Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.
>> Waiting on The Captain
The Columbus Blue Jackets have managed to keep Penguins captain Sidney Crosby without a goal in Round 1. That’s an impressive feat at face value.
It’s even more impressive when you dive into the possession numbers for Crosby through the first three games of this series.
As a primer to our discussion, let’s remember the value of Corsi percentages in hockey. Since the NHL doesn’t keep time on ice statistics, our goal here is to evaluate who has the puck and who is generating offense at even-strength. Corsi tracks all shooting attempts when a given player is on the ice, that includes saves, deflected shots, blocked shots, etc. It’s a general barometer of which way the ice is tilted in a given match-up.
Through three games against the Blue Jackets, Crosby has a Corsi-For percentage of 61.1 – meaning that 61.1 percent of all shooting attempts at even-strength are shots launched at the Columbus net.
That number is boosted by an absolutely dominant Game 3 performance. Crosby boasted a Corsi-For percentage of 76.2. He was on the ice for 16 attempts towards the Columbus net at even-strength and only 5 attempts launched at Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
These are gaudy numbers by advanced metrics.
The Penguins need Crosby to score goals, and the law of averages alone tells us that if this disparity keeps up, Crosby is going to find his goal groove in a major way. When the best player in the game is getting 76.2 percent of all shooting attempts in a given game, the floodgates might hold for a while – but it’s only a matter of time before they burst.
However, if the Penguins feel like they need to kick-start Crosby at even-strength, the coaching staff might want to consider throwing defensemen Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta out with him.
Crosby was a 53-percent Corsi-For performer during the regular season, but his possession based metrics and goal-scoring metrics were at their best when he was paired with Niskanen.
Niskanen and Crosby spent 434 minutes together at even-strength – the highest number of minutes played with Crosby by a defender other than Brooks Orpik. The numbers paint a picture of success.
Crosby’s Corsi-For percentage with Niskanen rose to 58 percent at the end of the regular season. In addition, Crosby scored more goals per 20 minutes of even-strength ice time with Niskanen (1.47) and allowed fewer goals against per 20 minutes of even-strength ice time as well (0.50). When all was said and done, 74 percent of all the goals scored when Crosby and Niskanen were on the ice were goals scored by the Penguins.
Whatever the case may be, the advanced metrics of this series tell us not to worry too much about Crosby. If the ice stays tilted the way it has in favor of the Penguins, the road to making this a best-of-three might get a bit longer for Columbus.
Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at www.faceoff-factor.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof