PACIFIC WAR ROOM – 2.8.16

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In an effort to keep Los Angeles Kings fans aware of the comings and goings of the other teams in the Smythe Pacific Division… we here at The Royal Half have created the Pacific War Room… a wrap-up of the past week in the Pacific from some of the best and brightest bloggers who cover Pacific Division teams. In order of the Pacific Division standings… we present the Pacific War Room for the week of February 8th, 2016!!

 

LOS ANGELES KINGS
1st PLACE, 31-17-3, 65 POINTS
@TheRoyalHalf from The Royal Half

After their dominating All-Star win, last week the LA Kings were ready to start the 2nd Half and show everyone around the league that this team is for real! Too bad no one could see it.

And then something so unbelievable happened, you had to see it to believe it. And because of NHL.tv, no one could.

DUSTIN BROWN SCORED!

And then the Kings went out and shit the bed against the Anaheim Ducks (see more below from Earl Sleek, i’m sure). But who cares? The LA Kings are about to embark on their annual “Grammy Trip” with 7 games on the road in 11 days. And they just might run into an old friend or two…

SAN JOSE SHARKS
2nd PLACE, 27-20-4, 58 POINTS
@sharkdressedmen

Since this has been going for a few weeks now, I’m starting to get some really good feedback about this whole blogging thing. It’s been helpful and constructive with comments like, “Wow, you fucking suck.” Or, “You’re not funny.” Or, “Gutless.” So taking all of my mom’s critiques into account, I’m going full bore into the numbers game this week. You think I was dry and uninspiring before? Well suck on this week’s write up in video form:

It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen that logo and the number 1 paired together:

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That’s right, we’re number 1. Of course, SI.com is heavy on recency bias, so really, they’re just saying we had the best Last 10 during that ranking period. Which we did. Up until this week.

More accurately, out of all water-themed teams in the NHL, the Sharks currently sit in 3rd:

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More numbers: The Sharks are 4th in the NHL in Points per 60 Minutes. Which means we pass the puck around a lot instead of skating it in, because we’re averaging 4.83 Assists/60 minutes on 2.85 Goals/60 minutes. Or something.

Speaking of assists, Mr. Joe Thornton is closing in on some pretty historic stuff as long as he stops scoring goals ( 2 goals in the last 2 games):

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Anyway, let’s get even more advanced with our statistics because I accidentally clicked on those instead of the “Close Window” button.

Looking at SPSv% (Save percentage + shot conversion into goals. The average should be at 100.0%, represented as 1000 on nhl.com/stats/), you find some things that are pretty obvious when looking at the Sharks’ bottom lines. Guys like Tommy Wingels, Chris Tierney, and Matt Nieto are sitting at 941, 957, and 961, respectively. Which means that they are effectively producing negatively for the Sharks. Goals are being scored on them at a faster rate than they can score. While this looks a lot like the +/- category, the important thing to note here is the focus on percentages, which does a much better job of describing the on-ice play and production than a raw numbers results system like +/-.

Surprisingly, Patrick Marleau is not far off from our lower level forwards and sits at an SPSv% of 966. However, when the Sharks are behind and Marleau is on the ice, the Sharks do have a majority (53.75%) of all shots taken during the game under those parameters. Given that Marleau is sitting at a -17 in point production and is at a -34 in Team Shot Attempts over the course of the season (despite being included in those shot-dominant late-game “Hero” lines and Power Play units), it’s pretty obvious that most of his time during 5 on 5 is being spent in the defensive third of the ice.

