Tales of Truth: Ballin' in the back

Patrick Johnston
January 04 2012 04:16PM

Keith Ballard has been even steadier than we realized.
(Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Much has been said about the reasons behind the Canucks' recent good form - scoring and top quality goaltending have been identified as the main reasons. But the Canucks also are getting solid contributions from other parts of the lineup.

Two months ago, I wrote about Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard. Both had been taking flack in the media for their poor plus/minus ratings, and I took a closer look at their underlying numbers. What I found was Bieksa was mostly woefully unlucky to start the year, while Ballard was playing pretty well but he'd also thrown up some stinkbombs.

Popular opinion seems to have come back around on Bieksa - putting up points certainly helps, as does being re-partnered with Dan Hamhuis. Ballard, on the other hand, is barely discussed at all. This, generally, is actually a good thing. If you aren't noticing someone, that tends to be because they aren't screwing up.

So what's going on? Is Ballard actually playing well?

        Chances F Chances A EV TOI
3-2 SOL SJS 02-Jan 2 3 14:13
4-1 L LA 31-Dec      
5-2 W ANA 29-Dec 3 4 13:41
3-2 W SJS 28-Dec 7 4 14:35
5-3 W EDM 26-Dec 5 1 13:41
3-1 L CGY 23-Dec inj    
4-2 W DET 21-Dec inj    
4-0 W MIN 19-Dec inj    
5-3 W TOR 17-Dec 4 3 16:13
3-4 L CAR 15-Dec 6 1 13:03
2-1 SOL CBJ 13-Dec 5 1 14:38
4-1 W OTT 10-Dec 4 0 15:43
4-3 W MTL 08-Dec 5 4 13:44
6-0 W COL 06-Dec 2 2 12:29

(Unfortunately we don't have the data for the New Year's Eve game)

Of note from October were two games of 6 chances against and a game of 10 (yes, 10) chances against.

What the table shows us is that Ballard has been useful in two ways. First, he's doing a very good job of limiting chances against (while mostly paired with Andrew Alberts). Second, he's actually picking his spots very, very well. Posting differentials of 5-1, 6-1, 5-1 and 4-0 against Edmonton, Carolina, Columbus and Ottawa shows that he is dominating weak teams, giving the Canucks a useful threat in such games. 

Also interesting to note is his 44% O-zone start rate. That means he's starting only 44% of his shifts in the offensive zone.His O-zone finish rate is about 4% higher. Ballard's doing a very useful job for this team.


Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
#1 Sunshine
January 04 2012, 07:10PM
Trash it!

Um, you forget to mention the most important numbers, goals against:

Ballard/Alberts have been on the ice for 30 goals against. Edler/Salo have been on ice for 38 goals against.

Ballard/Alberts get on average 7 miuns LESS a night than Edler/Salo. Ballard/Alberts also play against the opponents worst lines. No to mention that B-A pairing have a higher cap-hit than E-S pairing.

No thanks to Ballard. Over paid, takes up to much cap space when Canucks still don't have a d-partner for Edler who can play the same amount of mins.

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