Getting Luckier

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Lots of people might be worried about the Canadian men’s hockey team right now. My advice? You probably shouldn’t be. As much as people are focusing on the negative, there’s a lot of positive arrows – including their three wins.

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Those two tweets by Thom basically describe my feeling towards what’s happened thus far at the tournament. Canada is dominating the pace and flow of their games, with a scoring chance percentage around 72% through three games and 68% overall Corsi through those same three games. The goaltending has been really good as well – only two goals against on 58 shots (just a single at even strength), for a save percentage of .966.

I’ve been counting Corsi and at even strength they’re controlling almost 75% of the shot attempts taken since their tournament started. Certainly, their opponents haven’t been the most challenging but when a team is this dominant it’s got way more to do with the team itself than its opponents. Most of the consternation, I feel, is related to that last point – the raw results don’t look like they’re there (i.e. with regards to the teams’ “lack” of goals) and since that is happening against “poorer” teams people are freaking.

It’s understandable, given the fact that the impact of luck on a given game is underestimated by many yet focused on so heavily by the same people. There’s always talk of getting the bounces in any given game. Sometimes a team gets them, sometimes they don’t. That phenomena won’t occur any less in games where the skill gap is wider, but it does probably become a little less important to winning the game.

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It’s my personal belief that if you bring the best team, you need less luck to win than if you brought an inferior team. This team Canada, I think, is likely not the best team they could have constructed; but it’s better than every other team’s roster. 

I also don’t believe that where the team’s scoring is coming from is really an issue right now. Like I mentioned above, the team is generating a lot of shot attempts and they are out-chancing their opponents. These are both things that correlate highly with winning. The defense are getting lucky with their goals – 6 on 37 shots – and the forwards are getting unlucky with theirs – 5 on 75. The high-end nature of these players makes me think that the average SH% for the forwards (in terms of their true talent level) is 12-14% and 7-9% for the defense based on their scoring histories. If we took the low ends of those totals, Canada would have 1 more goal than they currently have and the forwards would have 9 on 75. 

So, basically, when it comes down to it – the goaltending has been really good, and I don’t expect that to change too much in the grand scheme of things. The defense has been really good and will likely get better as P.K. Subban is inserted permanently into the line-up, so I don’t expect that to change either. Thus, the only real issue is the scoring of the forwards. Which is more likely?

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  • thousands of games of scoring patterns and expectations are wrong or
  • the team’s results are being influenced by the nature of the tournament and selective sample size and nothing is technically wrong?
You make the determination.

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  • mattyc

    Agree with the final conclusions. But when you say thousands of games of scoring patterns and expectations are wrong, it’s not a valid comparison because the skill/SV% etc. of the average olympian is not necessarily the same as the NHL.

    • beloch

      you don’t think it’s close enough? i dunno, the average olympian is about nhl-quality imo. either the players they are playing are nhl-quality, or they’re worse, which means that you should expect those scoring patterns to actually be higher, meaning they’d have been even more unlucky.

      • mattyc

        I’d imagine the stdev. is much larger (which would change the distribution) – there’s definitely a higher proportion of ‘elite’ players, and also non-nhl level players.

        Style of play, size of rink, etc. etc. Slightly different game imo.

        Regardless, the relationship between Corsi/posession and winning should still be there (although it could be slightly more/less important), and Canada is significantly outperforming their opposition.

  • mattyc

    No way will Subhan be “permanently inserted into the line-up.” Babcock has already said he is going forward with the first three pairings and Hamhuis because he is a lefty.

      • mattyc

        Nihilists, I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

        Hamhuis is better than any flames D (marginally better than Gio).

        • SmellOfVictory

          An argument could easily be made for Giordano being better than Hamhuis, given that Gio is better offensively despite possibly being a little less perfect defensively. He’s also more physical, which many people value.

          I’d also argue that Brodie might be better, although he hasn’t got the body of work of the other two. But Hamuis would definitely be in the Flames’ top 4, and he could certainly play on the top pairing without looking out of place.

          • mattyc

            Brodie? C’mon. I’m a big Brodie fan, but he’s been looking top 2 for like 3 months, Hamhuis has done it for 3 years.

            You could argue Giordano’s better, I think it’s probably pretty close, the difference being that Giordano’s looked elite this year, while Hamhuis has been quietly doing it for a couple.

