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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Big Tex's Teams at the Midpoint

WELL, well, well...another year, shot to hell. As 2009 comes to a (merciful) close, the Olympics-compressed NHL season has just about reached its' midpoint. Let us reflect (briefly) on what transpired in the 09- portion of the campaign, and pontificate (also briefly) on what the -10 segment of the schedule might contain. Ed. Note: Yes, Santa brought me a thesaurus this year. So what?

Los Angeles Kings: I knew they'd show improvement over last season, but I didn't expect this much improvement. The emergence of Jon Quick has been key. While I wouldn't call them a top Cup contender in the West, any team in the playoffs has a chance...and the Kings are IN, baby.

Colorado Avalanche: Biggest.Surprise.Of.The.Season. The Avs aren't really this good, right? Right?!?!? Will we still be waiting for their "inevitable" collapse in April? The Magic 8-Ball says, "Signs point to yes", and OGA (gulp) agrees.

Chicago Blackhawks: Not only are the Blackhawks Chasing Stanley, but they're also the most Cup-ready team in the NHL right now. Unfortunately for them, Stanley Cups aren't won in December...

Columbus Blue Jackets: ...And unfortunately for Columbus, Stanley Cups CAN be lost in December. While the Jackets are taking steps to right the ship, time is already running out. To put their current situation in game terms, they're down by two with about six minutes remaining in the 3rd. If they don't make the playoffs, Columbus gets my vote for Biggest.Disappointment.Of.The.Season.

Detroit Red Wings: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
Ed. Note: Yes, I'm a Stars season-ticket holder. I'm thoroughly enjoying the Wings' season because I don't know when they'll have another like it.

Nashville Predators: I'd like to dedicate a song to the Predators and their fans, because they deserve it:

This team just won't quit. Mad Props to the Preds, whom I picked to finish dead last in the Central Division. Thanks for proving me wrong.

Boston Bruins: I don't know; they just ain't the same without that Kessel kid. And they (and I) really miss Lucic in the lineup. Marco Sturm is the B's top sniper, with just 13 goals. Will they make it out of the second round this season? Hell, will they make it out of the first?

Florida Panthers: Hmm...6-8-5 at home, 10-10-2 on the road. If they had more road games in the 2nd half of the season, they might just have a shot at the playoffs. Believe it or not, though, the future looks bright for the Panthers. Unfortunately for them, the future is not now.

Vancouver Canucks: At the end of January, the Canucks begin their six-week (with a break for the Olympics), fourteen-game tour of NHL arenas NOT located in British Columbia. Between now and then, however, they play nine of twelve games at home. Don't be surprised if they hit the road 1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Conference...and don't be surprised if they make the most of their "bonding experience" on the road and return home 1st in the Northwest, 3rd in the Conference.

New York Rangers: Remember when Lucy yanks the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it, and he goes flying through the air? Remember that long, drawn-out "aaaarrrrgggghhhh" sound Charlie Brown made? That's what I hear in my head when I think about (and often, when I watch) the Rangers. At least they're getting their money's worth out of Gaborik and Lundqvist. If either goes down, though, the Blueshirts can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

So that's the ten teams I cover for On Goal Analysis, in a nutshell. Tomorrow, we OGA boys will be watching the Winter Classic from our prime seats...on the couch in front of a 36" HDTV. As soon as the final buzzer sounds, we're hitting the road for St. Louis, where we'll be blogging, Tweeting, and using semaphore flags to describe the action at Saturday's Blues-Blackhawks game. Stay tuned for OGA Road Trip IV, kids - it's gonna be SWELL!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter Classic 2012 - The Colonel

Last year two days before the 2009 Winter Classic, On Goal Analysis posted a blog entitled “Winter Classic 2010.” Those recommendations were not followed, with Fenway park being the site chosen for this year’s event.

If rumors can be believed, Winter Classic 2011 will likely be held in Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and a team to be named later (the Islanders are a target of speculation!). Additionally, gossip indicates a Canadian outdoor game just might be played in conjunction with Hockey Day In Canada, quite possibly in Calgary.

This blog therefore concedes Winter Classic/Hockey Day In Canada 2011 and jumps ahead to recommendations for Winter Classic 2012.

The Frozen Pond in 2012

Simply put, what’s old is new again. Within that blog a year ago, the opinion was given that the 2010 Winter Classic should be conducted in Canada with a bent toward honoring our Hockey history. We say that needs to happen in 2012.

From that original post, suggestions included:

“…1. Percival Molson Field at McGill University in Montreal where the rules for Hockey were codified.

2. In Montreal, outdoors, and near the Bell Centre near where the first Stanley Cup was awarded.

3. Somewhere between Kingston and Hallifax, Ontario, in recognition of the possible beginnings of Hockey as games between British soldiers in the mid-1800's….”

(We also concede with all the talk of potential expansion/relocation to Quebec, the Canadian capitol is a non-historical, good choice if the NHL’s goal is to showcase a potential return to that city. Our recommendation, however, is to initially support a return to our Hockey roots.)

So for our Game 1 of Winter Classic day, we recommend playing in eastern Canada from one of the original, three choices above to honor both Canada and Hockey’s history. We further recommend the puck drops at 11:30am EST to allow for completion by about 2:30pm EST. It is not going to get much warmer for the frozen faithful that day than noon. And it is not lost on this observer that with a 4:21pm EST projected sunset that day, folks will be clearing the parking lot and just about home by sundown and the more severe temperatures.

The blinding flash of the obvious for who should play are the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a rivalry that spans names of the League itself. That includes going all the way back to March 14, 1908 when the Montreal Wanderers of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association defeated Toronto of the Ontario Professional Hockey League.

We would like to see the Canadiens and Maple Leafs in sweaters like below, with the old home white and road darks in vogue. For the Canadiens, The “W” inside the “C” is for ‘Wanderers,’ the green maple leaf is from Canadiens’ jerseys past and the Maroon color honors the old team nickname from the 1934-35 Stanley Cup winning team. The Toronto jersey honors the 1928-33 Leafs’ sweater that began the evolution to what is currently worn. Simply put, it is an awesome sweater that could be a favorite on the market for purchase with little marketing.

We also advocate a second game that same day. With a tip of the hat to Cole Jones’ great work at theother6seconds.com, we endorse his suggestion for a later afternoon tilt beginning at 2:30pm EST/1:30pm CST in The Minnesota Twins’ Target Field between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. This should be a grudge match because there sure was some when the North Stars left the Gopher State to become the Dallas Stars. We wouldn’t change a thing from his recommendation. (Great job Cole!)

Why two games in prime time on January 1st? It’s just about time to show some swagger in the NHL. There is no baseball to contend with, and last year’s Classic showed Hockey is primed for outpacing Basketball. Admittedly, New Year’s Day in 2012 falls on a Sunday which may make some direct competition with NFL playoffs. But the start times listed have both Hockey games complete by about 5:30pm EST, so late NFL playoff action and The Rose and Sugar Bowl games will not be bled over into much if at all. We say January 1 is the Winter season which Hockey was made for, so Hockey should step out and claim its rightful place of honor.

And don’t forget to demand from sponsors the kind of top commercials like they have been doing for years with the Super Bowl. These Winter Classic matchups deserve that kind of respect.


As a bottom line, the possibilities for Winter Classic games are endless. Honoring Canadian lineage in Hockey history simply needs to be done, however. And Minnesota, the State of Hockey and home to so many U.S. born players, is deserving of recognition as well for this great event.

Ah, the Winter Classic. The stuff dreams are made of…
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

With All Due Respect To The Rocket – The Colonel

A couple of weeks ago, all the rage of discussion was whether or not to change the names of several of the NHL’s trophies given annually for excellence in our favorite sport. Many flat out said, “NO!” to any change, believing new monikers rudely discard NHL history. Others new to the sport and not knowing much of the frozen past, or other fans desiring some measure of modernity to their sport’s hardware, said they are for a transformation.

I say both of them are right. In terms of recognizing goal scoring leader(s) each year, any appropriate trophy must be transformed to take into account Hockey history. With all due respect to Rocket Richard, he is the wrong, singular person with which to recognize goal scoring excellence.

What’s In A Name?

Firstly, we must look at why the trophy is named after Maurice Richard. Back in his day, he was an unwillingly influential man, capable of reaching outside the rink both to have riots borne in his name and to quell them with his words. On the ice, The Rocket was amazing in his time by both achieving the markers of 50 goals in 50 games in the 1944-45 and the first to score 500 markers in his career. Without question, he is a player to honor in the sport of Hockey as he was with his 1961 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame with a waiver of the three-year waiting period for selection.

For those who do not know, the award in his name has only been in the NHL since 1999 when it was donated to the League by the Montreal Canadiens. A great idea at the time, the League graciously accepted this trophy and has been bestowing it upon the top goal-scoring player(s) ever since. With the donation of this trophy, the Canadiens got to honor the League and name it after their man. The problem is, with all due respect to Maurice Richard, Montreal named it after the wrong man.

It’s Wayne Gretzky, right? This trophy should be named for the guy who scored 50 goals in only 39 games, a record-setting 92 goals in a single season, or a career record of 894 goals in the NHL. I mean, for 20 seasons the man averaged 44.7 goals per year, for crying out loud. Name it after him, he’s the best, done deal, right?

Here at On Goal Analysis, we submit the Canadiens in donating the trophy should have named it after their man. But the right man was Joe Malone.

Why Call It The Joe Malone Trophy?

