At the end of each month, I am going to reflect on the happenings within the Southeast division to get a better idea of the competition the Canes are going up against. What I’m going to do with this feature is first post the standings after a month, then the team’s performance during that month going by goals for, goals against, special team performance and Pythagorean win expectation. A Pythagorean win expectation is a formula that’s used a lot in baseball where they take the amount of runs a team scored during a year, square it and divide it by the sum of the squared amount of runs the team scored and gave up to get a winning percentage. This shows how much a team is milking the OT point and how many wins a team “earned.” I’m not 100% sold on this method for hockey but I find it interesting so I’m experimenting with it for now. After that, I’ll break down each team’s performance during the month and determine who I feel has been the team’s three best players during the month.
We’ll start after the jump.
GF = goals for, GA = goals against, PPG = powerplay goal, PP OPP = powerplay opportuniteis, SPK = successful penalty kills, 5v5 Sv% = 5-on-5 save percentage, 5v5 Sh% = 5v5 shooting percentage, Pythag. = Pythagorean winning percentage, Ex W = expected wins.
Washington leads the way in the division as most would expect. They have the least amount of goals because they played in two less games this month than the rest of the division so I wouldn’t apy too much attention to their expected win percentage. They’ve had the best powerplay among the conference and have also been great at driving play with the score tied as indicated by their strong corsi percentage. Florida’s actually played some pretty good hockey this month and aren’t getting terribly lucky with shooting the puck at even strength. That .943 save percentage is going to plummet soon, though. That is, unless Jose Theodore suddenly regains his Hart Trophy form and Jacob Markstrom is the second coming of Tomas Vokoun. Tampa Bay has been playing slightly worse than their divisional opponents but they did play a lot of road games and had a pretty brutal schedule to start the year. Carolina just isn’t scoring enough and their powerplay has had zero bounces go their way at all. Winnipeg’s played better than their record indicates but brutal goaltending and special teams play is keeping them down. The Panthers have been a pretty nice story to start the season but so much of their success has been driven by goaltending so I’m not sure it will sustain. I would expect Tampa Bay or possibly Carolina to reclaim their #2 spot. Washington’s weak penalty kill might also come back to haunt them in November too. Their defense doesn’t look nearly as tight as it did last season and I think that will play a factor soon unless they shape up a bit.
Now let’s go over what each team did.
1. Washington Capitals (7-2-0)
Washington isn’t shooting the puck as much as they normally do but they are doing really well with the score tied. Not one player under the .500 mark in corsi when things are notted up. There’s a lot of guys who are getting pretty damn fortunately, though and are prone to some serious regression. The guy at the top of that list is Mathieu Perreault and his absurd 1131 PDO. He may have found a permanent spot on the team’s fourth line but his production is very unsustainable. He’s always been solid at driving the play, though so I think that part of his game won’t drop down at all.
If you are a Caps fan, the main thing I would be concerned with is how they’ve been getting outshot more often than they did last season but I think a lot of that has to do with them playing with some big or early leads. This makes the signing of Tomas Vokoun look even better as he was outstanding during October with a .939 save percentage.They also have a bottom-five penalty kill in terms of shots surrendered which shows that the low PK success rate isn’t just from bad luck. I’d point to that as their Achilles heel during the first month along with a lot of players benefiting from very high shooting percentages. Vokoun’s terrific play also boosted the PDO of a lot of players.
1. Nicklas Backstrom : Leads the team in points and he’s doing it while being one of the few players on the team that isn’t getting extremely lucky when shooting the puck. However, eight of his 12 points came on the powerplay so that’s worth noting. Still tough to overlook his production there, though as he has been a main reason for Washington’s powerplay being so successful. Also, anyone who can drive play that well without getting sheltered is a pretty damn good player in my book.
2. Tomas Vokoun: Six quality starts, .939 save percentage at even strength, had four 30+ save performances and has given Washington some of the best goaltending they’ve had in awhile. It’ll be interesting to see how much it improves when Michal Neuvirth can play more games.
3. Marcus Johansson: What can I say? He’s off to a really good start and proving me wrong. He’s playing with some great linemates and getting easier ice time than some of his peers but I have really like what I saw from him last month. If he continues to kill penalties then that will improve his value a lot.