            For reference: Hamhuis plays the toughest competition in Vancouver, starts in his own zone lots, and still outpossesses the bad guys (51.4%). He’s a legit #1 D.

          • piscera.infada

            I agree with all of that. While I think Gio and Hamhuis are close, Hamhuis has a small edge. The guy is very underrated, and pretty awesome considering the chumps that surround him.

            Looks like Canada draws Latvia (not Switzerland). There must be a lot of crow going around MSM after everyone was calling Ted Nolan a horrible choice for interim (no less) coach in Buffalo.

      • Parallex

        That’s an interesting if not ignorant comment. The fact that the top hockey minds in Canada chose him probably is a good start. Comparing him to the Flames defence is an insult..

        • mattyc

          Top hockey minds like Kevin Lowe?

          Have you actually seen him play for Van the last month? Or are you taking the pick as proof?

          He has been crap……

          I take Gio any day!
          TJ and Russell aren’t far behind.


  • beloch

    Here’s a table of the ratio of shots for/shots against each team has, as well as the shot differential and the average shot-ratio of the competition they’ve faced. Obviously, with just 3 games per team the sample size is not very good, so everything sort of depends on itself rather badly. It also depends on how the round-robin groups were selected. Since each group only played itself, if one group was much weaker than another it wouldn’t show up here. Still, you can get a rough idea of how teams are doing.

    ░░░Ratio░░░Diff░░░Group░░Avg Ratio of Comp░░░░░

    Group A:
    Russia and the U.S. both beat up on Slovenia/Slovakia (Russia did a better job of it) and played each other to a draw (with the coin-toss of a shoot-out favoring the U.S.). Because of the draw neither team really dominated their group.

    Group B:
    Canada and Finland both spanked two lesser opponents, but then Canada spanked Finland, leading to both the large difference in their ratio’s and the average ratio of competitions as well! Canada might not have been in the toughest group, but they utterly dominated it.

    Group C:
    In group C, no team was really dominant. All that’s clear is Latvia got beat up by everyone. Sweden’s win record is perfect, but they really haven’t been dominating their opponents in terms of shots. They appear to have lucked into the #1 seed.

    Was Finland a worthy challenge for Canada? We don’t know how they would have done in other groups, but they were pretty dominant against the other teams in their group. Russia and the U.S. are obviously the big threats from Group A, but neither of them dominated the Slovakian or Slovenian teams the way Canada and Finland both dominated Norway and Austria.

    The Road to the Gold Medal Match:
    Canada and the U.S. have paths of roughly equal difficulty. First, they face one of the lesser teams and then each other. The best game of the tournament could easily be the U.S.-Canada semi. Russia, thanks to pure dumb shoot-out luck, has to beat up on Norway in the qualification round before playing Finland and then Sweden, Austria, or Slovenia in the semi-final. Russia is the clear favorite against all of these teams (except perhaps Sweden) so, while they must play one more game than Canada or the U.S. to reach the finals, their games will all be easier. Sweden is the #1 IIHF ranked team in the Olympics, but we all know how screwy the IIHF’s rankings are and, in any case, they don’t appear to be very dominant so far. Russia, despite “losing” to the U.S., appears to be having a better tournament so far.

  • I thought I hadn’t watched the same game when I heard from MSM that Finland gave Canada a good game and that if Canada didn’t get better the stronger teams would eat them alive.

    I saw the Fins struggle quite a bit for most of the game with the Canadians controlling the possession. The one goal they got was a poor shot and a very nice tip on a low quality scoring chance that just happen to go in.

    I didn’t watch that game and become worried.

  • beloch

    Latvia just pulled off quite an upset against the Swiss! Latvia was dominated by everyone in their group. They shouldn’t have had much of a chance against the Swiss. However, they scored early, played the body, and executed a game-plan that Canada might have used. They never let the Swiss get a lead and play their trap.

    Latvia might have won this one, but they should be a much easier team for Canada to face. The Swiss have a pretty effective trap system and can shut down vastly superior teams, plus Hiller is a pretty darned good tender. With a little puck-luck, an early goal so they can trap, and a quality performance from Hiller the Swiss could have been a dangerous team. Latvia plays a much more open and physical game, but they’re not likely to outplay Canada that way.