The 1917-18 season was the first official year of the NHL. It was a different era when the game was played differently, a reason many folks want to discard his achievement so handily. Malone nevertheless scored 44 goals in 20 total games for the Montreal Canadiens, the only time an NHL player has ever averaged more than two goals-per-game (GPG) at season’s end. Malone’s closest challenger was Cy Dennehy in that same year, scoring 36 goals in 20 games for a 1.8 GPG average. Malone also notched a greater-than-one-GPG average in four of his seven NHL seasons and holds the record for goals in one game (7). He, too, was appropriately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950.

His 2.15 GPG average cannot be merely dismissed because he only played 20 games that season, or because in his day players tended to skate shifts that were minutes long in length.

As far as GPG averages go, not even Bossy, Gretzky, Hull, Kurri, Lemieux, Neely or Richard from the modern era had scored even 30 goals by Game 24 in any given season. In Wayne Gretzky’s record setting season of 50 goals in 39 games, he did not get his 43rd goal until Game 37 – at Game 20 he ‘only’ had scored 21 times.

Indeed in this current NHL season, the top five goal scorers at their Game 20 mark with their total goals and GPG average were:

Ovechkin – 18 G’s / .9 GPG

Gaborik – 16 G’s / .8 GPG

Kovalchuk – 16 G’s / .8 GPG

Stamkos – 14 G’s / .7 GPG

Heatley – 12 G’s / .6 GPG

The closest one with even a slight, outside chance of besting Gretzky’s record to 50 goals is Ovechkin. As of stats from 23 December games, he would only have to score seven hat tricks and three, two-goal games in his next 10 contests. That feat, while not impossible has a next to zero chance of happening and would get the asterisk by it because it would not have been done by his team’s 39th game due to games lost for injury and suspension.

And as for the argument that Malone’s achievement was simply fueled by those multi-minute shifts, we’d like to point out that looking at Time on the Ice (TOI) per shift, the likes of Kovalchuk (1:08), Ovechkin (1:05), and Malkin (1:00) all average a minute or more of ice team every time they go over the boards. To a man, these three players are on the ice for more than one full period per game and the top two in TOI are not even averaging one GPG this season.

The simple fact is nobody other than ‘Phantom Joe’ Malone in the history of the NHL has scored at an equal to or greater than two GPG average by Game 20 or beyond. The scoring trophy donated a decade ago by the Montreal Canadiens should therefore have been named for their other man, Joe Malone. Unless…

Truly Recognizing Goal Scoring In The NHL

Here at On Goal Analysis, we advocate an emphasis on recognizing the art of placing the puck in the net. It is, after all, one the handful of reasons a fan is involuntarily driven to rise up out of their seat during a game. We say do so with three trophy presentations in a season.

The NHL could memorialize the only time a player has crossed the 2.0 GPG average in a season by awarding the Joe Malone Competition Trophy. The goal of this award would be for a player with at least a 1.0 GPG average to be the closest to equaling or beating a 2.0 GPG average by their team’s 20th Game in any given season. The League would need to determine an appropriate method of recognizing that a player actually met or beat the 2.0 mark, such as his name being etched on a gold ring of the trophy versus every other winner below 2.0 in silver. (There would not be much gold, if any, on this trophy.) Getting one player to that gold plateau would require determined tactical play and sacrifice by a team. The only practical way to get a goal scorer to beat Gretzky’s record, much less come close to Malone’s, is for there to be a concentrated team effort of double – and extended – shifting for a top scorer like an Alexander Ovechkin. They would need to ensure their man has every opportunity out on the ice when an opposing team pulls their goalie or a delayed penalty is called.

What would seem to make more sense after the Joe Malone Competition Trophy i awarded is for the Rocket Richard Trophy to be given next in a given season to the first goal-scorer to cross the 50-goal threshold. The NHL could either choose to award it by equivalent numbers of games played by a player or take the draconian approach and pass it to the first person to do it on the calendar.

Nobody has surpassed Gretzky’s singular achievement of 92 goals scored in the 1981-82season. No further comment is needed than to say the trophy for the NHL’s leading scorer each year should be named after The Great One.


The most prolific scorer in terms of GPG in a single NHL season is Joe Malone. His 2.15 GPG average has never been equaled since he did it in the NHL’s inaugural season. Arguably, the NHL’s trophy for the scoring champion could be named after him and not Rocket Richard.

Doing so, however, somehow discredits Richard’s history as the first player to score 50 goals in a season and the first to cross the 500-goal mark in a career. It also discount’s Gretzky’s 39 goals in 50 games, 92 goals in one season and 894 goals in a career.

For those who cannot see it possible to rename the League’s scoring trophy after Joe Malone, On Goal Analysis recommends an option that would emphasize NHL history and generate season-long excitement across the League and for fans of the game. We recommend putting into place a system to award the Joe Malone Competition Trophy for the player with the highest GPG average above 1.0 after 20 games, the Rocket Richard Trophy for the first player to 50 goals in a single season, and the Wayne Gretzky Trophy for the most goals scored in a season, all to place a true emphasis on awarding excellence in the art of the goal.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Hockey Christmas Letter to Santa Gary - Frozen Pill

Here I am, at the end of the line at the end of the day.
Everyone is tired but I will have my say.

Before Santa arrives, I must convey my wish.
If but for a moment, your ear I must bend, Commish.

Dear Bettman Claus, before you check your list, here are my wishes three.
I'll keep it short, you'll get the gist, and the cookies are by the tree.

1. Turn the Barn Upside Down. It's not a Christmas gift I or any other fan could expect this season. But it is something to consider as the league continues to find new and better ways to market the game to both the old-school, die-hard hockey fan and our beloved converts. As Big Tex proposed, in short, I ask the NHL and affiliated businesses to begin to modify barns, making the upper bowl more uppity-crusty (think luxury sections, not just luxury suites) with food and drink service and other such amenities. The view from up yonder is actually a better view of the game and would warrant appropriate adjustments to pricing as needs be. And as Big Tex pointed out, "it's not without historical precedent: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre"

And we all know our game is as equally worthy as Shakespeare.

Give the lower bowl to the rowdy-louds. Have season seats in both top and bottom available but let's see what the home crowd can do the decibel level if seating is swapped around. I bet 'noise' prompting wouldn't even be needed on the Jumbotron.

Seriously, I am skipping over too many great details on why it's worth considering so please read Big Tex's proposal here.

And because a Christmas Wish List can sometimes be expansive in it's breadth (if you throw enough darts....), I would ask, while preparing the above changes, also consider a reduction in season ticket prices (to have more seats sold before the season starts) and incorporate 'dynamic pricing' for all seats still available for game day in every barn around the league.

If I find myself free on any given night and I decide to take in a game, I should be able to call, or go online at the team's site, or step up to the ticket booth an hour before a game and, if there are only 100 seats left, pay a premium for mine.

However, if I am on Long Island and do the same and there are 5,000 seats available an hour before game time...Well, let's just see what we can work out here.

You know, just asking.

2. The second item on my wish list needs very little encouragement and just may be on most hockey fan's (and teams?) wish lists this holiday season. Get Rid of the "Instigator" Rule. Let the the teams and the players police the ice after the refs have done their job (or have failed to do so). If needs be, additional minors, majors and misconducts can be assessed. And all actions can be reviewed by the head office after the fact with additional discipline metered by the league, if necessary.

But let the players demand the respect they often afford others...and let those same players deal with any small percentage of 'hunters' who don't play the game remembering, in the end, it's a game. How you are still welcome in any locker room is beyond me, Mr. Bertuzzi.

3. Embrace The New Media. Teams that sell out most nights may not be as quick to realize the impact hockey blogs are having on the fan-base and the growing online community of sports fans who read and contribute to these discussions. But some of the 'non-traditional' market teams have seen the glowing light emanating from monitors across the world and have begun their own outreach through the venues of New Media to grow discussion, interest and eventually enthusiasm for their brand.

Bettman Claus, perhaps you could encourage all 30 teams to at least explore a 'working' relationship with this new means of spreading the word about our great game to fans far and wide, old and new. And please continue to implement innovative articles and writers from various blog sources into NHL.com content as you have done this season.

Kudos to the Atlanta Thrashers for hosting two 'Blogger Days' wherein New Media types were given press access to the game and immersion into the game-day operation. Good out to the Nashville Predators who have granted full press credentials to some bloggers, allowing for in-depth and passionate hockey coverage, such as is the case with our friend, Buddy over at PredsontheGlass.com

And a major 'stick-banging of the boards on the other side of the bench' to the New York Islanders for having had this foresight in attempts to grow their fan-base by being the first organization (in 2006!) to implement 'a Bloggers Box' as part of the game-day press efforts.

To you teams, and the others who are embracing creative ways to grow the team brand and spread the love of the game, we say, 'good shift'.

To you teams who have not yet felt the 'need' or are still confused as to whether or not hockey blogging is simply a trend, I submit the decline of the print media as your decree from Caesar Augustus. And although we're not the Christmas Star, burning bright in the night of the off-season, the glow from our monitors shines in our eyes and in the eyes of millions of hockey fans worldwide - night in and night - out as we scour space and time for unique insight into the Greatest Game ever given to man.

And the message is here to stay.

From all of us at OGA to you and yours, Happy Boxing Day and all the other warm, season's greetings that make you feel good when said to ye.

