Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Contagious

The NHL leaders...

The AHL rookie leaders...

Oh, and Hershey beat Binghamton tonight, 9-0...

Why Boyd?

There is a lot of knashing of teeth this morning about the selection of Boyd Gordon to take the decisive -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- Gimmick shot in last night's 6-5 loss to the Devils.

Fair question.

Viktor Kozlov and Alex Ovechkin had already tried and failed, and the Caps didn't have, say, a Sergei Fedorov available to use his vast store of experience in that situation. Alexander Semin, with his bag of stick-handling tricks, was sitting this one out, too. So...Gordon?

Well, to whom could the Caps turn in that situation?

There was Michael Nylander, who was 11-for-27 in his career in the Gimmick phase of the game, including 1-for-2 this year. But there is the fact that Nylander hasn't had a real goal of his own since the Pittsburgh game on October 16th. Then again, his was the game-winning Gimmick goal against Nashville on October 28th.

There was also the possibility of Brooks Laich, but he was 2-for-10 for his career in this thing and hadn't had a successful attempt since the 2005-2006 season (neither of his successful attempts had been on the road).

Nicklas Backstrom? The kid's been on a roll lately, and he was 1-for-3 in his career attempts.

Gordon was also 1-for-3 in his career attempts, but failed even to get a shot off as Scott Clemmensen guessed right and poke-checked the puck off of Gordon's stick before an attempt could be made.

In retrospect, we suspect Coach Boudreau was playing a hunch of sorts. But all other things considered, we just wish Matt Bradley took things into his own hands one more time.

Do Special Teams Matter?

Well, you'd think they would, just intuitively. But over our morning coffee we took a quick look at the "Index of Specialness" -- the sum of a team's power play effectiveness and that of its penalty kill, and what we found was that 15 of the top 20 teams in the index were in the top eight of their respective divisions (as of this Sunday morning):

But does it really matter any more than how a club does at even strength? Well, 13 of the top 17 clubs in 5-on-5 goals scored-to-goals allowed ratio are in the top eight of their respective conferences:

If you take a moment to combine the two (and we're really too lazy this morning to undertake anymore sophisticated that literally combining the two), then what you suspect is true...

...good teams are good teams on both special teams and at even strength. But there are interesting things to be found within. Buffalo (5th vs. 25th), Carolina (15th vs. 26th), and Calgary (12th vs. 28th) are all substantially better in the Index of Specialness than they are at 5-on-5, yet all are top-eight teams. For you Caps fans, note that the Caps are ranked high in this combined measure, but are none-too-special (18th in the IoS). Boston is first in the combined measure, but only 13th in th IoS.

The NHL is said to be a league of special teams these days? Really?


And now...four

Not bad, eh?