Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fun Games To Watch

Lindsay Ruff has been complaining about the state of the game lately, essentially bemoaning the fact that teams are playing an increasingly passive style of hockey. In fairness to him, he doesn't deny that the Sabres have been doing the same.

I decided to check and see if Lindsay was right. Just by using the Sabres own measure, that being total shots directed at net during a game. I'm not completely convinced that this is the best way to quantify the flow of a hockey game, but I can't come up with anything better, so I'll stick with it.

It does pass the basic sense test. I mean in hockey there are two basic philosphies of defense:
  • take away the puck carrier's time by pressuring him
  • take away the puck carrier's options by backing off and covering off his shooting and passing options
The same thinking exactly applies on the forecheck, or lack thereof. And if you're doing more of the former and less of the latter, well one way or another the puck is going to end up in dangerous areas a lot more often.

Unfortunately for hockey fans, passive hockey is as effective now as it was in 2004. And the success of the Ducks last season drives that point home. If we trust this Corsi metric as a measure of the entertainment value in a game, then Ruff is absolutely right. It's dropping noticeably. Though Ruff should be grateful that he's in the Eastern Conference, so far this season the West is averaging just 88 shots directed at net (by either team) in a game, the East down around 96.5. At this time in 2005, the leaguewide average was 109.5, the East was still wilder of course.

As part of the world's least scientific test of the Corsi metric, I wrote a script to list off the games in descending order of how many shots were directed at net in the game (goals, saves, goalposts, wide shots, blocked shots). Then I just scrolled through the list for games that I'd seen, and by and large it works, to my mind at least. Some wild and woolly games near the top, and a whole bunch of games that only hardcore CI subscribers would consider watching near the bottom.

I saw the first and third games off this list, Rangers/Islanders contests both. Wonderful hockey games, very physical, scoring chances galore, great goaltending, OT, a shootout in one, and just terrific flow to the games. 161 and 153 totals in those ones, and big numbers in this regard for all Isles/Rags games, these are fun teams to watch.

A Pittsburgh/Leafs matchup at second overall. Looks like Sundin and Crosby went head to head in that one. Kaberle with the 5-4 winner in OT. Sounds like a game you wish you'd seen, no?

To my eye games with over 125 shots directed at net, they were good games. Often high scoring, but not always. And almost always games I remember.

So, on the left is a 'best guess' list of the funnest teams to watch in the league for the 06/07 season, broken up by conference. A point given for every game that a team played in that had 125 or more shots directed at net.

Feel free to apply common sense of course. I mean the Minny game at Rexall a couple of weeks ago was great, but that doesn't mean that the Wild and Oilers don't have a bunch of yawners in them over the coming weeks. And some of these games were stompings, not many of them, but some.

My rambling thoughts on the list:

Tampa is an odd one, Corsi madness in both directions when Vinny or St.Louis are on the ice, and the rest of the time it's like they are channeling Mike Peca.

Chicago was as boring as hell by this metric, they have played some tedious games against the Oilers for sure, glossed over by the fact that the Oil have usually got the W.

I think that Buffalo and Pittsburgh probably deserve to be higher. I'll guess that's because both tend to try for the higher quality scoring chance, and don't shoot as much as they could.

Dallas has played a grand total of 4 regular season games since the lockout with a Corsi of 125 or more. Carolina 41. Montreal has 6 already this season. That seems right to me, and I don't know how Hull will do as a GM, but he couldn't possibly make that team less exciting.

So, for the people that saw a lot of non-Oiler games last season ... does that list mesh with your memory?


Blogger Bruce said...

I agree with this post for the most part, Vic, I'm just having trouble squaring it with your comment on Lowetide the other day about how it's a shame how Ovechkin is being used, because he trades chances with the best of them. To me that makes him the most exciting player in the league, or very close to it. What would you rather he be doing?

11/19/2007 7:08 am  
Blogger Doogie said...

Did you happen to catch Montreal-Boston on Saturday? CBC makes me cry because I didn't get to see this one as Bell originally promised I would, and it sounded and read like an instant classic. Fucking Toronto.

11/19/2007 1:46 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I may be guilty of judging the Caps on too few games. I saw them play quite a few times late last season, and they were boring. Passive hockey in all zones, the whole game seemed to be played 10 feet off of the boards.

They played in their own end as if they were PKing, they'd spring Ovechkin once in a while, but apart from those rushes you just didn't notice the guy.

Contrast that with Crosby in Pittsburgh ... you can't miss him, even for a shift. Same with Hemsky, Kopitar, Stastny, etc., at least to my eye. I think that has more to do with the style of game, and the gameplan, than it has to do with Ovechkin.

I haven't seen the Caps play this season, so maybe that's changed.

11/19/2007 4:00 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Didn't see that one, sounds like a hell of a game though, bit of everything and lotd of chances.

As we're talking about this metric: 135 SDAN in this game, which is obviously a lot. That would be MTL's 7th game over 125 just this year. Damn. Are their games really that wild, or is there some other reason?

11/19/2007 4:03 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Bad mental arithmetic in my comment above, that should be 131 SDAN. 82 to 49 in favour of the Habs.

11/19/2007 4:26 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

Doogie: Didn't I hear that there was a new regulation in CBC's contract that they would have to show somebody other than T.O. in the 5 o'clock hole once every ten years or something? It sounded like a step in the right direction, but not much of one.

I watched some of that Habs-Bruins game on RDS (Shaw moved it from Channel 256 to Channel 905, but it only took me this far into the season to rediscover it). The Habs and Bruins were really going at it while Toronto and Ottawa played a pretty tepid game on the main network, so it didn't take me long to figure out where to stick.

There was some real bad blood in the third; I'm not sure what Latendresse might have done to bring the wrath of Chara, but it must have been something ... it's not Big Z's style to just assault somebody for no reason. But if he does have a reason, even a bad one, look out below. He's a monster in every sense of the word.

11/19/2007 11:12 pm  

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