Happy Hockey to all. And to all, a good fight.

take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Christmas List, Gary Bettmanclause

It’s my turn in line and I would like to think I have been pretty good this year. So I thought I’d ask for three things this Christmas to help grow my favorite sport.

First, please restructure the NHL schedule. This is a specific request, so here’s what I mean:

1. Go to 84 regular-season games.

2. Each year, give us an inter-Conference home-and-home set so we can see every team in our building at least once. (That’s 30 games.)

3. Give us three games each of inter-Divisional play in our conference scheduled any way you want to make the season’s scheduling problems easier. (Our total is now 60 games.)

4. And give us six, intra-Divisional games in three-games-in-one-week sets. Do one set in the NOV/DEC timeframe to give us weekly rivalries (like a Red Wings’ “Blackhawk Week,” or an Islanders’ “Rangers Week”) in the Thanksgiving/Christmas period to build NHL excitement going into the Winter Classic(s). Then end the season with the other set of rivalry weeks so everyone feels like they have played some playoff series regardless of whether or not they get to compete for the Stanley Cup. (And that makes 84 games.)

This present gives us all of the stars in our building every year and two stretches in the regular season feeling like playoffs. (We will love our Hockey even more and come to games even more often!)

Next, give us (almost) a week of so much excitement about the future of our teams and our past and current stars that we don’t know what to do with ourselves. By this I mean give us the Trade Deadline on a Wednesday. Then hold the entry draft the following Friday night and Saturday. And cap it all off with an Old Timer’s game Sunday afternoon and the All Stars’ game Sunday night (the skills competition can go on Friday morning). One additional note for the All Stars’ games…

In Year 1, have U.S. players play the world

In Year 2, have Canadian players play the world

In Year 3, have European players play the North Americans

In Year 4, play in the Olympics. Combined with the schedule changes above, drop one of the games against each of our inter-Divisional rivals to put that 10 games into a three-week break in order to support travel and some practice time before the Olympics begin. With profits lowered over 74-games in NHL buildings, work out an agreement with the NHLPA to either:

1. Ensure appropriately lower salaries ensue in those seasons, all for the betterment of the Great Game and so players can support their nation’s Olympic efforts; or

2. Take a 1% contract escrow amount from each of their non-Olympic seasons and give it to them during the Olympic season. This gives them an average salary over the four years that is equivalent and does not make the owners pay a hefty price for the loss of five home games in an Olympic year.

Please consider giving us this (nearly a) week of Hockey emersion about half-way between the NOV/DEC inter-Divisional series and the season-ending set – we will need a little break in between the three to lower the blood pressure as we cannot wait to see who we have to take our teams on into the Playoffs, who we will have in the future to continue our team's dominance, a respectful look at or Hockey elders, and a tribute to today's stars in a format that is truly meaningful.

And lastly, work with each team to ensure they play one pre-season game in a non-NHL market city each year. This will bring at least 15 NHL games to new cities every year. Have each team partner with their assigned city in the off-season in order to plan some great interaction like a road hockey tournament and player’s autograph sessions the day of the game. This cannot help but grow the game’s fan base and future where there is no NHL team to watch all of the time.

Thank you for your consideration while I continue to do my best to be good through the year. I'll put the milk and cookies on the table...

Waiting Patiently For ‘The Next Level’

P.S. And if possible, can you throw in a pair of tickets to that Hockey Trade Deadline/Draft/All Star Classic next year? I'll get my flight and hotel reservations booked - just give me a hint on where to go to get there.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

What I Want for Christmas - by Big Tex

That's right - it's that time of year again. Ahhh, Christmas. There is
nothing like the spirit of the season. (That includes the spirit in the
eggnog.) Children laughing, sometimes crying. Carols playing in every
crevice of every mall and department store. Christmas lists to fill.

On Goal Analysis has the spirit! Eggnog (and Wassel!) are being prepared,
and carols are hummed off key as we chase around the crying children to line
them up and tell Santa what they want for Christmas.

Man, we can see by the line Santa sure is busy. This year, we big kids don't
think we will add to the Jolly Man's sleigh-delivered burden. There is
someone we can ask for some cheer, however.

O favorite deliverer of our favorite sport, Gary Bettmanclaus, can you please consider the lists we OGA Boys humbly send forward over the next three days? Let's start with the one from Big Tex...

Dear Gary Bettmanclaus,
How are you? I am fine. I have been a relatively good boy this year – better than Jim Balsillie, not as good as Pavel “I’ve won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy four straight years” Datsyuk. As such, I believe I am owed three Christmas gifts (per the CBA). I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll skip any further chit-chat and cut to the chase. Here’s what I want:

1. Better officiating, both on- and off-ice. Seriously. There’s no point to filling page after page with examples of bad, stupid, or nonsensical calls, non-calls and suspensions, because you and I both know that the officiating needs work. Off the ice, the suspension policy is simultaneously mysterious and pure crap. While we’ve come to expect that from the league office, what we didn’t see coming is cause for alarm: Blown calls from the War Room in Toronto. How can you watch the slo-mo replay from multiple angles and still screw the pooch? On ice, the “intent to blow” rule, well, blows. Too many good goals have been lost this season alone to that well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided rule. Overall, officiating (particularly on the ice) has improved significantly since the Lockout, but that has only elevated it to a level best described as “somewhat better than the NBA”. The Great Game deserves better.

2. Stability and success for all non-traditional market teams. I want this for several reasons: First, because the NHL as a whole stands to benefit from financially stable/healthy teams in Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, Florida, etc. Second, because I live in a non-traditional market (Dallas), and I remember well the dark ages before the NHL came to town. Third, because successful non-traditional market teams will inspire kids in those markets to lace up skates, and some of those kids will end up in the NHL. It’s already happening, in fact. And fourth, because the resulting increase in size of the talent pool will help my third Christmas wish come true…

3. Two expansion teams for Canada. That’s right: TWO expansion teams for Canada. These teams won’t help grow the game like the non-traditional market clubs do (because they’ll be “preaching to the converted”), but they will put the league on more solid financial footing. While the traditionalist in me would love to see the second coming of the Jets and Nordiques, I’d settle for the Jets and a second team in Toronto…And in 2030, when the Winnipeg Jets win the Stanley Cup, Canada will rejoice…And when the Cup is hoisted by the Jets’ Captain – who played his youth hockey in Atlanta, where he grew up idolizing Ilya Kovalchuk – we can all rejoice.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

JabberHockey - Merry Hockey. And to all, a Good Fight

This Sunday, the OGA Line hosts a special holiday edition of JabberHockey. It's a 'holiday edition' because it's the Sunday before Christmas and time for On Goal Analysis' weekly hockey talk show. So there you go.

You can click over to our show page at blogtalkradio.com/jabberhockey and set an email reminder to join us this Sunday, December 20th at 5.30PM ET

We will discuss the OGA games2watch, what our PQC has revealed this week in the Colonel's Slapshots and the potential effects of big Christmas dinners on your fantasy roster...and what you, the fantasy GM, can do about it on FanFantasy.

We'll have time for your calls in our Open Ice Hits -
(347) 857-4848 - So please join us with a listen or a phone call. It's like family over here. Come on over, stay a bit and let's talk some holiday hockey.

It's what brings people together.

On Goal Analysis' weekly hockey talk show, JabberHockey is live every Sunday at 5.30PM Eastern. Topics vary each week as we highlight the lamps currently burning up the NHL. Always with a focus on our proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), we offer unique insight into each teams' chances of making post-season play...and the stories to unfold along the way. OGA Knows. And you can, too. Please join us!

take me back to ongoalanalysis.com

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The NHL’s Most Dominant Player: The Comprehensive Player Index – The Colonel

In blogging stages, On Goal Analysis has been bringing you around to a new statistic, the Comprehensive Player Index, or CPI. The CPI calculates a combination of player scoring and three, key, away-from-the-puck statistics that measure transition from defense to offense. We gauge these statistics Per Shift and in so doing, provide a rating that indicates who provides their team the most positive activity directed at winning a game each and every time they jump over the boards onto the ice. By this assessment, the player with the highest CPI is the most dominant player in the NHL.

For background, our measurement begins with Points Per Shift (PPS). Simply stated, it is the number of points scored divided first by the number of games played and then by the average Shifts Per Game (SPGs). The PPS measures direct offense a player provides to help his team win a game.

The PPS’ companion is a measurement of Defense Per Shift (DPS). DPS is not an estimate of how many times a neutral zone trap coughed up the puck. It is a combination of Hits, Blocked Shots and Takeaways executed by a player that potentially transition his team from defense to offense and the ultimate aim of scoring goals to win the game.

We then add these figures together to determine who provides the most scoring and away-from-the-puck activity that positively impacts his team’s ability to win games, the Complete Player Index.

CPI Notes

You cannot tell strictly from a player’s PPS or DPS who is the number one CPI player.

For games ending on Saturday night, 12 December, Left Wing Alex Ovechkin was the top PPS player with a rating of .07475 while the average PPS stood at .04193. As of that night, only 4% of shift activity engaged in scoring or assisting on a tally. This symbolizes the fact that most of the time skaters are on the ice they are doing something other than touching the puck. The number is, as some pointed out, also influenced by a lower amount of Shifts Per Game (SPGs) running for longer stretches of actual time than when players skate more individual shifts. We still measure points against SPGs, however, because evaluating points per 60 minutes is just not a fair comparison between, say, 60 minutes of Alex Ovechkin time versus the same hour for George Parros.

