• Hawks-Predators “Preview”

    by Tyler Dellow • April 18, 2010 • Uncategorized • 10 Comments

    I’m doing a series of playoff previews with Gabe Desjardins, Sunny Mehta and Olivier Bouchard. You may notice that the playoffs have already started but, due to a series of events beyond my control, I’m posting my previews over the weekend. C’est la vie (what with a guy who lives in the bayou, Desjardins and Olivier, I assume I need to bring some french.)

    You have to feel for Predators’ fans. This is their fifth appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs and, for the fifth time in a row, they’ve gotten stuck facing a powerhouse in the first round. The Preds’ playoff history consists of a pair of 4-2 series losses to the Red Wings and a pair of 4-1 series losses to the Sharks. This time will be different in that it is the Blackhawks on the other side of the ice but (in all likelihood) the same in that at the end of the day, the Preds are going to suffer a swift elimination.

    Even Strength

    NSHCHI1

    Historically, the Predators have been a team that’s achieved success by excelling at the percentages at even strength as opposed to through possession. The Predators teams that ran into the Sharks and Wings ran into teams that were dominant in terms of their corsi numbers, something that they couldn’t handle.

    This is the best Predators’ team I’ve ever made note of in terms of not getting outshot. Behindthenet.ca has them as having outshot at 5v5 this year, something that I don’t recall them having done in the time for which the data is available. They had about 52% of the Fenwick events with the scored tied, an indication that they were controlling the play. Unfortunately for them, the Blackhawks were the NHL’s most dominant team this year in the Fenwicks. They had about 59% of the Fenwick events in their games, which is a pretty significant amount. My readership is largely Oilers fans I’d guess so, to put it into perspective, the opposition had a Fenwick percentage of about 59% when Jason Strudwick was on the ice this year. Too much of this series will likely be spent in Nashville’s end of the ice than is good for the Predators.

    Judging by the head to head data on timeonice.com, the Hawks lines broke down as follows for Game 1 of the series. The numbers below each player are his Corsi ratios for the season. It’s very unusual to see a team ice an entire forward corps that has ratios north of 50% and it illustrates what makes Chicago so good at even strength – they have an awful lot of guys who can play the game at ES and they’re very difficult to match up against. The only Hawk to have a negative ES+/- per 60 this year was John Madden.

    CHINSH3

    Chicago differs from a lot of the elite teams this way. I went through the lines that were used in the most recent playoff games and put together a chart with the average Corsi ratings for each line (designated 1, 2, 3 and 4 by their TOI). The chart is here; I’ve put a summary of how each team’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines differed from the playoff team average in the table to the right of this post. As you can see, Chicago ran the table.

    As an aside, this is interesting to me from the perspective of an Oilers fan watching the team rebuild. There’s a lot of talk about the Chicago, Washington and Pittsburgh models. I don’t think that those models are all that similar. Chicago’s built a team that’s just dominant from top to bottom in terms of possession. Their stars that they’ve drafted up front aren’t as impressive as the stars who’ve been drafted by the Penguins and by the Capitals if you go by the boxcars, but they’ve built a team that strikes me as being considerably deeper than the Caps and the Pens.

    The Washington/Pittsburgh model is probably easier to follow – it’s hard to screw up with Malkin and Crosby or Ovechkin and Semin – but the Chicago model probably results in a better team over time.

    It’s hard to come up with any reason to think that the Predators will be able to hang with the Hawks at even strength. Nashville has an apparent edge in net but I’m not particularly wild about Pekka Rinne and regression works both ways – Chicago’s goaltending probably isn’t as bad as it’s looked this year. I see a big edge for the Hawks at ES.

    Special Teams

    NSHCHI4

    There isn’t a great deal to choose from between these teams on the power play. Both teams are probably better than their results this season – they both had low PP shooting percentages (Nashville moreso than Chicago) and their shooting numbers are fairly close.

    While it might seem that Chicago has a big edge on the PK, I’m not sold. Their penalty killing success arose out of scoring a ton of shorthanded goals and posting a ridiculous save percentage (hilariously, Chicago’s 5v4 save percentage is almost as good as their 5v5 save percentage). Neither of those are a solid base on which to hope for continued results going forward.

