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The Puck Stops Here

Top +/- Rating

I think it is often interesting to look at the leaders in some of the more complex stats, including +/- ratings, and explain why that player could lead the league.  Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins currently leads the NHL in +/- rating with a +26 rating.  He is a bit of an odd leader.  When we look over his career, he has posted a minus rating as often as he has a plus rating.  Aside from his rookie year, he has never posted a +/- rating better than +9.  In his rookie year he had a +22 rating, which looked like an anomaly until this year.

His rookie season and this year have one thing in common.  Niskanen has played against some weaker competition.  This year he is the partner of rookie Olli Maatta and the two of them have been largely protected from facing top opposition.  As a rookie, he was similarly protected.

It doesn't hurt that he plays for the East Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins.  That also helps his +/- rating.  His team leading PDO is another contributor. 

I think Matt Niskanen isn't a player who will finish atop the league in +/- rating, but in his current circumstances he may be in the top few.  He is a player who can dominate against lesser NHL competition, but doesn't have the talent to be a successful top line player.  If you have sufficient depth that you can allow Niskanen to play a sheltered role, he will put up good numbers for you.

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This year he is the partner of rookie Olli Maatta and the two of them have been largely protected from facing top opposition

Niskanen has been the penguins number one defensmen almost all season, so that argument does not hold water.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/19/14 at 07:08 PM ET

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Niskanen does have a negative QOC score, which may be a bit inflated because of how poorly the eastern conference has been up until recently (doesn’t that deal with opponent’s +/-?).

PDO of 143 means he has been extremely lucky and 50% zone starts is high for top end d-men. Which he is not, but all of that explains why his +/- is that high.

Posted by fromdowntown on 01/19/14 at 07:28 PM ET

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Niskanen and Maata have been the top pairing this season as often as not, due to Martin, Scuderi and Letang all missing significant chunks of time.

He also has the third-highest ratio of D-zone starts among Penguins D, despite that 49% ratio. The Penguins just don’t play in their own zone a lot against the trash East (which also accounts for his low corsi QOC, which is, nonetheless, smack in the middle among Penguins D), last night’s garbage game notwithstanding.

Posted by larry on 01/21/14 at 04:58 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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