The top DPS player was Defenseman Matt Greene with a .22965 ranking. At that same time, average DPS was .10867. So a heartier 10% of shift activity was used in Hits, Blocked Shots and Takeaways that potentially transitioned a team from defense to offense. Hits are the largest single component to this measurement which proves checking is not dead in the NHL. And it is interesting to note the highest number of Hits outpaces the greatest number of Blocked Shots 1.8-to-1, and Takeaways 3.9-to-1.

For the other 84% of shift time, players are skating, taking or participating in a faceoff (an unfair measurement to use in our index due to it being a specialty activity which relatively few players execute), missing a shot, giving the puck away, or any of a range of other activities that do not directly involve stick and puck toward the aim of scoring a goal and winning a game.

Adding PPS and DPS together reflects a percentage of each shift’s total activity in which a player applied positive, dominating effort toward his team’s potential victory.

Finding The CPI

To see the Top 10 players in terms of their CPI, go to www.ongoalanalysis.com and scroll down the right sidebar under the standings and the next day’s NHL schedule. The CPI will be computed after each Saturday evening’s stats are in and posted to this site following their discussion on the On Goal Analysis BlogTalkRadio show, JabberHockey, Sundays at 5:30pm EST. (The current Top 10 CPI for Saturday, 12 December is posted.)

The Top 10 list includes two players each from DAL and the LAK, and one each from ANA, MIN, NYR, OTT, PIT and WSH. These players average a CPI of .23262. It includes three each Left Wings and Defensemen and two each Centers and Right Wings, with the highest average CPI being held by the Left Wingers (.23841).

There is also one Rookie on the list who has at least as many SPGs as the lowest- Veteran number (19.8) – DAL’s Jamie Benn. The top three other Rookie CPIs not depicted belong to Justin Abdelkader of DET ( a .23593 but skating only 15.4 SPGs), Michael Del Zotto of the NYR (.19136) and Ryan Wilson of COL (.18229). Three of the more followed Rookies, John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk and Matt Duchene, though Numbers 1, 3 and 5 in Rookie scoring, come in at 21, 24 and 22 in Rookie CPI respectively.


After blogging about Points Per Shift and making the claim that this figure defined who the most dominant player in the NHL was, comments correctly indicated a portion of the calculation was missing. Defense Per Shift was therefore also calculated and added to PPS to provide the Comprehensive Player Index. The CPI is a measure of the players who are the most dominant in the game due to their contributions to the team’s “W” each time they are on the ice. You can find the Top 10 CPI on the OGA home page updated weekly on Sundays following OGA’s JabberHockey show.

And this week’s leader is (take me to www.ongoalanalysis.com )...
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Away From The Puck Statistics – The Colonel

Last week, we spoke of who the most productive player in the NHL was by offering the statistic of Points Per Shift (PPS). Using this stat, we endeavored to analyze, “…how many Points Per Game (PPG) each player provides divided by the average number of shifts he takes in order to tell you what he brings to the Great Game each and every time he goes over the boards….” When we could provide that answer, we would be able to tell you who the most productive player in the NHL is at any given, measured point in the season.

Or so we thought.

We read the many comments posted about this blog and came to the conclusion a few folks were not quite satisfied by this offering. Some said the best stat to use is Points Per 60 Minutes because that measures everyone equally. Others argued some players, like Ilya Kovalchuk, skate for fewer, but much longer shifts like they used to do in Phil Esposito’s day which gives him more of an opportunity to score. A couple of things give us pause with those sentiments.

First is that one man’s 60 minutes is not another man’s equal time on the ice. Differences such as first line time and situations do not compare to that of the average fourth liner over the same 60 minutes because they are not tactically used in the same manner come to mind here. And theoretically, the longer a player skates in a single shift, the more tired they become, decreasing their output for the team. In a nutshell, it is not an equal measuring stick no matter how it is billed.

So we still prefer to measure our statistic against each shift. Not an overall, average number of shifts per player because that would not represent what each individual player does for their team. The top 60 scoring players in the NHL as of games ending Saturday, 12 December averaged 24.39167 Shifts Per Game (SPGs). Twenty-five of the top 60 scorers (or 41.7%) skate less than that average. In our estimation, measuring Per Shift more accurately defines that player’s contribution to 100% of his team’s effort in all games.

We do, however, bow to the suggestion that a statistic based on PPG alone does not measure a players’ complete, positive effort toward his team’s victory. This is because it does not quantify their effort away from the puck that results in a potential transition to offense. Such an effort is indeed important because it is what nine of 10 skaters are doing at all times the puck is in play. Said another way, it is most of the entire game of Hockey.

But in measuring the away-from-the-puck effort, we choose not to count statistics that either skew the statistic significantly or do not positively contribute to a score which in turn produces victory. A stat that significantly skews this component of the game is Shots On Goal (SOG). This is both because defensemen do not shoot as much as forwards as a general rule, and because some role players do not shoot nearly as much as they would if they were a top six forward. And an example of a statistic that does not contribute to a score for a player’s team is Giveaways. Their opposite, Takeaways, contribute to a team moving up ice toward the opposing goal and are a positive component to measure. Giveaways are the antithesis, assisting an opponent’s attempt to influence a game’s outcome.

To add to our attempt to explain who the most productive player in the NHL is, we therefore offer Defense Per Shift (DPS). This is not a measurement of the times a team traps in the neutral zone. Instead, it is a measure of actions taken to avoid a score against a player’s team that potentially leads to a goal. At any given time, a key Hit, a Blocked Shot (BkS) or a Takeaway (TkA) can change the direction of the puck toward the opponent’s goal so stand as On Goal Analysis’ yard stick for DPS.
Below with comments are the Top 16 players in terms of DPS. You might instinctively know these players contribute a lot to their team’s success because you see them in and around the puck for a majority of the time they are on the ice. You just may not know which player contributes the most.

Tomorrow’s blog will combine DPS with PPS from games ending 12 December, providing you with the Comprehensive Player Index, or CPI, our measurement of who truly is the most productive NHL player.

A Measurement of DPS

To give the equation, DPS is Hits + BkS + TkA divided by Games Played (GP), all of which are divided again by a players’ SPG. Dividing our three, key stats away-from-the-puck by GP gives us the average number of these total incidents each player provides in each game. We then further divide it by the number of Shifts Per Game in order to relevantly combine it with PPG in the end. In the end, it tells us what percentage of each shift a player contributes some action – other than scoring – toward his team’s goal of winning the game.

For those games ending on 12 December, the average number of Hits + BkS + TkA is 76.71 per player. Once you divide that by average GP and SPG, you get an average DPS of .10481. This list has five Centers, four Defensemen, four Left Wings, and three Right Wings on it with no more than three players from any given team. It also takes us down to Number 16 in order to reach the NHL’s Number 1 scorer. So who are our Top 16 DPS players?

The Top 16

1. Matt Greene of the LAK leads the pack and all Blue Liners with a DPS of .22965 on his below-average 21.9 SPGs. His high DPS is largely based on 109 Hits, 61 BkS and 1 TkA, making him one of three players with DPS Statistical Supremacy.

2. Cal Clutterbuck of MIN is in second place with a .22857 DPS, also on a below average SPG of 21.7. The strength of his ranking also lies with his three, away-from-the-puck stats of 108 Hits, 8 BkS and 8 TkA. He is the top Right Wing on the list and the second of three players with DPS Statistical Supremacy.

3. Brooks Orpik of PIT is third on our list with a .2227 DPS over an above-average 24 SPGs. Since the season began, he has provided the Penguins with 101 Hits, 49 BkS and 5 TkA. He is our third DPS Statistical Supremacy player.

4. The NYR’s Ryan Callahan is the Number 90 scorer, but the fourth-ranked DPS player at .20935 in 24.5 SPGs. He has racked up 111 Hits – the most of any forward on the list – and adds another 30 BkS and 18 TkA.

5. DAL’s Stephane Robidas comes in at Number 5 with a DPS of .20104 over a Top 16 List-leading 30 SPGs. Do not underestimate this statistic – if Robidas executed the same actions over Matt Greene’s 21.9 shifts, his DPS would be a .2754, or he would be banging, blocking or stealing almost 1/3 of the time he was on the ice. While only the Number 572 leading NHL scorer with 19 points, he tops the NHL in Hits with 116, our list of Top 16 players with 65 BkS, and throws in another 12 TkA for good measure. All combined he leads all players on our list with 193 actions away-from-the-puck. He is also our last player above a .20 DPS ranking.

6. Mike Fisher of OTT is the leading Centerman here and stands at Number 6 with a .19835 DPS over 22.6 SPGs. Fisher bangs for 80 Hits, 33 BkS and 17 TkA and is the first player on this list to garner more than 20 points so far this season with 26.

7. Alex Ovechkin comes in at Number 7 as the first Left Wing on this list. His DPS ranking of .19394 on the strength of 67 Hits, 6 BkS and 23 TkA merely adds to his Number 5 rank on the scoresheet. There is no doubt Ovechkin’s overall ranking is influenced by his list-tying lowest average of 19.8 SPGs. But you cannot underestimate Ovie’s propensity to bang, too – I personally saw him play last year against BOS and he hit big Zdeno Chara four times away from the play.

8. Half-way through our list is the LAK’s Dustin Brown with a .18034 DPS in 24.3 SPGs. Brown is also a banger with the second highest total of Hits at 115, and adds 13 BkS and 21 TkA.

