As noted in Clare Austin's first piece of this series, most of the possession data we use is pulled from Extra Skater and is limited to 5v5 so as to maximize the sample size. Other data tracked by hand by myself and Mike Gallimore is from Bolt Statistics, and if you're interested in some of these numbers and want to read more, I encourage you to check out the periodical "Statcaps" (stat recaps) posted there, as well as the stats-inclined game previews and occasional features.
To further distinguish my updates from hers, I'll try to focus in more on that second category of data -- specifically, scoring chances.
(OK, enough with the shameless self-promotion. On to the numbers.)
1. Scoring Chances:
First off, what exactly is a scoring chance? The working definition I use when tracking them comes from The Copper and Blue, the SB Nation blog covering the Edmonton Oilers:
A clear play directed towards the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots.
There's some further qualification, but that's the gist of things. You'll occasionally see these numbers on the local broadcast, but since they're fairly subjective, the numbers I track won't always match up with what you see on the broadcast.
Recently, the advanced statistics community at large has moved away from tracking or relying on scoring chances because they correlate so strongly with the much more readily available puck possession numbers like Corsi and Fenwick. That said, I still see value in tracking them to help clarify and evaluate both individual and team play within a single game, and as a replacement for the traditional goal-based +/- statistic, which has been largely discredited and has fallen out of favor with many stats-inclined writers, myself included.
Anyways, through 10 games, here's how the Lightning players look in terms of even strength scoring chances for, against, and their scoring chance differential or +/-:
|PLAYER||CHANCES +||CHANCES -||DIFFERENTIAL|
|Martin St. Louis||36||28||+8|
With 10 games of data, we can start to see some developing trends by looking at A) outliers and B) players with a lot of data points/events either for or against, and we can thus start drawing conclusions and evaluating players.
What stands out immediately is the comparison between the Victor Hedman/Sami Salo pairing and the Radko Gudas/Matt Carle pairing. The latter has become the de facto top unit for the Bolts, logging the biggest minutes and facing some fairly tough competition. That's reflected in their high event totals. Radko Gudas has been on the ice for over 50 (!!) scoring chances against through 10 games so far. Gudas and Carle are -12 and -13 respectively, whereas Hedman and Salo, now freed up a little bit, are feasting. Hedman is +13 and Salo is +12.
Among forwards, things are as you'd expect -- the kids are alright, the 4th line is getting beat but not too dramatically so, and the top unit -- Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Ryan Malone -- have been terrific at outchancing the opposition so far.
The team's PDO (after 12 games now ... I was little a late getting this post up) now rests at 101.9 (or 1019, or however you want to express it) which is still a touch above the 100.0 it will regress to.
For those of you still unfamiliar with PDO, it's basically just save percentage + shooting percentage and it's been shown to regress towards 100.0 over large samples.
Tampa Bay has already experienced some regression in terms of 5v5 save percentage and this team has sustained high on-ice shooting percentage in the past, so there isn't too much cause for concern in regards to how lucky the team has been so far. The 101.9 puts them at 10th in the league, slightly above average, with an 8.5% team shooting percentage (13th in the NHL) and 93.4% save percentage (10th in the NHL).
Individual player PDO's range from Ryan Malone's absurd 109.0 down to Pierre-Cedric Labrie's 86.7. Malone is pretty clearly benefitting from some luck as well as his continued health -- he hasn't given up the spot on that top line yet, and riding with Steven Stamkos and St. Louis is a sure-fire way to raise your on-ice shooting percentage (his is currently 11.4% which is good for 3rd on the team behind, you guessed it, St. Louis and Stamkos). Labrie, Andrej Sustr (93.9) and Richard Panik (94.3) can be expected to see a few more bounces go their way in the future.
When we last checked in, things were looking OK in spite of some really bad showings and a few really good ones, with the Lightning hovering around 48.9% Corsi For (percentage of all shot attempts) and 46.3% Fenwick For (percentage of all unblocked shot attempts).
With a few more bad games thrown in the mix since the five game mark, the Bolts have actually dropped a bit down to 47.7% Corsi For (20th in the NHL) but have managed a slight upward tick in Fenwick For to 47.3% (22nd in the NHL).
While you'd still like to see these numbers creep up a bit more towards the 50% benchmark, things still aren't as bad as they had been possession-wise during the end of Guy Boucher's tenure and Jon Cooper has seemed to focus lately on further improving the team's possession game by emphasizing more shots on goal, particularly after a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils:
"This goes back to being hard to play against," coach Jon Cooper said. "You can be hard to play against in a bunch of different ways. But if you're going to get less than 20 shots in a hockey game, that's not very hard to play against.
"Marty Brodeur is a first-ballot Hall of Famer but he could have had a cigarette and a cup of coffee and played that game."
The Lightning managed just 13 shots on goal at 5v5 against Martin Brodeur in that 2-1 loss.
4. Special Teams
The power play has stayed hot (24.0%, 6th in the NHL) and the penalty kill has, as expected, trended slightly upwards (83.3%, 9th in the NHL). That makes their Special Teams Efficiency (or Index ... but I prefer STE to STI for obvious reasons) 107.3.
Adding together power play and penalty kill percentages works pretty much the same as PDO, so the Lightning are still experiencing a bit of good fortune on special teams, although it may not seem that way.
Clare noted that keeping the power play hot while fixing the penalty kill would be a focus moving forward and these numbers suggest that's what is happening, at least so far.
Anders Lindback finally got his first win of the season, so that proverbial monkey doesn't have a back to rest on any more. (Also, he's not been that bad this season, I wrote a thing about that earlier this year.)
Overall Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback are starting to move towards each other in terms of save percentage as Bishop regresses downwards and Lindback upwards. Bishop now sits with a .914 save percentage, Lindback with a .864. Those numbers are .917 and .899 at even strength, however, which is where you see them starting to get closer together.
Bishop is still feeling the positive effects of a very high (and likely unsustainable) penalty kill save percentage of .919, while Lindback is getting crushed (.769) when Tampa Bay is a man down. There are some obvious sample size concerns here for both guys, however, as Bishop has faced only 62 shots on the kill and Lindback a mere 13.
While the now 8-4 record doesn't seem like the same mirage as a season ago when this team rocketed out of the gate to an early lead in the Eastern Conference and Southeast Division standings, there is still serious cause for concern with the way the Lightning have played this year.
They've done a nice job of suppressing shots and shot attempts under Rick Bowness and Jon Cooper, as Travis Yost of Hockey Buzz recently noted:
The Tampa Bay Lightning have cut more than seven EV shot-attempts against per sixty minutes off of last year's average. That's ... a lot.— Travis HeHauntMe (@TravisHeHateMe) October 23, 2013
But they are still struggling to possess the puck for long stretches and have a serious issue with shot generation and puck retrieval. Those minute and a half shifts where Cooper's AHL teams would hem an opposing team in and get 3, 4, 5 shots towards the net in one possession? They simply aren't happening, at least not yet.
The goaltending has, as expected, leveled out towards league-average, but if it stays there the Lightning are definitely capable of at least keeping pace in what has been so far a very weak Eastern Conference.
Playoff bubble team if everything stays the same.
Which it won't.