Which lead me to a philosophical question: Is it still considered a slump if a player’s defensive responsibilities diminish his capacity to score goals? Is it really one guy’s fault if he’s left with nothing to work with? Now I get that most of the numbers don’t mean anything if the production isn’t there, since there are a lot of factors to consider. In fact, the numbers mean even less if production is there. And, to be fair, Patty is on pace for 25 goals this season. But, this being my first time looking at any sort of advanced analytics in depth has caused me to question my understanding of standard production measures. People are too quick to call out a player without looking at the other circumstances surrounding why that player is playing the way they are. And just by a very quick check of Marleau’s numbers (because they don’t pay me enough to figure everything out) I’m currently erring on the side of the players around him aren’t doing him many favors, which could be a result of playing with new acquisitions (Joel Ward) or young guys (Donskoi, Hertl, etc.) which could cause a lack of chemistry and prevent consistent, meaningful offensive pressure, leading to less shots and more defensive zone time. Or is it that Coach DeBoer’s system doesn’t fit Patty’s style. Or is Patty himself the liability? Further investigation is definitely warranted.

On the flip side, when Joe Thornton is on the ice, the team is shooting at +164, no doubt due to:
1. Being on the first line.
2. His shot creation ability.
3. Tons of PP time.

Thornton has spent some time with newer, younger guys like Donskoi (from time to time), but his GOAT passing ability and consistent pairing with Pavelski would far outweigh any drop in production caused by a lack of line chemistry with a 3rd Forward.

Oh hey, I mentioned power plays: did you know the Sharks are 3rd in the league at 22.1%? They’ve scored 37 goals with man advantages, which accounts for 25% of their goals this year. And how!

I didn’t go to school for math, so I’m going to stop with the numbers before I look even more stupid. I also didn’t go to school for writing, so we’ll consider this week’s article finished. This past week, the Sharks lost to the Ducks (barely), destroyed the Blues, and then didn’t even bother showing up for a game against the Predators. Seriously, that game was over after the first period even though they were down by 1. Hopefully a few days of rest gets their heads back on straight. This week the Sharks continue their tour of the Central division by playing the Blackhawks in Chicago before returning home to take on the Flames and #DesertDogs.

ANAHEIM DUCKS
3rd PLACE, 25-18-7, 57 POINTS
@EarlSleek

You know, this once-a-week writing gig isn’t so bad, though I might complain about it someday if the Ducks ever lose a game. Since I’ve started tooning again over here at The Royal Half, the Ducks (and any All Star teams that they’ve been on) are 8-0, with all 8 wins coming in regulation.

The key to all of this really has been the separation of Getzlaf from Perry to give the Ducks two fairly formidable scoring lines. Getzlaf, with Stewart and Perron, and Perry, with Rakell and Maroon, create a handful for any team to deal with. Kesler, Silfverberg, and Cogliano continue to excel in their shutdown duties, and even the Horcoff-less fourth line of Santorelli, Thompson, and Garbutt has been contributing.

This week, it was a Pacific Division sweep, as Anaheim bested all three teams above them in the division standings.

Webbed Foot Pacific

On Tuesday, they beat the Sharks 3-2, with Ryan Garbutt scoring what would eventually be the game-winner. On Thursday, they beat the Kings 4-2, with Ryan Garbutt scoring what would eventually be the game-winner (and even more shockingly, Ryan Getzlaf scored a goal!). On Friday, they beat the Coyotes 5-2, but weirdly Garbutt wasn’t on the scoresheet; Santorelli was instead.

Twelve goals this week is two more than the Ducks scored over the entire month of October – thank goodness I didn’t have to write or draw about that team! At any rate, the recent winning has pushed Anaheim up to third in the division with a games-in-hand opportunity to even climb higher. Can’t fully say whether that will happen (lots of road games coming), but at the very least, the Ducks’ recent gain in standings does let me get to smugly tweet stuff like this:

Don’t worry, Canada. By my count, the U.S. will have seven of its teams miss the playoffs this year, too. :)

 

ARIZONA COYOTES
4th PLACE, 24-22-6, 54 POINTS
@CataCarryOn

How do I describe last week without crying?

Let’s try.

For starters, I’ve had a pretty bad stomach bug for a while, so I spent most of the last three games played by Arizona watching with a healthy dose of Dramamine coursing through my veins and dreams of orange popsicles in my freezer when I got home.