Florida Panthers (6-4-1)
Florida’s strong start is boosted from what has been a strong powerplay and the suddenly great tandem of Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom who have a combined .943 save percentage. Florida’s powerplay has actually been pretty solid this season at getting the puck to the net (9th in 5v4 SF/60) and it’s showing some good results with the boxcar stats. Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and (gasp) Jason Garrison have been the top producers there. However, I have a hard time beliving that Theodore and Markstrom will keep playing at this rate and I’m sure most will agree.
There’s a few other things that make believe the Panthers will crash back down to the bottom of the Southeast. First off, they have a -4 shot differential at 5v5 per 60 minutes, showing they aren’t exactly controlling the pace of play. Also, only 51% of their goals have come during 5-on-5 play, showing that their strong powerplay and goaltending have been the main things that are keeping this team from losing games. They have a lot of guys who can play tough minutes and should be a better defensive team but four of their top six defensemen are underwater in terms of corsi at even strength. You’ll notice above that Jovanovski in particular is getting demolished. Both Garrison and Campbel have been solid but after that, there’s some things to be concerned about. Weaver hasn’t played that well, Jovanovski’s age is clearly catching up to him, Gudbranson is only a rookie and Kulikov has only been average at best. I know some people will say “but a lot of their players have such low PDO’s so they aren’t getting lucky.” They aren’t getting lucky at even strength because they haven’t that good of a team 5-on-5 yet. Florida’s corsi might be above .500 but they aren’t scoring there at all. At least not yet.
1. Jose Theodore/Jacob Markstrom
Hard to argue against this.
2. Stephen Weiss
Weiss’ point total isn’t boosted from the powerplay like Versteeg’s and he has done a great job at both ends of the ice this season. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing a huge factor in Versteeg and Fleischmann’s early success with Florida. I’d keep an eye on that shooting percentage, though.
3. Brian Campbell
I was going to select Garrison for this because eight of Campbell’s 11 points are on the powerplay and Garrison’s been playing much tougher minutes than Campbell. However, Florida’s powerplay was the key to their success this month and Campbell played a huge role in that. He’s also playing tougher minutes, which he didn’t do in his last couple of years with the Hawks. I don’t feel that Campbell is putting up a sustainable amount of production, though. Considering how much of it is coming on the powerplay but he’s been good regardless.
Tampa Bay Lightning (5-4-2)
|Martin St. Louis||3||6||9||29||10||7||12.94%||0||0||46.6||0||0.406|
Tampa Bay has been in the middle of the road in just about every statistic. They are creating a solid amount of offense but are giving up a lot at the other end. Their powerplay is in the middle of the road and hasn’t been terribly effective this year and their penalty kill has been giving up chances but not that many goals. They’ve been about average when it comes to “puck luck” too. Shooting and save percentages are about average at even strength. Although, their save percentage would be a lot higher if Dwayne Roloson wasn’t off to such a brutal start.
The table above shows that Tampa Bay isn’t doing that good of a job at controlling the pace of play when the score is tied. Malone, Lecavalier, Purcell and Blair Jones are the only forwards who have a corsi percentage over .500 and the first three were on the same line for most of the year. Although, a lot of this could be due to their top players getting more defensive zone starts than they would like. Stamkos, St. Louis and Connolly stick out to me in paticular. I also like how Ryan Shannon is playing nearly the opposite role that he did in Ottawa. He had given a ton of offensive zone starts with the Sens and now he is being buried in Tampa’s bottom-six but he’s playing better than I expected him too. His corsi on rating is +3 which isn’t bad for someone with that many defensive zone starts.
Speaking of tough assignments, Hedman and Brewer are carrying this defense and it’s not even close. With Mattias Ohlund still recovering from knee surgery, these two are the main shutdown options for Tampa Bay and Hedman seemed pretty overwhelmed at times this season. To show how many big minutes these two are playing I’ll give you this stat; Tampa Bay has given up 28 goals at even strength and these two have been on ice for almost half of them, but they’ve also been on ice for half of the goals the Bolts have scored, too.
1. Teddy Purcell: He earned himself a promotion to the top line after playing so well on the second line and it should come with some good results if he keeps it up. However, Tampa’s first line usually gets assigned tougher minutes than the second line does so I’m interested in how he performs. Purcell was one of Tampa’s best forwards at driving possession in October and put up nine points as well so that gets him into this category.
