah said...

I do wonder though if anyone in the league has thought of ending a penalty on any goal, not just a powerplay goal; so it would be a double benefit for a shorthanded marker.

it could lead to teams adding more defense to the powerplay and more offense to the penalty kill, or just trying harder to score first.

At 12:59 p.m., February 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James you're coming to the realization that the best defense isn't created by solely thinking defensively. Having offensive threats out there does a lot to keep the other team honest -- not allowing them to load up their PP with the Petr Klimas of the league.

The 80's oilers PK kept a lot of teams honest. When you're PP is up against Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Tikkanen, Coffee, Anderson, etc, you have to have a good number of players out there that can really play a strong defensive game, which in turn weakens your offensive chances.

This is "total hockey". You do everything you can to win all the time, and refrain from playing to stereotypes.

So I'm being pedantic, you've heard all this before. IMO it works. Remember that early loss to Sweden in the olympics, er, 2 olympics ago? Our hockey was soo typecast, the Swedes knew exactly what we were going to do all the time.

At 2:03 p.m., February 19, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I don't think I'm coming to that realization at all; after all, my "top defensive players" posts hardly picked out offensive juggernauts.

Good defence is good defence — you can have stone hands and be a top notch PKer.

At 2:39 p.m., February 19, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

I don't think I'm coming to that realization at all; after all, my "top defensive players" posts hardly picked out offensive juggernauts.

Good defence is good defence — you can have stone hands and be a top notch PKer.

While that last point is undeniably true, James, I'm with "anonymous" on this one. There's more than one way to kill a penalty, and those with Ninja hands can kill them faster.

Last year the Devils led the league with an incredibly stingy 40 PPGA, largely thanks to the efforts of John (Stone Hands) Madden and Jay (Cement Stumps) Pandolfo. They did manage to pot 4 SHG for a net -36. Compare that to the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers whose PK scoreboard read +36/-77 for a net -41, an excellent figure during a much higher-scoring era. I don't suppose the Oilers were better than 5th or so in PK percentage, but throw in those 36 shorties -- double any other team btw -- and more than a few PPs found themselves in chase mode. And more than a few opposition pointmen seemed to be wearing brown hockey pants.

Chemmy makes a good point about breakaways, but I would extend that to counter attacking generally, which is something that can occur often on the PK, but rarely on the PP when there's almost always 3 if not 4 guys back. The Oilers generally had middling powerplay success, esp. when you consider the quality of snipers they could throw out there, but those guys liked to score off the counterpunch and on the rush. When they did score a shorty, it was a jolt of adrenaline to the Oil, a kick in the junk to the other guys, and very often a game-turning point.

It was also exceptionally exciting hockey to watch. I wish more teams would unleash their offensive guns on the PK for that reason alone.

At 3:25 p.m., February 19, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

If you've got a Gretzky or a Messier or especially a Lemieux, then yes, you're going to put some real pressure on the powerplay unit not to turn over the puck.

I doubt, however, that for all the success he's had teams are really altering their powerplay for Sharp. Last year Staal had 7 SHG; this year he's got 0. In 2000 Madden had 6 SHG; in the seven seasons since he's totaled 9.

For most players there is a lot of luck involved in shorthanded goals. It's good to have fast guys out there, but if they push for them, they'll start conceding a lot more goals against.


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