Let’s talk about the games, though.

The Coyotes stayed in the games for two of their three losses through exactly half of regulation, and it shows in matching final scores of pain and sorrow. The Kings used four goals in the second period to really hurt the Coyotes – I mean, if Dustin Brown can score on you, are you even a worthy NHL team? – and while the Anaheim Ducks looked good through all three periods of play against Arizona, Anders Lindback kept the Coyotes in the game until he seemingly gave up in the last half of the contest to fall 5-2.

Here was my face during the Kings game:

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Here was my face by the time the Ducks game happened:

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The Blackhawks game, though: let’s talk about that one. Three things during that game really stood out as defining moments for the Coyotes, particularly when looking at this season:

1.Mikkel Boedker Scored

FINALLY, amirite?

Our resident Flams fan Mike Fail compared Boedker to his teammate Tobias Rieder last week, so we could try to figure out how the two pending free agents would fit in to the Coyotes’ future.

A 16-game goal drought for Boedker made it possible that this could be yet another year that Boedker doesn’t hit 20 goals, and the Coyotes management aren’t keen on paying him big money until he does that. So that’s a tough selling point for the forward, for sure.

That being said, he did manage to score a beauty against the Chicago Blackhawks, and he’s on a team full of rookies and secondary scorers. If we can assume that he’ll perform better when the team is at full strength in the next year or two, he’s got the speed and empirical scoring ability to maybe make it work keeping him around.

Bottom line, though, his 16-goal drought definitely made it clear why his negotiations have been such a sticking point this year.

2.The team won a coaching challenge.

Not something that they do regularly, let me tell you.

Watching the Coyotes lose coaching challenges all year has been fairly snake-bitten and upsetting, but watching Chicago’s coach Quenneville lose his mind over it (apart from being extremely fun) showed that there’s really no rhyme or reason to how coaching challenges are ruled this year.

As a goalie? I thought Marian Hossa getting tabbed for interference was fair. He was directly restricting Louis Domingue’s ability to get across the crease by standing in the way of moving his stick, and that’s the textbook definition of interference.

Then again, about six or seven other challenges made by the Coyotes this year have looked exactly like that goal, and Dave Tippett has lost them. It’s further proof that the NHL needs to be officiated by robots, and STAT.

3.The Coyotes don’t have a Jonathan Toews OR a Marian Hossa

Maybe Tobias Rieder can eventually become a Marian Hossa. He’s got the fancy stats that suggest it, so who knows? Dylan Strome could also become a Jonathan Toews, maybe I guess sort of if the team is lucky.

Having fast, speedy guys like Patrick Kane is important, and they have that in Max Domi. Having complete, 200-foot players who are lethal in front of the net and make other teams tremble on the penalty kill, though? That’s what the Coyotes really lack, and that’s part of what separates them from a true cup contender.

Other fun things:

Tobias Rieder scored against the Anaheim Ducks.

My favorite thing about Tobias Rieder is that one time, the Edmonton Oilers traded him – at his request – for a guy who averages less than a point per game in both the ECHL and the AHL. Kale Kessy is, at best, a minor league face-puncher; Tobias Rieder’s underlying numbers give him a ceiling that’s actually starting to surpass Mikkel Boedker’s. He’s on pace for over 50 points as a penalty-killing forward with Arizona this year, and that’s tremendous.

Speaking of Tobias Rieder… here’s a video of his very-helpless roommate, Connor Murphy, talking about how they don’t understand how trash works.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
5th PLACE, 20-20-12, 52 POINTS
@JDylanBurke from Canucks Army

Another terrible week in Vancouver. As I write this, the Canucks are 24th in NHL standings. Only the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils have a worse score-adjusted Corsi in the last 25-games. As per www.sportclubstats.com, the Canucks only have like a 17% chance of making the playoffs at this stage. And yet, they’re nowhere nearer to selling off expiring contracts and depreciating assets than they were a month ago.

What a time, to be alive.

