Every media outlet and its dog is producing a weekly “Power Rankings” column in virtually every sport known to man.
Normally they are nothing more than facile entertainment and don’t offer much insight beyond who won or lost games the previous week.
Scott Cullen, who is one of the TSN “analytics team”, usually does a pretty decent job of sussing out who is really good and who isn’t but his power rankings published today caught my eye because he ignored his own evidence to declare the Penguins should be atop the NHL weekly power rankings.
Cullen rates the Penguins #1 based on a couple of factors that even a stats noob could figure out as unsustainable:
G Marc-Andre Fleury has three shutouts in his last four starts, giving him a career-best .931 save percentage, and he’s doing it behind a team that is controlling play to the tune of nearly 56%, second only to Minnesota in unblocked shot attempts in score-close situations.
Cullen also cites Pittsburgh’s PP which is clicking at 41.9% as being a factor in their #1 ranking. He ignores the fact that last season’s best PP was the very same Pittsburgh Penguins at 23.4% and that’s an elite number.
He also ignores Fleury’s save percentage of .931 which is a country mile from his career percentage which is an underwhelming .911.
Can you spell REGRESSION?
Now, lets look at a comparison between the Penguins and his 3rd ranked Minnesota Wild, the team that is actually best in the league though the early part of the season.
Pittsburgh – 4.10
Minnesota – 3.40
This is a clear win for the Penguins…but….
Pittsburgh – 2.20
Minnesota – 1.80
Pittsburgh – +1.90
Minnesota – +1.60
This narrows the Penguins lead to almost nil…but…
Pittsburgh has been relying on a PP percentage TWICE the expected performance at 41.9% while the Wild have only scored on only 6.4% of their PP chances.
Minnesota scored on 17.8% of their PP opportunities a year ago and regression to the mean, even before adding sniper Thomas Vanek, means they’ll be scoring more often in that discipline very soon.
And then, Cullen ignores his own evidence of “possession” as measured by FenClose which is merely an approximation but does have some value.
Minnesota – 61.6
Pittsburgh – 55.8
I prefer to use actually shot differential rather than proxies in this case because, to horribly mangle Wayne Gretzky’s statement years ago: “100% of the shots that don’t hit the net don’t go in”.
Minnesota – +12.1
Pittsburgh – +3.5
Cullen also ignores the fact that Minnesota has been playing tougher competition with 7 games against the WC while Pittsburgh has only played 4 games against the West.
Upon review…the Minnesota Wild have been the best team in the NHL thus far this season and considering they are a mere 1 point behind the Penguins in the overall standings after 10 games…it isn’t even close.
Oh, and here’s a bonus…Pittsburgh at Minnesota on Tuesday night!
Taylor Hall is NOT among the top 2 LW in the NHL.
As an aside, I have read a couple of times today that Taylor Hall is among the top 2 LW in hockey. Now that he’s injured, Oiler fans will be claiming his injury prevented him from winning the scoring title and getting voted to the All Star team.
So, before Hall misses a game played, let’s get this on the record for future reference:
LW P/60 5V5:(minimum 5 GP)
Jamie Benn – 4.66
Tanner Pearson – 4.01
Chris Higgins – 3.47
Joe Colborne – 3.43
Jason Pominville – 3.42
Jason Zucker – 3.41
Zack Parise – 3.34
Thomas Vanek – 3.33
Anthony Duclair – 3.28
Justin Fontaine – 3.21
Brandon Saad – 3.10
Taylor Hall – 2.59
There are currently 24 LW’s who are scoring at a higher rate at evens than Hall was when he suffered his injury.
If you think Hall’s performance on the PP will bail him out here, you couldn’t be more wrong.
When he went down with injury, Hall was ranked 61st among LW’s on the powerplay with exactly 1 point on the PP. ONE.
While I don’t doubt the hapless Oilers will miss Hall’s contributions, let’s at least be honest about what they’re missing.
* Need to watch NHL hockey without regional blackouts?
Check this out.