via @mnwild, the best white sweaters in the NHL
The Minnesota Wild are an interesting team to follow (I say this about most teams in the NHL, but trust me. It is SUPER true about the Minnesota Wild). Two years after the then-Biggest Debate Ever About The Validity Of Shot Metrics created a giant rift between online folk and Wild fans, Wild management have stressed a puck-possession philosophy, and the early returns are quite good.
It’s not good for the Wild in that they’ve become an unstoppable juggernaut like San Jose or Colorado (note–??) but only the Sharks thus far have taken a higher percentage of shots than Minnesota. It’s still remarkably early to judge, but if a team is taking close to 60% of the overall shots after 6 games, you can say with reasonably high confidence that they’ll be a plus-possession team for the remainder of the season. At 3-1-2, their record isn’t going to turn very many heads, but they’re right there among the top teams in the league in the early going.
The “3” in the Wild 3-1-2 record have all come in a row, including a surprisingly close 2-1 win over Buffalo yesterday.
Still not enough games for us to have a reliable chart of numbers that will be predictive throughout the season, so instead I wanted to turn you to the Maple Leafs penalty kill.
I think if there’s an area in performance the Leafs can reasonably expect to decline from now until the end of the season (I say “reasonably” here very liberally) it’s the 90.9% penalty killing rate. Using these numbers from Behind the Net I’ve taken the goals against, shots against and penalty kill save rate of the Leafs from this season (and last season) and also the “best ever” performance by a team in an 82-game season since the data came available:
|Leafs 2013||Leafs 2013-2014||82-game best|
In each category, performances from 2014 make up about 70% of the Top 15 and performances from 2013 make up about 25%. The law of large numbers comes into play here. If you’ve read some of the studies done that shows shots are a better predictor of future special teams success than goals, you may be worried that the Leafs are not even as close to dominant in preventing shots on the PK as they were in 2013.
In this case, the Leafs over the last 54 games have allowed 4.0 goals against and 44.2 shots against per 60 minutes of penalty kill time [tallying up stats from HockeyAnalysis]. Both numbers would put them among elite teams.
But, gee, even as a kid I hated looking at stats from the start of the season because everything looked so wrong. It’s worse in baseball when every player has a batting average that’s a multiple of five, or a hitter you particularly like is hitting .180 to start the year, and you wonder why they flash the stat across the screen because it has absolutely no meaning in a little sample. It’s the numbers equivalent of “it’s too early. I never eat December snowflakes.”
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
David Broll – Nazem Kadri – Joffrey Lupul
Mason Raymond – Dave Bolland – Josh Leivo
Carter Ashton – Jay McClement – Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Paul Ranger – Jake Gardiner
Van Riemsdyk was off yesterday with a “maintenance day”. He’s “questionable” tonight, meaning that Troy Bodie finds his way into the lineup should JvR not be ready to go. If that’s the case, you have to think that Randy Carlyle puts Kessel with Kadri and Lupul, no? On Hockey Night on Saturday the broadcasters were talking about how Carlyle liked to identify “pairs” of players to work alongside each other. Raymond and Bolland have been joined at the hip this season, as have Kadri-Lupul, and I can’t think that Bodie provides a suitable replacement for JvR at the top of the lineup.
Per dailyfaceoff with the one change listed: Michael Russo suggested that defenceman Marco Scandella will be in for Mat Dumba.
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Dany Heatley – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine
Torrey Mitchell – Zenon Konopka – Stephane Veilleux
Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Keith Ballard – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Clayton Stoner
For the first time ever, you have probably heard of everybody in the Wild Top 6.
Niederreiter has just one goal so far on the season, but is third on the team in shots on goal with 14 (Parise has 35 through 6 games, which is nutty). El Niño has had a weird career thus far—in the 2012 season, he scored a single goal on 74 shots on goal for a 1.4% shooting rate. In Bridgeport last season, playing 74 games in the American Hockey League, he scored 28 goals on 230 shots—a 12.2% career rate. He was a dominant scorer in junior hockey and was taken fifth overall for a reason, but his inability to score at the NHL-level early in his career was probably a reason why the New York Islanders were willing to part with him for so little.
Forget a puck-possession philosophy, the acquisition of Niederreiter represents the underrated Al Arbour “get good players” philosophy.
James Reimer takes the pipes tonight, replacing Goalie Bot 45. The Wild are playing the second half of a back-to-back so we can safely assume that Darcy Kuemper will start for the Wild, since it was Josh Harding yesterday. Kuemper has just eight NHL appearances and just 42 AHL appearances, so it’s tough to tell if he’s any good.
The Leafs and the Wild drop the puck at 7:00 Eastern. Click here to sign up for Streakcred.