9. At Number 9 is a player I frankly thought was going to be higher on the list based on his feverish play on the ice. Ryan Getzlaf is a force of nature for ANA with a .1723 DPS over an average of 26.3 SPGs. He has produced 93 Hits, 34 BkS and 18 TkA and plays a game very similar to this year’s version of Mike Fisher in OTT.

10. Rounding out the Top 10 on this list is Ryan Malone of TBL with a .16067 DPS in 25.9 SPGs. He is the last of our players with 100 or more Hits at right on the century mark, and throws in an extra 16 BkS and 13 TkA to boot.

11. At Number 11 on our list is DAL’s James Neal with a .15086 DPS over a less-than-average 23.2 SPGs. His 27 points on the season is a pleasant addition to the Stars’ scoresheet, and he adds 62 Hits, 12 BkS and 24 TkA.

12. Number 12 is WSH’s Mike Green, our lowest ranked Defenseman on the list. He sports a .1371 DPS over 25.3 SPGs and chips in 47 Hits, 50 BkS and 14 TkA. He stands as the leading scorer for Defenders in the League at present, but when away-from-the-puck actions are added, he is only Number 4.

13. Green is followed at Number 13 by teammate Nicklas Backstrom with a .11398 DPS in 21.8 SPGs. He also provides a balanced 28 Hits, 29 BkS and 25 TkA. Backstrom is the third Capital on this list, the most from any NHL team.

14. Evgeni Malkin rounds out a pair of Penguins at Number 14 with a DPS of .10912 in 21.5 SPGs. Despite it not being his primary mission on the team, he chips in 27 Hits, 10 BkS and 24 TkA.

15. OTT Centerman Daniel Alfredsson ’s .10563 DPS in 22.6 SPGs falls a bit behind Mike Fisher’s numbers but is well ahead of many other NHLers. He also contributes to the transition of his team to offense through 28 Hits, 18 BkS and 28 TkA.

16. And rounding out our list is the NHL and SJS’s Number 1 scorer, Joe Thornton. His .10024 DPS is our last marker above .10, and he gets this done over an above average 26.7 SPGs. Thornton also bangs old school style with 58 Hits, 13 BkS and 20 TkA.


The DPS measures Hits, Blocked Shots and Takeaways over the number of Games Played and average Shifts Per Game. It serves to provide a measure of defensive, away-from-the-puck actions that potentially transition a game toward the goal of putting pucks in the net each and every time a player hits the ice. It also is a representation of a percentage of each shift that a player attempts to positively influence his team’s fortunes.

Tomorrow’s blog will combine this measurement with Points Per Game to produce the On Goal Analysis Comprehensive Player Index, a new measurement of who is the most productive NHL player.

Take me to www.ongoalanalysis.com
1. 4.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Up with Columbus?

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete h/t Mile High Hockey

In the 2008-09 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets battled through injuries, illness, and arguably the toughest division in the NHL to secure the first playoff berth in franchise history. This season, the ‘Jackets were called CHASING STANLEY – IN the playoffs – by OGA upon the completion of their 20th game (19 November). Since then, Columbus has appeared hell-bent on proving OGA wrong, as they stumbled, stammered and generally stunk up the ice en route to a 2-5-4 record. Even before the recent slump, however, this team was clearly NOT last seasons’ Blue Jackets: Some nights, they would play their trademark tight defensive game, and others, they were flat-out brutal. Much like Forrest Gump’s famed box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. This begs the question: What’s up with Columbus? Let’s break it down, from goal line to goal line.

Goaltending: Last season, Steve Mason battled through mononucleosis to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. This season, Mason appears to have fallen victim to the dreaded Sophomore Slump. Wednesday night, Mase recorded his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over Florida. That solid outing lowered his GAA to 3.29 and raised his Save Pct. to .892. This time last season, Mason had a GAA of 1.98, a Save Pct. of .923, and two shutouts. Clearly, he’s struggling this season, but the problem isn’t entirely his own…

Defensemen: 31 games into the season, and Fedor Tyutin is the only blueliner to play every game. Defensive stalwart Mike Commodore has missed 11 games, due to injury, illness, and conditioning issues due to injury and illness. Jan Hejda, who has the ‘Jackets best plus/minus over the last two seasons (+20 and +23, respectively), has missed 8 games and is just a +1. The inability of the Blue Jackets to dress the same six d-men every night has led to constant juggling of defensive pairs, which has had a noticeable impact on defensive chemistry…and the struggles of the defensive corps have only magnified Steve Mason’s slump. Don’t look for much improvement any time soon – Rostislav Klesla is out at least until January after suffering both a torn groin and a torn abdominal muscle against St. Louis on 1 DEC.

Forwards: The Blue Jackets forwards are accomplishing their primary mission: scoring goals. In fact, Columbus is averaging 3.00 goals per game, tying them with Los Angeles for 6th in the NHL. Franchise cornerstone and Captain Rick Nash leads the team with 16-16-32 in 31 games. Winger Kristian Huselius is 2nd on the team in scoring with 11-13-24 in 27 games. The increase in their productivity over last season is due largely to the addition of pivot Antoine Vermette (31 GP, 8-15-23). Unlike seasons past, Columbus can no longer be considered a one-line team, as RJ Umberger (31GP, 9-13-22), young Jakub Voracek (31GP, 7-11-18) and Raffi Torres (28GP, 10-6-16) have provided much-needed scoring depth.

The news isn’t all good, however: Derick Brassard, who showed such promise before a shoulder injury ended his 08-09 season after just 31 games, has struggled to regain his pre-injury form. As a result, he’s been bounced from the 1st to the 4th line, and everywhere in between. Brassard’s hard-working goal against Florida Wednesday night ended a 14-game goal drought, and (hopefully) signaled the beginning of better things to come from the youngster, who has the potential to be a top-line center for Columbus.

In other bad news, the Blue Jackets have been without three key forwards for long stretches this season. Freddy Modin, who plays Coach Ken Hitchcock’s brand of hockey to a “T”, was injured in the preseason and has yet to play in 09-10 (but is expected to go this Saturday against Anaheim). Likewise, injury has limited Andrew “Weighty” Murray to just 9 games, and the hard-hitting Derek Dorsett to 20 games. Along with right wing Jared Boll, these forwards represent the heart of Columbus’ physicality (and in the case of Modin, a little goal-scoring flair, as well). Without Modin, Murray or Dorsett in the lineup, the Blue Jackets aren’t anywhere near as tough to play against as they were last season. To paraphrase a line from A Few Good Men, Columbus wants these guys on that wall. They NEED them on that wall.

Coaching: Ken Hitchcock is practically revered in Columbus, and rightfully so: Hitch has done a fantastic job with this team, leading them to the first playoff berth in franchise history last season, and making the Jackets a very tough (this season excepted, for the reasons above) team to play against. As GM Scott Howson stated last week, despite the Jackets’ recent struggles, Hitchcock’s job is safe…

HOWEVER, the handling of future superstar Nikita Filatov has to be a concern. The kid is an enormous talent, but two recent interviews give a pretty clear indication of his feelings toward Hitch: Filatov doesn’t feel that Hitchcock placed any trust in him, and was very unhappy with his limited ice time (8:07 per game, with too many nights spent watching from the press box). Thus, he decided to return to Mother Russia, where he promptly put up four goals and two assists in four games to earn KHL rookie of the week honors. While Filatov says he’s inclined to return to Columbus for training camp next September, the suspicion here is that it’ll be a cold day in Key West before he agrees to play on a team coached by Ken Hitchcock.

This blogger can’t help but wonder how different things would be for young Filatov today if he had been drafted by, for example, the Atlanta Thrashers. Playing in John Anderson’s up-tempo system, with Ilya Kovalchuk as a mentor, is it unrealistic to imagine he would be on the 2nd line and an early favorite for the Calder Memorial Trophy? Scott Howson has to be thinking trade at this point, as he’s got to salvage something from the situation. Sending Filatov to an Eastern Conference team would be ideal. Columbus could use a good puck-moving defenseman to work the point on the PP (though Anton Stralman has been just fine in that regard), and Atlanta has several blueliners who fit the bill. Mr. Howson, do you need Don Waddell’s phone number? And with that, I’m through playing matchmaker for today.

Conclusion: While Columbus clearly isn’t where they need to be this season, the (somewhat surprising) fact is that they currently have a better record (14-11-6, 34pts) than they did at this time last season (14-14-3, 31pts). There are legitimate concerns about certain aspects of the Blue Jackets’ game, which have led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth among fans of the team. The fact is, though, that the number (and volume) of alarm bells going off in Columbus are the direct result of raised expectations for this team. Fans – and the team itself – expect another playoff run in 09-10. And that’s a good thing. Can the Blue Jackets right the ship and play into late April? OGA says so (and almost 90% of the time, you can take that to the bank).

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
1. 4.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Morphing The Stats - The Colonel

After posting the two part blog on Points Per Shift (PPS), we carefully read the comments that were posted in several blogs and thank you for your input.

It has driven us to a conclusion that we need to continue to morph this stat in order to meet our intention of stating who is the most dominant player on the ice.

To that end, early next week we will post a blog on Defense Per Shift (DPS) and what that means to the total equation.

That will be followed by the post we think will truly get to our original aim. Combining the PPS and DPS stats, we will produce the Complete Player Index to quantify what players do both with the puck and, during the majority of their time on the ice, what they do without it that contributes to their team's success.

