Canuck scoring chances through November

One of the drawbacks to being a statistician is that, to count scoring chances, one actually has to watch the game. But that, Thom and I have done, every game this season, either him or myself have been tracking which players were on the ice for scoring chances at both ends.

For those unfamiliar, a scoring chance is an unblocked shot taken within the “home plate” area on the ice (as depicted above). The only time a shot block counts as a scoring chance is in the rare occasion the defenseman is playing like a goalie. A “plus” scoring chance credits every player on the ice while every player gets penalized for a “minus” scoring chance, not just one or two players.

The reason it’s good to track chances is because goals are a random event. A goal may take place every five or six scoring chances, and sometimes a player is hit with a “minus” in the traditional +/- column for his goalie mis-handling a puck, or a “plus” in the column for a lucky bounce off an opponent’s skate on a pass from behin the net.

Instead of rates, I’ve broken this down into percentages for each Canuck at even strength. Here are the forwards:

Skater Chances For Chances Against Chance%
Ryan Kesler 80 50 61.5%
Chris Higgins 98 63 60.9%
David Booth 63 44 58.9%
Alex Burrows 87 78 52.7%
Henrik Sedin 100 91 52.4%
Daniel Sedin 92 85 52.0%
Cody Hodgson 69 64 51.9%
Jannik Hansen 65 71 47.8%
Maxim Lapierre 47 54 46.5%
Dale Weise 34 48 41.5%
Aaron Volpatti 31 45 40.8%
Andrew Ebbett 11 16 40.7%
Manny Malhotra 44 65 40.4%

Thom mentioned to me in a text how he’s read so many stories about Ryan Kesler finding his game, but the reality is that he was a force on the ice beforehand and just not getting rewarded. David Booth has fit nicely onto that line, and the “American Express” line, as it is called, has been the Canucks best two-way line thus far. Give it another half season, and this line will probably be ahead in +/-.

The third and fourth lines are a little worse off, but their main role is to play defense and not score. Besides, they get an awful lot of starts in the defensive end. I’ll get to that later.

What’s really worrying is the top-line Sedins, who aren’t winning enough of the battles despite their protected minutes.

Let’s check on the defense:

Skater EVF EVA Chance%
Dan Hamhuis 123 97 55.9%
Kevin Bieksa 128 108 54.2%
Sami Salo 74 64 53.6%
Alex Edler 96 92 51.1%
Keith Ballard 72 75 49.0%
Aaron Rome 18 19 48.6%
Andrew Alberts 35 53 39.8%
Alex Sulzer 17 26 39.5%

This is why Alex Sulzer isn’t in the lineup, and also why this blog wasn’t too worried about Kevin Bieksa’s play when he began the season minus-a-whole-lot-more-than-he-deserved-to-be. Andrew Alberts, however, is just as godawful as Sulzer.

Salo isn’t so much having a ressurgence so much as he’s having a pretty good year with high percentages. His +7 goal rating is disproportionate to his +10 chances rating and that is, unfortunately, likely to change.

Now, since we adjust for Fenwick and Corsi (shot differential statistics) for the times a player starts a shift in the defensive zone, why can’t we do it for scoring chances to get a better look at how a player performs? It’s kosher to add 0.8 to a player’s Corsi rating for every extra defensive zone start, so I’ve taken the liberty to account for the fact that scoring chances make up about 27% of Corsi events to adjust for this.

Here’s how the Canuck forwards stack up:

Skater Extra D-Starts Adj CF Adj CA Adj. Chance%
Ryan Kesler 3 80 50 61.8%
Chris Higgins -22 96 65 59.4%
David Booth 3 63 44 59.2%
Maxim Lapierre 61 54 47 53.2%
Cody Hodgson 14 71 62 53.0%
Manny Malhotra 105 56 53 51.0%
Jannik Hansen 22 67 69 49.6%
Dale Weise 49 39 43 48.0%
Aaron Volpatti 45 36 40 47.3%
Alex Burrows -97 76 89 46.3%
Henrik Sedin -119 87 104 45.5%
Daniel Sedin -112 80 97 45.0%
Andrew Ebbett 6 12 15 43.2%

The Sedins and Burrows, because of how much they start in the offensive zone and how much trouble they’ve had controlling the chance battle, appear to be among the worst two-way players the Canucks have. Meanwhile, since Kesler and Booth see a lot tougher minutes, it’s more impressive at how much they’ve controlled play, not only in creating chances out of the possession they have, but also taking into account that they have to move the puck forward as well.

The third line looks much better by this measure but the fourth does not—only Maxim Lapierre finds himself over the 50% threshold. He’s turned out to be a fantastic pickup.

Now, on defense:

Skater Extra D-Starts Adj CF Adj CA Adj. Chance%
Dan Hamhuis 9 124 96 56.4%
Kevin Bieksa 17 130 106 55.0%
Sami Salo -34 70 68 50.9%
Keith Ballard 23 75 72 50.7%
Aaron Rome 1 18 19 48.9%
Alex Edler -51 90 98 48.1%
Alex Sulzer 13 18 25 42.9%
Andrew Alberts 18 37 51 42.0%

You can see that a lot of Salo and Edler’s success stems from the fact that they play a lot of time in the offensive zone to start. They are otherwise below even, and wouldn’t do as well as Hamhuis and Bieksa if they played in the same situation. However you don’t employ your offensive defensemen to play defense or your defensive defensemen to play offense, so they two pairings are fitting their roles well.

Also, with adjustment, Keith Ballard swings from negative to positive. This is re-assuring. He’s having a much better two-way season than he was last year and he’s seeing a few more shifts per game as a result.

Lastly, do you want to see why we track Fenwick numbers? Fenwick can be expressed as a percentage, for the number of shots and missed shots a player was on for that were directed towards the opponents net. The y-axis here is each player’s Fenwick percentage, while the x-axis is his scoring chance percentage.

To quote Vic Ferrari, who put together the same graph for the Edmonton Oilers 2009-10 season, “if you can’t spot the pattern there, you’re not trying.”