SCH NOTE: GMH put up this great post on Friday that deserves a look. I wanted to save it until today though so it wasn't lost in the weekend craziness - plus now we have a few more days until game time so it's the perfect situation to take a closer look.
I've been keeping this little spreadsheet for fun, but at the quarter-mark of the season, it might be worth taking a look at some of the trends and implications (if there are any to be found) through the first 20 games. Uh, keep in mind that I'm kind of a statistics retard; I read all the articles at Puck Prospectus but I probably couldn't sum them up for you in any coherent manner, and I'm probably missing some of the finer things in my analysis, so any contributions you guys could make in the comments would be A+ and much appreciated.
STATING THE OBVIOUS
- The 'Hawks are vastly outshooting their opponents. This is because the defense has generally played incredibly well, both in their own end (getting sticks and bodies in the way of shots) and in contributing in the offensive zone (logging 59 points so far on the season, tied with SJS for the league lead). I added the Blocked Shots column in as an afterthought, although only one number really stands out to me, and that's the lone blocked shot in the comeback against Calgary. But more on those two games later.
- Huet was shaky early in the season, and Niemi, despite the shutout against the Panthers, was only marginally better. Since the disaster against Dallas on 10/17, the goaltending has looked much more stable. Most goaltenders experience peaks and valleys throughout the course of a season, so it's likely we see a few dips along the way (like during the fathers' trip), but it's probably still too early to evaluate this team's goaltending.
- On a related note, does anyone know where I could find Player Contribution stats for Huet and Niemi? It seems like we'd gain a more honest appraisal of their work between the pipes if we could get a better idea of the quality of shots they're facing.
- Last night's rout of the Flames aside, the 'Hawks have lost both of the games in which they were outshot, despite getting great goaltending in those games. The Vancouver and Nashville games, unsurprisingly, were the only two games where the 'Hawks, goaltending aside, really looked bad as a team.
- Also unsurprising: The 'Hawks have a hard time winning--or at least putting teams away--when their power play malfunctions. They went 0-4 and 0-5 (respectively) on the power play against Vancouver and Nashville. Let's look at the other regulation losses: 1-5 in Detroit, 0-4 against Dallas (although the fluke goals also factored into the end result), and 0-6 in Phoenix.
THE POTENTIAL FOR DISORDER: OR, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN FLAMES ARE APPLIED
- The two games against Calgary this season have resulted in 1) the craziest comeback we're probably going to see this season, and 2) the biggest scoring margin so far. I don't know if anyone can argue that the numbers from these two games are highly atypical of some of the trends we've been seeing.
- The shock value of the first game, the comeback, came from how quickly the Flames put up a five-goal lead. It took only 12 minutes, or 1/5 of the game, which meant the 'Hawks still had 80% of the time left on the clock to work with. The two numbers that stand out, of course, are the single blocked shot, and the +20 shot differential, which maybe speaks to the chaotic nature of a game that essentially transplanted the Hare and the Tortoise fable onto a sheet of ice. In any case, one can see that terrible turnovers and bad goaltending led to the ghastly deficit, but it becomes equally obvious that the 'Hawks outplayed the Flames in every other area of the game, and deserved to win that one.
- And that brings us to Game #20, last night's ritual flaying of Kiprusoff and the Flames. The only reason why the 'Hawks ended up with a -2 shot differential was because they were able to put up a five-goal second period. The Flames were stagnant at 19 shots for about 10 minutes spanning the second and third periods, but weren't able to apply any pressure until it was too late, and anyway, Huet was on the top of his game last night. It's hard to say how the game may have swung had he not made that incredible dying-swan stop on Bouwmeester when the game was still in reach for the Flames at 2-1. Or had Hjalphabet not gotten all up in Bourque's grill. Or had the power play not woken up like Vesuvius with Pompeii in its sight line. It's a nice little reminder that small plays can matter a great deal over the course of 60 minutes.