Stay tuned to www.ongoalanalysis.com early next week for what we hope you will see as valuable analysis provided as another means of looking at The Great Game.
1. 4.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Hump Day Hockey Thoughts

This frozen Wednesday morning, I'm sipping my coffee and ruminating on several hockey topics...

First, another Game-Winning Save update: At our last update, the score was Posts 5, Teams 0. Well, score one for the Teams: Tuesday, 24 NOV, Columbus @ Montreal. Blue Jackets lead, 3-2, going into the 3rd. At 2:18 of the 3rd, Roman Hamrlik beats Mathieu Garon with a slap shot from the top of the slot but rings it off the crossbar. Garon can't find the puck, and Glen Metropolit saunters in and pokes home the rebound to tie the game. Montreal goes on to win, 5-3, and the Game-Winning Save theory fails to hold up for the first time (thanks for that, Columbus...I'll deal with you in tomorrow's post).

On the flip side, Saturday, 5 DEC, Chicago @ Pittsburgh. With the Blackhawks leading, 1-0, Mark Letestu takes aim at the post 5:45 into the 3rd period. The post passes the test-u, and the Penguins' fate is sealed. Though Jordan Staal scores late in the period to force overtime, Kris Versteeg wins it for the 'Hawks. With that, the score is now Game-Winning Save Theory 6, Post-Hitting Teams 1. As always, stay tuned for updates...

Anyone else stay up late to watch Dallas @ Anaheim last night? Through two periods, the Stars absolutely dominated the Ducks. Thanks to a late-2nd period breakway goal by Joffrey Lupul, Anaheim only faced a 3-1 deficit to start the 3rd. For reasons which shall forever remain a mystery, Dallas entered the final frame determined to...let Anaheim do whatever the hell they wanted to do with the puck. Only after Dan Sexton scored his second goal of the period (at 18:58 of the 3rd) to tie the game did Dallas decide that, perhaps, they should consider attempting to wrest momentum away from the Anaheim steamroller. Of course, it was far too late to push that snowball back up the hill, and Saku Koivu delivered the coup de grace at 4:13 of OT, handing the Stars a much-deserved loss. Shots on Goal in the 3rd period and OT combined: Anaheim 21, Dallas 4. I can honestly say that I've never seen such a rotten 3rd period performance from a team which had been OUTSTANDING through the first two periods. Truly, it was like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on ice. In the 3rd period, Dallas - from the coach to the goalie, and everyone in between - was fatally stupid. Darwin Award-candidate stupid. I don't know any other way to describe it. I wasn't even at the game, but as a Stars Season Ticket Holder, I want my money back.

Last, but not least...Check out the boxscore of last night's Flyers-Islanders game. The goals were scored by (in order): Richards, Richards, Carter, Carter, Tavares, Tavares, Giroux, Giroux. No, there's no typo - I checked. Has that ever happened before? I'm just asking, because I really don't know. I know I haven't seen that in the almost 30 years I've been watching hockey.

And with that, my coffee is gone and so am I. Tune in tomorrow for a look at the Columbus Blue Jackets at Game 30.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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JabberHockey This Sunday - The Predators Arnott Extinct

Please join us this Sunday, December 13th at 5.30PM EST for another edition of JabberHockey - the weekly radio talk show for On Goal Analysis (OGA) on BlogTalkRadio.com

From the top of the slot, The OGA line will host Buddy and Jackson Oakes from 'Preds on the Glass' this Sunday. Season ticket holders since Day One, the father-son combo [Buddy is also the Hockey Beat Writer for the Columbia (TN) Daily Herald] are passionate and knowledgeable fans of all things Nashville Predators and of the Great Game itself.

Their goal is to "Spread the gospel of the Nashville Predators to the far corners of the Hockey World". Sounds like the perfect 'next-stop' for OGA's Tour of the Non-Traditional hockey market.

We will also feature The Colonel's 'PQC Slapshots' as all 30 teams will have hit the Game 30 mark by Saturday and OGA has more insight into the coming playoffs as the PQC Status Spectrum lights up. OGA Knows. And you can, too.

Lastly, we'll close out with OGA's Games2Watch and, if time allows, a little FanFantasy hockey round-table for this week's broadcast.

Please go to the JabberHockey page here and set a reminder so you can join us live this Sunday at 5.30PM EST! And we give you our thanks.

take me back to ongoalanalysis.com
1. 4.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Points Per Shift Part II: Defensemen and Rookies – The Colonel

Monday morning’s post offered a new statistic, Points Per Shift (PPS), to use in measuring which players produce the most for their team. PPS “…analyzes how many Points Per Game (PPG) each player provides divided by the average number of shifts he takes in order to tell you what he brings to the Great Game each and every time he goes over the boards….”

But there are two types of players that are analyzed differently by the Hockey community than just as the top scorers in the NHL. Defensemen do not normally produce as much scoring as forwards, so would correspondingly have a lower PPS. And rookies also do not normally get as many Shifts Per Game (SPG) as those same, top forwards. To gauge where they stand in terms of the effort they give their team each and every time they skate, they must be looked at differently.

To complete this study, we maintain our evaluation date of games ending on Saturday Night, 5 December for the sake of continuity. We also show the Top 10 PPS with a few notes, then go to defensemen and finally, the rookies. And we close with two notes of interest on Points Per Minute (PPM) and measuring defensive efforts.

Points Per Shift – The Top 10

As stated earlier, PPS = PPG / SPG.

Scoring Rank Player PPS
14 Alex Ovechkin 0.07186
27 Ilya Kovalchuk 0.07065
22 Evgeni Malkin 0.05860
29 Maxim Afinogenov 0.05556
2 Marian Gaborik 0.05468
3 Sidney Crosby 0.05368
9 Nicklas Backstrom 0.05182
10 Brad Richards 0.05148
5 Henrik Sedin 0.04835
1 Joe Thornton 0.04813

From the Top 30 scorers after 5 December we arrive at the Top 10 PPS list above. You can see the range is from a high of Ovechkin’s .07186 down to Thornton’s .04813 rating. The average PPS from the Top 30 is .04559, so you can see that eight of the 10 players above top that. Not shown here but in the equation you also find eight of the 10 also play less than the average SPG (24.8767) for various reasons which positively affects their PPS.

What can we find if we look solely at the Top 30 Defenders in the NHL?

Defensemen and PPS

The Top 10 defensemen who have played at least 20 games and their PPS are:

Rank Player PPS
1 Mike Green 0.042126
2 Tomas Kaberle 0.035294
7 Tobias Enstrom 0.031429
16 Alex Goligoski 0.031405
6 Lubomir Visnovsky 0.030833
5 Drew Doughty 0.028516
3 Dan Boyle 0.027273
4 Duncan Keith 0.026452
14 Michael Del Zotto 0.026222
11 Christian Ehrhoff 0.025

It becomes immediately apparent that the leading defender’s PPS does not even equal the average for the Top 30 forwards. This has to do in large measure with the fact that top defensemen at 27.5833 skate for more SPG than the forwards (24.8767) do which lowers their numbers.

The average defenseman PPS from the Top 30 pool is .023849, your standard measure of a blue liner. Interestingly, while we did not get below Number 8 in the forward category before players dropped under their average PPS, that didn’t occur until the 12th defenseman.

That average blue liners’ PPS both gives Mike Green of Washington Statistical Supremacy in the defenseman category over all other defenders, and the Top 30 players’ PPS Statistical Supremacy over the d-man category. It should be noted Green is also Number 16 on the overall PPS list, just in front of Dany Heatley, and Tomas Kaberle sits at the Number 27 position in front of Ryan Malone, Rick Nash and Paul Stastny.

How do the rookies’ PPS rankings stack up to the overall and defensemen lists?

Rookie PPS

The Top 10 rookies as of 5 December are:

Rank Player PPS
2 James van Riemsdyk 0.046111
1 John Tavares 0.034545
3 Niclas Bergfors 0.031308
14 Scott Parse 0.029762
21 Mathieu Perreault 0.029197
9 Evander Kane 0.028249
10 Artem Anisimov 0.026627
5 Michael Del Zotto 0.026222
7 Jamie Benn 0.026066
11 Jason Demers 0.025131

A couple of notes come to mind from the rookie table.

First is that the average rookie PPS is .02096, the lowest of the three categories presented. And average SPG for the Top 30 rookies is 20.57, more than four shifts lass than veteran forwards and seven less than defensemen. Because of our equation of PPG/SPG = PPS, if rookies were scoring more than the veterans, they would hold much higher PPS rankings. (The same could be said for veteran skaters who simply do not score as much as your Thornton or Ovechkin does.)

The rookie PPS average gives both James van Riemsdyk and John Tavares Statistical Supremacy in this category and underscores how dominant they are as rookies. It should also be noted Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers rests at Number 8 in rookie PPS and Number 9 for all defensemen with a PPS above the average for both groups.

To compare PPS between rookies and veterans, van Riemsdyk’s PPS is higher than Anze Kopitar’s and Kopitar is ranked at Number 13. Tavares’ PPS is also higher than Rick Nash’s. These numbers, however, are somewhat relative because Kopitar has accumulated more points over 25.7 SPG to van Riemsdyk’s lesser point total in 18. Despite the higher PPS, however, van Riemsdyk and Tavares do not appear on the same chart as the veterans because their starting PPG is lower.