2. Victor Hedman/Eric Brewer: They were on ice for a ton of goals against but it’s hard to look past all of the tough minutes these guys logged during the month. The fact that both were able to come out positive in corsi despite that is pretty amazing.
3. Steven Stamkos: Got a bit lucky this month but he still led the team in scoring.
Carolina Hurricanes (4-4-1)
Carolina was not a good team at even strength in October. They were outshot regularly, couldn’t score that much and if it wasn’t for Cam Ward, they could have found themselves at the bottom of the division. The problems seem to center around Eric Staal and his lack of production and that’s definitely an issue. He has yet to score a goal at even strength, but has an abysmal shooting percentage so you could suggest that he’s getting unlucky. While that might be true, he’s also giving up a ton of shots and chances in his own zone so both his offensive and efensive play are suffering right now.
It’s not all gloom and doom for the Canes, though. They’ve seen some great play from their second line of Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu as they’ve been providing most of the team’s goals and scoring chances. Unfortunately for them, Jokinen will be sidelined for the next three-four weeks which is a huge loss for a team that is struggling for offense like the Canes are. Their main third line of Patrick Dwyer and Brandon Sutter have also been playing very well and have continuously been used against opponent’s top lines.
Carolina’s powerplay isn’t as bad as their 13% efficiency rate suggests. They are generating a lot of shots 5-on-4 but just can’t seem to hit the back of the net. Their penalty kill is pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of shots allowed and that’s a big improvement compared to last year. That has a lot to do with their new shutdown defense pairing of Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason who had a long streak going where they were not on ice for a goal against. However, these two were getting very lucky during that stretch because they were on ice for a considerable amount of chances against, but were bailed out by Ward. There have been some nights where these two have looked fantastic, though. I would argue that Joni Pitkanen has been equally as impressive even if the numbers don’t indicate it. He’s been on ice for 13 goals against at even strength but his PDO is lower than any defenseman on the team not named Justin Faulk.
1. Cam Ward: .924 EV save percentage, six straight quality starts and four 30+ save performances. Nice to see him picking up where he left off last year but Brian Boucher is blowing a lot of the advantages this team has at goaltending.
2. Jussi Jokinen: Highest scoring chance percentage on the team over the first month and was a force on the powerplay as well. Was also solid defensively and only on ice for three goals against.
3. Bryan Allen/Tim Gleason: Like I said, they got a bit lucky but it’s hard to argue with the results.
Winnipeg Jets (4-6-1)
Winnipeg didn’t play that well in October but they were not nearly as bad as their record indicates. What caused them to lose so many games is their lack of goal scorers, weak special teams and awful goaltending. The fact that Ladd, Little, Wheeler and Kane are going through slumps generating by poor shooting percentages isn’t helping either. Winnipeg’s top goal scorer is Kyle Wellwood with only five goals and that’s not going to win you a lot of games. Jim Slater being second on the list with four and a shooting percentage of above 20% is pretty hilarious too. The players who are supposed to be the Jets best offensive players are having the worst luck while the guys in the bottom six are the ones scoring.
The defense hasn’t exactly been great either but they aren’t giving up as many shots per game as they were last year, at least not yet. I’m a little confused why Bogosian is getting more sheltered minutes than Enstrom or Byfuglien because I always considered him one of their more sound, defensive players. Then again, it appears that Bogosian is having a pretty rough year so that might be why. Byfuglien isn’t putting up the numbers that he did last season and that was to be expected but I think it’s fair to say that most thought he would have more than 4 points after a month of play. The problem with the Jets has been goaltending more than the defense as both Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason have been awful. They have actually scored as many even strength goals as Carolina (22) and seven more than Florida but they have given up the fourth most goals of any team at even strength at 28. I feel that boils down to the goaltending more than anything because both goalies have save percentages below .900 at even strength.
1. Alexander Burmistrov: He is really starting to put it together after an inconsistent rookie season and was one of their few consistent forwards this month.
2. Nik Antropov: Led the team in points and was solid compared to the rest of the pack.
3. Kyle Wellwood: Led the team in goal scoring and did it without playing the percentages at even strength too much. Was also a big part of the team’s powerplay, but if that stays the same over the year then there will be some serious issues.