    The Czech’s won their qualification match and will face the U.S.. No upset there! Canada is definitely going to have an easier time making it to the semi-final.

    • McRib

      The Swiss narrowly beat Latvia in the prelminary round 1-0, not really an upset based on that…. They also hardly got blown out against the Czechs 4-2 & 5-3 against Sweden in two close games. Latvia are a Hockey crazed nation that are only getting stronger and stronger every year, nice to see them advance. Man I wish the Flames took Zemgus Girgensons!!!! Apparently while coaching Latvia he calls himself “Teds Nolans”.

      • beloch

        Apparently while coaching Latvia he calls himself “Teds Nolans”.

        I really wish NA leagues would stop anglicizing (or perhaps more accurately, “simplifying”) Latvian names. Teodors Blugers became “Teddy Blueger” somehow. LATVIAN NAMES ARE THE BEST.

        Toms Andersons. That is all.

      • beloch

        The Swiss outshot Latvia 39-21 in the prelims. The Czech’s outshot them 39-20, and Sweden 30-23. Then the Swiss outshot them by only 33-21 yesterday. Latvia definitely needed some puck-luck and a very good goal-tender to get where they are. Masalskis has been magnificent! However, I would not bet on a repeat if the Olympics were started over.

        Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that Latvia has made it this far! With a population of just 2 million, Latvia is the smallest country to qualify a team for Olympic hockey. The only other nation with under 5 million people that qualified was Slovenia! I’d cheer for them right to the finals if they weren’t playing against Canada tomorrow!

  • beloch

    10 mins to find online who scored the 1st goal (from official website). The CBC timeline popup meant I watched much less Olympics. Played Madden 95 instead. T>westwood was critical of Russia but not knowing his history of how Soros jeopardized NYC and caused Russia to be alcoholic until Putin. Need constructive criticism.
    A problem with international ice is the perimeter is too far away. It is good for getting the zone but once you do you don’t get the reflections like you do with NHL dimensions. Ideally want IIHF ice for the neutral zone and NHL for offensive zones. Must be an ideal shape that isn’t an oval.
    I could see a 21-under plus 35 over World Cup every year; perhaps aggregating into finals every four years. These players aren’t too valuable. With your long-term contracts, you want them to play: Maatta is the 2nd best player in the draft. An advantage for drafting from weaker countries. Jokinen got to play against great FWs, Frolik got to play with Krejci. Is bad for your present year and good for player development. Be nice to have a best of three in weaker tourney strengths. You don’t necessary have to have all the best for a good tourney; 2005 was stronger than this. Could cap the number of players lost per team or number of NHLers per team. Could have long pointless round robins in Asian tourneys and only bring the NHLers over for knockout round. Have better strength on strenth for N.A. tourneys. With the new contract, I wanna see more strength on strength, because it is rebroadcast better. My best of NYI doesn’t have their 2004 playoff series and does have a Sundin’less 2002 game that isn’t good. Russis should develop young D in tourneys for a golden generation around Bo in Varlamovs 30th B-day. This format sucks for weaker tourneys. Sticks are better but equipment is lighter and better making boring hockey an advantage…for bronze. Players get hurt more now so need more strength on strength. Weber won that game by injuring their D. Don’t want a McCleary but that is the solution: shoot it at them! Happy I had seeds left. To me, I have no incentive to be a good person: can’t get herb, can’t watch CBC…I like that Sweden is atheist. You don’t here the media criticizing our small-town mistakes, but I don’t really care if a pandmeic or AI gets CPCers or GOPers.

  • beloch

    …with players making big bucks, it is a big advantage for Can, USA, Swe depth permanently. There are many ways to get them to play each-other more. A preliminary ladder of two or three very good games. Extended final series or roundrobin ala CHL. Pools where strong teams and/or strong past performances result in better pools playing for more playoff spots and/or byes. I say win this one for Lac Magentic. ND incinerated them because GWB didn’t get America off oil. Our PM didn’t investigate why flameable volatiles were covered up so they can delay raising tax rates and stay economically illiterate. No one did.
    Yzerman should’ve cut that goalie in the fall. Why did no one take on the Greek Mythology? You don’t get to heaven by wasting your Sundays; it may be a great place to meet on honest girl if your time isn’t valuable. You get to heaven by being a good person and the Olympic mindset seems to be the best belief system that isn’t utilitarianism.