In this edition of Around the Metropolitan Division, we’ll take a look at some trends to watch around the division.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are freebasing PDO. Their 106.3 PDO is the highest in the league by a good deal. Second place is owned by the Minnesota Wild, who are far in the rearview mirror at 102.8.
The Rangers’ mark combines a league-high 10.6% shooting percentage and league-high .957 save percentage at even strength. A high PDO doesn’t negate their hot start — the best in franchise history in terms of wins and points — and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doom to crash back down to earth, but their score-adjusted CF% of 47.9% (25th in the league) is alarming.
Their scoring chances for percentage is likewise low, taking just 46.2% of on-ice scoring chances, which is 27th in the NHL.
Even stranger — though maybe not really, in light of their PDO — is that they started the season as a strong team in terms of their shot attempt differential. But as they’ve gotten worse in that metric, they’ve been winning more games.
Strangely, despite getting out-chanced, their games haven’t been particularly close. They have a +26 goal differential with the next best mark in the league coming in at +11. During their nine-game winning streak they’ve won by three goals five times.
Their PDO is even higher over their recent hot streak. It’s a 107.4 since October 19, a period that includes their current winning streak and during which they’re 11-0-1. You can’t argue with winning games, but the bottom will fall out on the high save percentage and shooting percentage. What lies underneath may need some work.
As analysts are the league pivot from saying they can’t see how any team could beat the Canadiens for the Cup to saying they can’t see any way the Rangers don’t win the Cup, keep an eye on the Capitals.
They went from being an early-season favorite to come out of the East to being kind of forgotten. Nonetheless, the team is off to the best start in franchise history and has the league’s second best score-adjusted CF% at 54.8%.
What should be more frightening to opposition is that their power play, probably the most lethal in the league over the last four seasons, scoring more power play goals than any other team. Their power play is one other teams model their on. That power play has a 2..4% success rate this season, good for seventh best in the league.
However, the focal point of that power play, Alex Ovechkin, isn’t clicking at the rate you’d expect.
Alex Ovechkin’s shot attempt and shot rates on the power play are basically where they’ve been over the course of his career. Not the best he’s ever posted, but certainly not the worst. Yet he’s shooting just 3.7%. He’s been under 10% on the PP just once in his career and hasn’t been below 16.7% in the last four years.
There’s no way his shooting percentage stays that low. When it starts to bounce back the Caps could be very dangerous, because they’re getting a lot of players who produced less last year (Kuznetsov, Niskanen, Johansson) and players who weren’t there last year (Oshie, Williams).
New York Islanders
The Islanders have been a weird team to watch this year, looking dominant at times and really struggling at others.
The games they’re in seem to just gain speed the further they move along. They’re progressively scoring more goals and they’re progressively getting scored on more.
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Empty net goals don’t explain that increase away, even though the team has scored five empty netters and allowed two this season.
The strange thing about those late-game pushes? They aren’t shooting more. In fact, they take the fewer shots in the third period than any other. They’re also getting outshot by the opposition worse in the third period than any other period.
To some extent, it’s getting them wins. They’ve had three third period comebacks and one third period goal that sent a game to overtime. In contrast, a team has only come back on them in the third period twice this season and they’ve allowed two third period goals that lead to overtime. That’s not a bad ratio when they have a third period shot differential of -34.
Getting more goals in the third period on fewer shots probably isn’t going to continue. They’ll need to adjust and not count on grabbing seven extra points in 19 games due to a higher shooting percentage.
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If you’re looking for the seam, it’s not the power play. They’ve scored just two power play goals in the third period to four in the first and second. The penalty kill is having an effect there though. They’ve allowed four power play goals in the third period (and one in overtime), to just two in the other periods.
In fact, special teams might make it even more strange with them scoring both of their shorthanded goals on the year in the third frame.
New Jersey Devils
This year’s New Jersey Devils are in the running for the most boring team in modern history. Though it’s almost impossible to not fall asleep during their games, they’re getting it done under the new regime, despite the absence of Patrik Elias and a roster that doesn’t look that strong on paper.
Exactly how boring have they been? Their games have just 91.2 total shot attempts (for and against) per 60 minutes of even strength play. That’s the lowest event rate in the league by over seven shot attempts.
In fact, that’s the second lowest event total of any team since the 2008-09 season. The lowest? The 2012-13 New Jersey Devils. Third lowest? 2013-14 New Jersey Devils. Fourth lowest? 2011-12 New Jersey Devils. Seventh lowest? 2010-11 New Jersey Devils.
Since we’re working our way down this rabbit hole, the team actually plays more their style at home, where there are fewer shot attempts than they have on the road. Since the 2008-09 season the team has played games with 87.1 Corsi events per 60 minutes of all-situation hockey at home, the least shot attempts in the league by over 15 per 60 minutes.
The number of shot attempts a New Jersey Devils season ticket holder has seen over the last seven seasons is so many fewer than any other team that its mind-boggling.
In that time they’ve seen nearly 4,000 fewer shot attempts than any other teams’ season ticket holders and almost 10,000 fewer than the team who has taken the most shot attempts at home.
Prudential Center, low-event hockey live here. No matter who is coaching; no matter who is GM.
You may have heard, Sidney Crosby is having a slow start to the season. As much as it has been beaten to death, it’s true.
But here’s what weird about Crosby’s season: He’s not driving play. He has a -1.88% CF%Rel.
That’s the third worst mark on the team among players getting regular time. With a 3.69% ZSO%Rel, it’s a bit of an anomaly. He’s had a rotating cast of characters on his line, but that’s going to happen. A player at his skill level can’t really use that as an excuse.
It’s strange, in part, because Crosby has never had a negative relative possession mark. He’s exhibiting the second lowest CF60 of his career at 53.46 (lowest was in 2006-07) and he has the worst CA60 of his career at 60.41. That’s worse than the next worst mark, set in his rookie season, by over three shot attempts.
You can’t have a conversation about who the best player in the world is without talking about Crosby, so he could certainly turn this around. But the lack of production seems to run deep with Crosby right now.
Player to Watch – Jakub Voracek
In a reversal of Crosby’s slump, the bounces just won’t go Jakub Voracek’s way, even though he’s doing a lot of things right. He finally broke the seal and scored on November 14 after going 16 games without a goal, which encapsulated 58 goalless shots.
He can’t buy a goal, but he’s trying pretty hard. He leads the team in shots, having taken 17 more than Claude Giroux who comes in second. With a score-adjusted CF% of 52.74%, he’s third on the team with a 7.64% CF%Rel.
He still hasn’t scored an even strength goal despite leading the team in scoring chances for relative at 10.57% and 27.79 scoring chances for per 60 minutes of even strength play.
Keep an eye on Voracek. This slump isn’t going to last. He’s doing all the right things to end it.
WOWY stats via Puckalytics. Other advanced stats via War on Ice.