Their loss to the Calgary Flames was especially disheartening. To be fair, the Canucks outplayed the #Flams for the majority of the game, but couldn’t buy a goal for the life of them. To quote Ray from Trailer Park Boys “that’s the way she fucking goes boys”. Thing is, a roster this lacking in talent can’t afford to get unlucky and the Canucks have had more than their fair share. There’s a foul mood about this team now and if there was ever a point in the season where you could see hear the tune of the city surrounding this team audibly change, it was Saturday.

On the bright side, the Canucks are starting to get healthy. Brandon Sutter and Henrik Sedin have all returned to the Canucks lineup, which is great, because it means Jared McCann isn’t the team’s number one centre anymore. On the other hand, it forces them into doing some really stupid stuff… like sending Yannick Weber down, rather than one of Alex Biega, Matt Bartkowski or Luca Sbisa.

That brings the total number of one-way contracts with the Canucks farm team in Utica to four. That seems like a high number. I don’t know.

Fuck this team.

CALGARY FLAMES
6th PLACE, 23-25-3, 49 POINTS
@MikeFAIL from Flames Nation

[the scene: the round table of the Pacific War Room]

First off I would like to thank the great site, The Royal Half. I’d also like to congratulate the Denver Broncos on defeating the Florida Panthers. A toast to you, the victors with an ice cold Budweiser. Budweiser, the champion of beers because it’s Budweiser. Be like Peyton Manning, have a cold one, have a Budweiser.”

This entire piece is sponsored by Budweiser, the beer that Peyton Manning loves to drink after kissing his wife and hugging his family. Budweiser, it’s definitely urine.

So the All-Star game behind us the Flames looked to not crap the bed and pursue the playoffs (which is a bad idea). Those dastardly Carolina Hurricanes (they’ll be the Quebec Nordiques soon enough) came to town, coached by the exact opposite of Bob Hartley (someone capable). Unfortunately the Flames decided to show up, scoring four Budweisers, and adding hope fueled by Budweiser to the fans. How else will be get Auston Matthews or one of those Finnish wingers everyone covets?

Then John Tortorella and the Blue Jackets showed up after being destroyed in Edmonton. Sure, the Flames out-possessed them like they were kings of the Corsi Hockey League but they lost. Which means anayltics mean nothing and we should all embrace Budweiser. The loss should have been accepted formally as “it’s time we tank“, but alas I can only predict that this team ignores this completely. Hell we’re living in a post-suspended Dennis Wideman world which means Kris Russell will be #ForeverAFlame. If there is one certainty about the Flames’ season is one thing: drinking a beer, preferably a Budweiser.

And we close on the best part of the week: the delicious, cool, refreshing taste of Budweiser. If there is one thing I love more than Budweiser, it’s Canucks fans who hate Micheal Ferland. It’s fine to let the hate flow through you, chums. The Canucks collectively amount to nothing, with nothing to show besides menial failures past, present, and future. He’s already beat you, multiple times in fact, so anything else just seems pathetic. So when he fights Luca Sbisa (and wins), hits a bunch of Canucks (with “intent to injure”), and dangles around the ice like Sam Bennett you all lose your collective minds.

You fair weather fans give me sustenance. You’ll always have 2011 as a reminder of what never was.

This is junior cub-reporter Mike Fail signing off with Micheal Ferland’s take on the win.

EDMONTON OILERS
7th PLACE, 21-28-5, 47 POINTS
@JSBMjeanshorts from Oilers Nation

Welcome Back Connor indeed! I don’t know about you, but I fully expected Connor McDavid to need at least a few games to shake off the rust after being sidelined with a broken clavicle for close to 3 months. TURNS OUT he only needed 30 minutes.

*Picks jaw up off floor for 200th time* ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Splits the defense, keeps control of the puck with one hand on his stick, and to top it all off he somehow has patience to wait out the Columbus goalie AT FULL SPEED.