In this regard you can do one of two things: compare apples (rookies) to apples and not oranges (veterans); or measure rookies against players with a similar number of SPG. Van Riemsdyk’s .046111 PPS is less than Afinogenov’s .05556 PPS at 18 SPG just as Tavares’ .034545 PPS dips well below Nick Backstrom’s .05182 PPS at 22 SPG. These comparisons give Backstrom Statistical Supremacy over Tavares, but not Afinogenov over van Riemsdyk. Does this stand as proof that van Riemsdyk is a more prominent rookie than Tavares, or just that he is more dominant for the Flyers than Tavares is for the Islanders? Regardless of the answer to that debatable question, it does illustrate that the rookie category should be evaluated apart from the Top 30 forwards unless they are so dominating in scoring that they naturally belong among the more prolific group.

Two (Semi-)Final Notes

In the comments trailing after yesterday’s part one of this blog, two follow on questions came to mind.

First is why not measure dominance as Points Per Minute (PPM)? By way of simple illustration, I offer why we took a different tack:

If you score 2 goals in 10 shifts, you are a .2 player in PPS.

If you measure it as 2 goals in (10 shifts at 45 seconds each, or) 7.5 minutes, you are a .267 player at Points Per Minute.

With our data set of 5 December, Alex Ovechkin is a .07186 in PPS and a .06784 in PPM. I chose to quantify it by shift because they vary in length but are a known measure of when each player has an opportunity to do, or not do, something dominant for their team. And if we look at players in terms of minutes, we talk about a lot of what they do NOT do with the puck since that is what is going on for more pure time in each game.

Which segues into the other point nicely – how do you measure the contribution of a player who has roles on a team that naturally keep him off of the score sheet? For that answer, I will post by next week the statistic of Defense Per Shift, or DPS.


In comparing defenseman and rookie PPS to that of the veteran forwards, several points come to light. Defenders, with less total points and more SPG on average have a lower PPS to use as a measuring stick. Mike Green is as much an exception to this rule this season as last as he carves out a position on both the veteran forward and defenseman lists. Rookie PPS is the third lowest average amongst the entire study group and less than half that of veteran forwards, in large measure due to a combination of lesser points and SPG for the new players. Gauging rookie PPS is best done by comparing them to veterans with a like number of SPG to determine their possibilities once some of that veteran moxie works its way into the new player’s game. No matter how you slice it though, it is obvious veteran forwards, defensemen and rookies must be taken into account separately for the most accurate measure of their PPS.

Stay tuned to www.ongoalanalysis.com for a later blog on Defense Per Shift to measure who dominates in those little things away from a puck in the net. Also look for where we will run the a weekly Top Three overall, defenseman and rookie PPS update on our home page each and every Saturday for the rest of the season…

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com
1. 4.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Who Is The Most Productive NHL Player? – The Colonel

What is the measure of a Hockey skater’s contribution to his team? Plenty of statistics define goaltenders and their contributions. But what about the players who skate in front of them? While highly knowledgeable Hockey fans will say such enlightened comments as ‘it depends on their position and how they play it,’ many others will tell you it’s how many points they rack up.

At On Goal Analysis, we have a tradition of looking at things with a different twist. While we like to key on points, sometimes they are misleading because theoretically speaking the leading point scorer in the NHL still might play on a team that does not even make the Playoffs. And yet, maybe points themselves just need a slightly different emphasis to make their true significance understood.

That’s why we are recommending for your consideration Points Per Shift – PPS – as a new statistic to use when analyzing who is the most productive player on the ice. PPS analyzes how many Points Per Game (PPG) each player provides divided by the average number of shifts he takes in order to tell you what he brings to the Great Game each and every time he goes over the boards. It also makes Shifts Per Game (SPG) more relevant to the average fan of the game.

Looking at the current Top 30 scorers and from them determining the Top 10 players in terms of their PPS is our aim today. We will also delve into the top Defensemen and Rookies to see how they compare.

Points Versus Points Per Game

After going to NHL.com’s statistical section, it is easy to view all statistics for scoring and provide a list of Top 10 Scorers. As of games ending on Super Saturday night, 5 December when 28 of 30 teams hit the ice, the Top 10 in terms of points were:

Rank Player
1 Joe Thornton
2 Marian Gaborik
3 Sidney Crosby
4 Anze Kopitar
5 Henrik Sedin
6 Corey Perry
7 Patrick Marleau
8 Dany Heatley
9 Nicklas Backstrom
10 Brad Richards

This is where most people would stop in their analysis of who produces the most for their team.

Some, however, prefer to place their money on PPG because not all of the players above have had an equal chance to get on the ice. (From this list you have a high spread of 31 games for Joe Thornton down to 26 games for Marian Gaborik.) So if you were looking at PPG instead, you would have the following Top 10 list of players:

Rank Player
1 Marian Gaborik
2 Alex Ovechkin
3 Ilya Kovalchuk
4 Joe Thornton
5 Evgeni Malkin
6 Sidney Crosby
7 Brad Richards
8 Corey Perry
9 Ryan Getzlaf
10 Henrik Sedin

These stats tell you who is giving the best overall effort per game. Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin and Getzlaf are not in the Top 10 points getters but provide a Top 10 PPG for their team.

Management, Coaches and Scouts, however, are either in constant search of who can produce the best effort each and every shift, or try to wring it out of them when they play. Their statistic of choice should be Points Per Shift, the PPS.

Points Per Shift – The Top 10

As stated earlier, PPS = PPG / SPG. Of note in conducting this analysis are a few facts. First is that the average SPG for the Top 30 scorers as of 5 December is 24.8767. Getting 24+ SPG in almost every case means a player is on the Power Play, the Penalty Kill or both. Otherwise, 45 second shifts for teams rolling four lines would be 20 SPGs per player in a game.

A second note is that the Top 30 scorers’ average PPS is .04559 for games ending 5 December. You have to use the five digits to separate players’ rank without ties as this is a very finite statistic to decipher. It also became apparent when crunching the statistical analysis the more games and shifts a player has, the lower his PPS tends to go.

Based on the Top 30 players’ stats as of 5 December’s games, here is how the Top 10 PPS rank:

Scoring Rank Player PPS
14 Alex Ovechkin 0.07186
27 Ilya Kovalchuk 0.07065
22 Evgeni Malkin 0.05860
29 Maxim Afinogenov 0.05556
2 Marian Gaborik 0.05468
3 Sidney Crosby 0.05368
9 Nicklas Backstrom 0.05182
10 Brad Richards 0.05148
5 Henrik Sedin 0.04835
1 Joe Thornton 0.04813

There are a few points to discuss from the table above. First and most obvious is the actual players’ scoring rank to their left with 40% of the list NOT among the Top 10 point-getters in the NHL. Also of note are the PPS’ for both Ovechkin and Kovalchuk. Harking back to the post by OGA’s Big Tex entitled “Maurice Richard and the Myth of 50 in 50 (Part 2)” a new stat was offered called Statistical Supremacy. In terms of goals, it was “…scoring a minimum of 50% more goals than the nearest competitor….” I offer PPS displays Statistical Supremacy by netting a PPS 1.5 times or more greater than the data set of players’ average PPS. In the Top 10 above, both Ovechkin and Kovalchuk display Statistical Supremacy as their PPS’ are 1.58 and 1.55 times the Top 30 scoring average respectively.

Looking individually at the Top 10 produces some additionally interesting notes:

1. Alex Ovechkin has a PPS average of .07186 in only 21 injury- and suspension-riddled games this season. Ovie’s games played (21) and SPG (19.9) are both below the average which contributes to his high SPG. Also of note here is that in 21 games, Ovechkin has less than a minute total of PK time which lowers his SPG a bit. If you go strictly on scoring totals he comes in with a Number 14 ranking, but he stands as our most productive player at 5 December’s conclusion based on PPS.

2. Ilya Kovalchuk’s PPS is .07065 stacking him in the mix at Number 2 based on 20 total games with days dressed lost for injury. Kovalchuk does this on an average of only 18.4 SPG, a number along with total games played that rest below the overall Top 30 scorer averages. He also skates less than 10 seconds per game on the PK. Based on our measurement of PPS, Kovy is currently the second most productive player in the NHL despite being only the Number 27 scorer.

3. Evgeni Malkin ranks as the Number 3 most productive player with a PPS of .05860 over the span of an injury-shortened 23 games. His SPG of 21.5 and PPS are better than the norm, and he stands as the highest of the Top 30 scorers to average 20 or more SPGs. Malkin skates in all situations which aides his point totals, but otherwise might normally harm his overall PPS. This fact gives you more insight into his overall team value.

4. The fourth most productive NHL player is Maxim Afinogenov. What? you ask. The same Afinogenov we saw not producing last year? Yes, that Maxim has a PPS average of .05556 in 26 games. He is the only one of the top four players in this Top 10 list who has not lost any games to injury. He nets this PPS while averaging only 18.0 SPG, the least of any of our pool of scorers. Between this player and the top three above, he also holds the least average Time On The Ice (TOI) on the PK (1 second per game) which is likely aide in increasing his PPS average.

5. At Number 5 is the current goal scoring leader, Marian Gaborik. He has given the Rangers a PPS of .05468 over 27 games through 5 December with one game lost due to injury. Gaborik provides this with the second highest SPG average on our Top 10 List at 26.7. This high SPG number at his PPS tells you he provides a huge personal effort for the Rangers on the ice. Were his shifts to be cut back and his performance remain on average at its current pace, he would rank higher on our list.

6. Number 6 in PPS and Number 3 in total points is Sidney Crosby. He holds a PPS of .05368 in 29 games. Crosby does this in an average of 23.1 SPG while playing in all situations. He, too, has lost games for injury this year.