    Chicago has had the advantage of allowing fewer shots, although in a short series, this is going to be pretty meaningless. If the series were to go seven games, Chicago would, based on seasonal averages, expect to spend about 36 minutes killing penalties to Nashville’s 32 minutes. The difference in shooting rate just isn’t going to matter. I see the special teams as being a wash.

    The Pick

    The Hawks are a great team top to bottom at even strength. It’ll be the difference in this series, as I expect that they’re going to win in 6 games. Nashville can console themselves with the knowledge that they lost to a different powerhouse this time, while cursing themselves for not winning one more game with Detroit, which might have permitted them to avoid their fate.

    About Tyler Dellow

    10 Responses to Hawks-Predators “Preview”

    1. Mike W
      April 19, 2010 at

      I also have the Hawks in 6, using my sophisticated “gut method.”

      And am I the only one that thinks that Patrick Kane’s mullet is completely unironic? He probably thinks it is, but the shaved lines in the side of his head are the work of someone who truly cares.

    2. Tyler Dellow
      April 19, 2010 at

      It’s the kind of haircut that says “Why yes, I would like to beat down a cabbie.”

    3. NewAlgier
      April 19, 2010 at

      “The Washington/Pittsburgh model is probably easier to follow – it’s hard to screw up with Malkin and Crosby or Ovechkin and Semin – but the Chicago model probably results in a better team over time.”

      The Chicago model is also repeatable, unless you expect a Crosby every year in the draft. But it requires hockey sense and relentless cap management.

    4. Quain
      April 19, 2010 at

      I don’t know that snagging Duncan Keith in the late second round is a much more repeatable occurence than diving and drafting a Crosby-level talent.

      And the relentless cap management isn’t something I’ve seen considering the team is at the cap with fourteen players signed next year. Signing Campbell and Huet to absurd contracts, screwing up your RFA paperwork, and then giving Patrick Kane $6.3MM for the exceptional talent of scoring goals while never seeing the defensive zone is probably not a long-term blueprint I’d follow.

      Related question: Given the option of Kane at $6.3MM for five years or playing hardball and risking a possible four firsts-level offer sheet, would anyone go with the second route? I’m almost positive I would have. You either get some team sniping him at an absurd price (and almost assuring that team is bad for a few years during those firsts), a reasonable price that you can match, or being able to bargain him down to something more acceptable in the short term to keep a dominant top to bottom team together.

    5. Boondock
      April 19, 2010 at

      http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/edmonton-oilers/Oilers+live+chat/2924342/story.html

      OT: Live chat with Matheson and Barnes at 12 MT. Would be fun to see some of the Oilogosphere show up.

    6. Mike W
      April 19, 2010 at

      That live chat was too depressing, I had to leave.

      Dan Barnes sounds positively Tambellini-esque in saying “we need another 2 years” to *evaluate* Tambellini. He’s one of the better local writers, but the team org. decision-making is far worse than he thinks it is, especially if he has to use free agent signings and trades from 2006 to make his case.

    7. Mike W
      April 19, 2010 at

      Also, “counting on” Eberle to be on the team next year because Quinn likes him.

      A year of an entry contract is wasted and nothing is learned from the impending RFA Sam Gagner. Christ.

    8. Schitzo
      April 19, 2010 at

      A year of an entry contract is wasted and nothing is learned from the impending RFA Sam Gagner

      That’ll be wasted regardless, although if he plays less than 40 with the big team I think he’ll reach UFA status a year later.

    9. Mike W
      April 19, 2010 at

      What Schitzo said, I meant. There’s no point in fast-tracking prospects into UFAs.

    10. matt
      April 19, 2010 at

      great take on the hawks. my fave team to watch, and i’m pulling for a wsh / chi final. two pts:

      1) 100% agree that CHI was built to play a puck possession game. they’ve tended to go for forwards with shockingly good stickhandling / puck control skills vs. pure shooters / scorers. essentially, they’ve got about 6 forwards who are 20-30 goal guys (excl. Hossa), meaning they have no trouble generating offense, but unlike the caps or the pens, they’re exceptionally good at protecting a lead. kane is the purest example of this – the guy can just control the puck for huge lengths of time better than almost anyone else in the nhl, which works to your advantage when protecting a 1 to 2 goal lead. toews, sharp, hossa, bolland, etc all fit this mode as well.

      2) kane’s mullet is actually ironic – see here:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/13/patrick-kanes-blackhawks_n_536363.html

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