And lost in the excitement of yet ANOTHER Goal Of The Year candidate from McDavid was this insane play which ended up as an assist on a silky finish by Jordan Eberle.

Connor misses what easily could have been yet EVEN ANOTHER Goal Of The Year candidate thanks to a desperation save by Korpisalo (no relation to Lauri Korpikoski or Tommy Salo). Connor doesn’t give up on the play however, and FROM HIS STOMACH he corrals the puck, stands up and dishes to a wide open Eberle while the entire Blue Jackets team stands in awe of what is happening in front of them.

So he finishes with three points on the night. Great, great return, but you could probably just chalk it up to him being jacked to just be playing again, right? WRONG!

A couple nights later the Oilers rolled into a parking lot in the middle of nowhere in Kanata to take on the Sens and Connor picked back up right where he left off, chipping in assists on back to back goals by Jordan Eberle, who I assume is going to owe Connor some money at the end of the year for kickstarting the second half of his season like this.

And even when the team is losing McDavid will pull something out of his Tickle Trunk that makes even the smelliest of bed pooing by the Oilers worthwhile to watch until the bitter, bitter end.

This kid is NINETEEN YEARS OLD guys! And he’s already performing like this on almost a nightly basis. Someone on Twitter had an alarming thought saying that this will be the worst version of Connor McDavid we see in the NHL…. He’s gonna score 10 points a night by the time he’s 25, leading the Oilers to their 4th straight Stanley Cup!! I CAN’T WAIT!

Welcome back Connor. Please NEVER leave us again!

And JUST when we thought Connor was back to held spark the team to a legit hunt for a playoff spot, the Oilers happened…

*Rubs temples in frustation*

First it was off to Montreal, where the Oilers made all of my worst nightmares come true:

A former Oiler goalie who was run out of town for underperforming, starting for a Montreal team who is on the verge of being run out of town for underperforming. The same Montreal team that had only won 5 GAMES since December 22nd. And it was a horrible matinee game to boot! This was the perfect storm for the Oilers to play Slumpbusters® and boy did they NAIL IT! Oh did I mention that Tom Gilbert scored his first goal of the year? Yeah…

“Thankfully tomorrow’s game can’t be any worse” a lot of us probably thought to ourselves. AND YET…

You have to think that’s the last we’ll ever see of Anders Nilsson in the NHL, as the one time diamond in the rough (like 2 months ago) has now lost six straight starts, putting up a .840SV% and a whopping 4.90 GAA. Even Chris The Intern wouldn’t be caught dead putting up numbers that terrible! Not that Cam Talbot was much better in relief. The Oilers were probably better off playing with six skaters the entire third period, just to salvage some of Cam Tabolt’s numbers! He’s arguably been the Oilers best player for the last couple months and this is how they repay him!

What’s that? Yes, Connor McDavid did score the Oilers only goal. Thank you for asking.

I’ve maintained for a while that the Oilers still not being completely out of the playoff race was mostly smoke and mirrors due to the unfathomably terrible first half of the season by the Pacific Division. And games like the ones we saw this weekend show exactly why the Oilers are still a couple steps away from even being a bubble team, let alone a legitimate threat to make the playoffs. Now if you’ll excuse me we have to go start planning our “Snafus For Matthews” draft party this summer at The Pint. SEE YOU ALL THERE!!

TRH WILD CARD WATCH™

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Love you, California.

Thanks to all the amazing Pacific Division Bloggers. Check back next week for another edition of Pacific War Room! You can check out past editions of Pacific War Room here!

The Royal Half has been a Los Angeles Kings fan since 1988 and a Half-Season Ticket Holder since 2002. He has seen the following goaltenders play in person for the Los Angeles Kings… Kelly Hrudey, Grant Fuhr, Byron Dafoe, Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin, Cristobal Huet, Roman Cechmanek, Mathieu Garon, Adam Hauser, Jason LaBarbera, Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Dan Cloutier, Yutaka Fukufuji, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones.You can follow The Royal Half on Twitter @TheRoyalHalf.