7. Nicklas Backstrom of WSH skates in at Number 7 with a PPS of .05182 PPS in 29 games. He is one of only three in this group whose SPG is higher than the average (25.8), again telling you how much he contributes to his team’s success.

8. Brad Richards comes in at Number 8 with a .05148 PPS in 27 games. Richards plays in all situations, averaging 23.7 SPG, which makes all of his stats better than average. He is also the last of our Top 10 listing to carry a PPS of .05 or greater.

9. Standing as the Number 5 scoring forward in the NHL after 5 December’s games, Henrik Sedin holds down the Number 9 spot in our group with a .04835 PPS in 29 games. Like the majority of our Top 10 PPS’, he rests below the Top 30 Scorer average with only 24.2 SPG.

10. And rounding out our list at Number 10 is Joe Thornton was the leading assist-getter in the NHL after games completed on 5 December. Of note with him is that his PPS of .04813 in 31 games comes in with the highest SPG (26.8).


On Goal Analysis offers the statistic of Points Per Shift (PPS) as a measure of how much a player provides for his team each time he hits the ice. The Top 10 players’ PPS is interesting in that does not follow right down the line with who has simply scored the most points. In fact, the top four on our list rank between Number 14 and Number 29 in overall scoring. That is because in addition to providing true relevance to the Shifts Per Game statistic, it tells us in general that a lower number of SPG for players than the average allows them to provide more effort for their team each time they skate. In particular for this list at this point in the season, it also shows us that both Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk display Statistical Supremacy in this marker over their peers. AS a bottom line, PPS serves to underscore that each of these 10 players is a leader in productivity on their team.

On Tuesday, 8 December, in “PPS Part 2” we will discuss the PPS of Defensemen and Rookies who have played 20 or more games…

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1. 4.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are the NY Rangers a One-Trick Pony?

Bennett/Getty (NY Daily News)

In a word, YES. One third of the way through the season, the New York Rangers find themselves 10th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 13-13-1. They're scoring a respectable 2.89 goals/game (tied with Edmonton for 13th in the NHL), but giving up a disturbing 3.11 goals/game (24th). The Blueshirts' bloated GAA can be traced in part to backup goalie Stephen Valiquette, who has a save pct. of .852 and a GAA of 3.74 in six appearances this season. Valiquette was waived Wednesday, and will try to rediscover his game in Hartford if he clears waivers. New York's biggest problem, however, lies at the other end of the ice.

Off-season acquisition Marian Gaborik has been both outstanding and (mostly) healthy so far this season, and he's the reason the Rangers are at .500 today. Gaby has 21-16-37 in 25 games. How huge is that? Without Gaborik's 21 goals, the Rangers would be averaging a pitiful 2.19 G/gm - good for 29th in the league (and just .01 ahead of Carolina). Gaborik is not the problem: Almost every other Ranger forward is.

While Gaborik is on pace to score 67 goals this season, no other Blueshirt is projected to score more than 19. In fact, after Ales Kotalik (projected goals: 19) and Vinny Prospal (p.g.: 18), the scoring pace for Ranger forwards drops deep into the numbers expected of 3rd or 4th line skaters: Anisimov - 15, Avery - 14, Callahan - 12, Dubinsky - 12, Lisin - 10, Drury - 7 (that's SEVEN (projected) GOALS for a guy who's never scored less than 18 in a season), and Chris Higgins, who has three 20+ goal campaigns under his belt, and who is projected to score a pitiful 6 goals in 2009-10.

The list above contains five proven 20+ goal scorers, and three potential 20+ men. Right now, NONE of them are on pace for 20 goals. In fact, the only player on that list who seems to be playing up to his statistical potential is Sean Avery, who is on pace for 14-24-38 - one goal short of his career best season.

Part of the reason the Rangers aren't scoring is because they're not putting pucks on net: With an average of 29.0 shots/game, New York is tied with Phoenix for 22nd in the NHL. Beyond the low number of shots, shot quality seems to be an issue, as well - just compare New York (29.0 S/gm, 2.89 G/gm) to Atlanta (28.8 S/gm, 3.46 G/gm). The Thrashers are shooting less, but scoring more. Both the reason behind Atlanta's success and the solution to New York's goal scoring woes lies in a quote from the immortal Herb Brooks (as Tweeted by @MikeMcKenzie11 earlier this week):
"If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net."

The Rangers need to find their inner Pat Verbeek. 'Beeker understood that so-called "garbage" goals count the same as the highlight-reel variety, and was willing to pay the price to get in close, screen the goalie, and send those rebounds to their rightful home. Sean Avery understands, and so does Ryan Callahan...but the understanding seems to stop there. The Blueshirts better figure it out - and fast - because the season is quickly slip slidin' away.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
1. 4.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

OGA Road Trip III: The Battle of the Birds

After an illness- and Turkey Day-induced delay, here comes Part Two of Blogger Day in Atlanta:

Opening Faceoff - PIT @ ATL, 21 NOV 09

Frozen Pill and I returned to Philips Arena roughly an hour before game time. While we had plenty of time to partake of the $5 media buffet - which looked pretty good, by the way - we were still full from lunch at The Flying Biscuit. Instead, we picked up our "cheat sheets" (Ever wonder how announcers know all those detailed stats and trivia about players on both teams? Cheat sheets.) and headed up to the press box.

Along the way, we passed a group of 4-5 Penguins, led by Bill Guerin, kicking a soccer ball around. Our guide to the elevator, the ever-helpful Thrashers' PR Intern Lee Wilson, told us about the Columbus Blue Jackets' recent visit to Philips Arena, in which the Jackets managed to get their soccer ball stuck in the rafters and had to get building maintainence to get it down. Apparently, though they travel with roughly a dozen sticks per player, not to mention all the extra equipment, the Blue Jackets only bring one soccer ball on the road.

Once inside the press box, we found our assigned seats. We bloggers were in the upper level of the press box, just a few feet removed from the scouts. The presence of the scouts led to much speculation on the part of the Pill and myself. While it's perfectly understandable for teams with upcoming games against either Atlanta or Pittsburgh to send scouts to Philips Arena, we were intrigued by the presence of scouts from two Western Conference clubs, neither of which play either the Thrashers or Penguins in the near future. You have to think they were scouting individuals, rather than teams. Rather than indulging in wild speculation, however, the Pill and I have chosen to keep our thoughts on a certain club in dire need of a puck-moving defenseman, and with left wings to spare, to ourselves. In the category of Cheap Thrills, however, it was quite cool to look to my right and see Detroit Red Wings' Director of Pro Scouting Mark Howe watching the game and taking notes.

Another great experience was getting to talk to Chris Vivlamore, the Thrashers' beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He relayed to us what has become a common theme around the continent: newspapers are cutting staff and struggling to remain viable as more and more people turn to the internet for news. While this increases the audience for (and importance of) bloggers (as evidenced by the Thrashers hosting their third Blogger Day in the past two seasons), we bloggers must find an answer to the same question the newspapers are currently struggling to answer: How do we make money providing the information which consumers are used to obtaining for free on the internet?

The game itself featured a number of firsts: Evander Kane's first Fighting Major, the first penalty shot I'd ever witnessed in person (Max Talbot shot it wide), the first multi-goal game of Martin Skoula's career, and the first time I'd ever seen Ilya Kovalchuk tossed from the game (after accumulating 19 PIMs in one incident early in the 3rd).

Firsts aside, the arena was nice and loud. A major source of annoyance for the Thrashers fans had to be the abundance of Penguins fans in attendance. The cheer that issued forth for each Pittsburgh goal was easily as loud as the cheers for the Atlanta goals. This reminded me very much of the Red Wings' visits to Dallas, which are made worse by Detroit's success against the Stars over the last decade-plus.

While it would've been nice to see the visiting fans leave Philips Arena quickly and quietly after the game, this was not to be. The Thrashers played the first two periods as if they were intimidated by the Defending Stanley Cup Champs. The Thrashers weren't able to accomplish much offensively, despite the Pens' patchwork quilt defensive corps. When they did get past the defense, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was on his game, making several great saves over the course of the evening. In fact, the Thrashers' first sign of life came at 6:52 of the 3rd, when Kovy went after Pittsburgh winger Matt Cooke in apparent retaliation for an uncalled trip ("slewfoot" was the term used by Atlanta Coach John Anderson) in front of the benches.

With their Captain off to the showers, Atlanta finally got their collective game on. A shorthanded goal by Chris Thorburn cut the Pittsburgh lead to 3-1, but the Thrashers didn't score again until Maxim Afinogenov beat Fleury with 17.5 seconds remaining in the game. It was too little, too late, however, and the Penguins left town with a deserved 3-2 win.

As soon as the game was over, we gathered our things and took the elevator down to the basement, with the goal of attending John Anderson's post-game press conference. As we approached the press room, Coach Anderson came out and strode purposefully to the Thrashers' locker room. Apparently, it was the shortest post-game presser of Anderson's tenure in Atlanta. Understandably, he felt that what he needed to say to his team was more important than anything he might say to the media.

Thus, Blogger Day ended a bit more abruptly than planned. Still, it was a great experience, and was capped off quite nicely with an invitation from Laura (aka Hildymac) of the scintillating Blues and Thrashers blog Wazzupwitchu? to join her and a couple of friends for soda pops at an Atlanta institution, Taco Mac. After much good conversation and...soda pop, Blogger Day was finally, officially over.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.