by PuckStopsHere on 11/02/11 at 04:03 PM ET
The Nashville Predators around the middle of the NHL standings. They have a 5-6 record with two regulation tie points. This gives them 12 points in 11 games. So far this season, Nashville has the fewest number of shots taken per game with 23.5. They also have allowed more shots than any other team with 32.7 shots per game. That result is seen in their Corsi rating which includes missed and blocked shots as well. Nashville has a -157 team Corsi at even strength through their 11 games. This would correspond to a -1170 Corsi over 82 games. That would be a very big imbalance in shots over a season. Last year, San Jose led the league at +505 and Anaheim was last with -779. Nashville is on pace to be significantly further from zero than either of them.
That shows that Nashville has not done a good job in terms of puck possession at even strength. They are doing unsustainably poor and will almost certainly not keep up their current pace all season, but despite this they have had reasonable results on the ice.
The first point worth making is that the season is eleven games old. If we assume that a game or two were won that should have been lost, their record would look significantly different. The Corsi rating can also be significantly influenced by one or two games at this point.
Corsi does not take into account all parts of a hockey game, though it does capture puck possession at even strength, which is a significant driver or game results. Since it is only measured at even strength, special teams play is not measured at all. Nashville has had a very good penalty kill with an 87.5% penalty kill success rate. They have only allowed six power play goals against. Their power play is closer to the league average with a 17.1% success rate. This corresponds to seven power play goals. This is a difference of one goal when compared to their goals against. They have allowed and scored one short handed goal. So that does not lead to an imbalance.
The difference must come down to the success of the shots that they have taken. Nashville has good goaltending and has done a good job of preventing goals. Pekka Rinne has a good .922 saves percentage and his backup Anders Lindbrook has only played for two periods but has posted a .958 saves percentage. On the other hand, Nashville has scored on 10.8% of the shots they have taken. This is an unsustainably high number.
The suggestion is that Nashville must be taking higher quality shots than they allow. This is likely true, but is generally ignored by standard Corsi analysis. Nashville plays a good defensive scheme that limits shots against. This is a better scheme than their opponents likely are playing. This might help to explain why Nashville has a good saves percentage, but it doesn’t explain the shooting percentage. That is most likely a fluke from a small sample size.
Nashville has no record of being a team of snipers that will have a high shooting percentage. They have no record of having a poor Corsi. Last season they ranked 19th in the league with a -119 team Corsi. They are already worse than that on this season. This shows us that their puck possession has been significantly worse so far this season than it has been in the past. They have still done alright because of an unsustainably high shooting percentage. Average teams score on between 8 and 9% of their shots in a season. Nashville is at almost 11%. On a team with no well known snipers that number will not last. Last year they finished at 9% with a similar roster.
There is some concern that there is a recording bias in these numbers, but it is not enough to explain the discrepancy. If the Nashville scorer tends to be stingier than other scorers then Nashville will have fewer shots recorded at home than on the road. At home the Predators probably do better than they do on the road. They can better match lines at home in a way to reduce shots, by matching up top defensive lines against their opponent’s top scorers. These effects would tend to reduce their shots for and increase their opponent’s shots against. This would reduce their team Corsi. Of course the same effects existed last year, so the fact the team Corsi is far worse this season than it was last year is sign of a meaningful decline.
Nashville has had a poor season so far in terms of puck possession. This is unsustainably poor. It will get better even with no changes. This effect is known as “regression to the mean”. The basic idea is that very good and very poor short term trends do not last longterm. Nashville has survived largely because their shooting percentage has been higher than expected. That too will not last. No team maintains a shooting percentage of 11% in a complete season. Nashville has not looked good so far this season. They have managed to post an acceptable record during this stretch despite problems. Probably a lot of the numbers we have seen in terms of puck possession and shooting percentage will not last. If both correct themselves, all will be good and Nashville will likely do about as well as they did last year. If their Corsi remains poor (even if it is less poor), they will be hard pressed to match last year’s record and may find themselves missing the playoffs.
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