Lewis: Around the Pacific – Monahan, Quick, Edmonton’s promising pair

A Captain-Like Performance

Losing Mark Giordano was a huge blow for the Calgary Flames. The most experienced defenseman on the Flames blueline was putting in a Norris-worthy season and helping Calgary do what many thought was impossible.

Then his season ends.

Enter Sean Monahan. The 20-year old is in his sophomore season and there does not seem to be any signs of a “Sophomore slump.”

Giordano went out of the lineup on February 25. Since then, Monahan has put up thirteen points in twelve games. That includes eight goals. The reality in it though is that the alternate captain has been downright destructive since the New Year. The only difference now is that he is the focal point of the Flames. One thing that is helping him is the willingness to drive to the high scoring areas. Take a look at Monahan’s shooting percentages and shot rates for this year:

While Hudler and Gaudreau are also having great seasons, their numbers are more on the perimeter. While that is to be expected of wings versus centers, Monahan’s willingness to drive high scoring areas is equaling big numbers when Calgary has needed them.

Has Eddie Lack Been Any Better than Ryan Miller?

Way back in the second installment of Around the Pacific, we talked about the struggles of Ryan Miller. At the time the Canucks were barely keeping their heads above water, but now they are a step ahead in the Pacific Division and Western Conference wild card playoff race. Was Eddie Lack really that big of a difference maker?

Here are the numbers at even strength from the last 15 games Ryan Miller played before his injury:

Now compare that to Eddie Lack:

While the adjusted save percentages are not incredibly different, there does seem to be a calming presence about Lack. With his more composed, hybrid-butterfly style, Lack uses his size (6’4”) to cover much more of the net. That lends to a much lower “High-Danger” save percentage compared to the more athletic Ryan Miller. However, Lack is making a difference where it matters. His “low-danger” save percentage is a tick higher than Miller’s, while his “medium-danger” percentage is a good bit higher. For the record, Miller was 8-7-0 in those games and the Canucks were scoring 2.66 goals per game. Lack is 8-3-1 with one no decision since taking over, with the Canucks pulling in 2.92 goals per game. With each tender facing a similar number of shots and similar goal support, the difference in record should not be the that drastic.

While he has not been an extraordinary upgrade to Miller, at least in this sample size, there is an almost unquantifiable value in knowing your goalie will most likely make the easy and average saves at even strength more often than not. With a young team pushing for the postseason that can make all the difference.

Here Comes Jonathan Quick

Keeping the theme of goaltending, how good has Jonathan Quick been for the Kings in his most recent stretch?

In his last 20 games, as the Kings have been fighting to stay alive out West, he has a 14-4-2 record and a .933 adjusted save percentage in all-situations.

Like most goaltenders, Quick runs hot and cold. He took a dip in the middle of the year but has turned it on at the right time.

The issue the Kings are running into currently though is goal support. Through the entire stretch of the 20 games from February 9 to March 24, the Kings are scoring 2.61 goals per game. In the last 10 it is a 2.4, and in the last five a 2.2. As the Kings goals continue to trend downward, they are hoping to get the same stellar goaltending from Quick.

Low goal support is not something he is unfamiliar with. Back in 2010-11 when he had his best career season, the team backed him with a 29th ranked offense that scored 2.29 goals per game.

Down and Out

It has been an ugly couple of weeks for the San Jose Sharks. The team is losing, there has been bickering between the team’s star and the General Manager, and the future is fairly uncertain. In fact, in the last two weeks, the Sharks have taken the steepest decline in playoff chances in the West and the second highest dip in the league behind the Boston Bruins.

According to hockeystats.ca and fellow Hockey Prospectus contributor Micah Blake McCurdy, the Sharks have lost 12.535 percent in the playoff hunt in the last two weeks. They now hold a .43 percent chance of making the final eight in the West.

If you were planning on looking at Sports Club Stats playoff odds for a more positive swing, do not bother. They too have the Sharks chances at a low .73 percent chance.

The decline has been steep and troublesome for the Sharks. Just 14 games ago after a 5-2 victory against Dallas on February 19, the Sharks chances were basically a coin flip (47.68 percent according to Sports Club Stats). Now they have vanished. These last two weeks of a 5-5-0 record have been a standing-eight count on the season for the team that was ever so close to eliminating the eventual champions last April.

The Promising Klefbom/Schultz Pairing

It has been a difficult season for Edmonton, no question. When you have seasons like this one you have to look towards the future and find things to be hopeful for.

21-year old Oscar Klefbom and his partner Justin Schultz have been one of those things.

There are only five players currently active with the Oilers that are positive possession players. Klefbom and Schultz are included in those five. The two have partnered up to be the most effective possession pairing the Oilers have.

When away from each other this season the numbers aren’t nearly as promising.

The Swede has played 300 some odd minutes away from Schultz this season. In that time he is a 46.2 percent Corsi For. Schultz, while not as bad, also suffers. A 48.7 percent Corsi For is nothing to write home about.

Together though, it is much more positive. The 52.9 percent Corsi For numbers ranks amongst the best of the Oilers blue line pairings. Klefbom plays a much more refined defensive game compared to the freewheeling offensive-minded Schultz. With that in mind the partnership makes sense, as he can cover for the mistakes and up ice rushes more capably than others. Other pairings around the league like Doughty and Muzzin, or Chara and Hamilton, follow a similar relationship. However, the last piece of the puzzle is a forward group that is equally committed to defensive duties. You win as a unit and you lose as a unit. Even with good possession numbers it is hard to think positively about the duo if they are losing games.

Development is a tricky subject with Edmonton. So many good names have come and gone within the organization, or been poorly developed. While these two are still young and prone to mistakes, they have shown promise in various ways. With Marincin, Nurse, Schultz, and Klefbom, Oiler fans should be fairly excited about their future blue line. They will probably tell you they have heard this all before though.

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