The Winnipeg Jets have shown an early season disparity among their forward lines, separating the scoring units from checking, or lower roster forwards. The top two lines personnel inflate scoring chance volume bestowing the entertainment value of electrifying effect of scoring goals in bunches.
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Only three forwards have scored more than one goal at 5v5 so far in 2017-18, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each have two. Nikolaj Ehlers has four. It’s interesting to note they are outperforming their expected goals totals, with the distinct caveat of less than a couple handfuls of games.
The Jets are coming off a mini hiatus, with five days off between games, offering a great deal of practice time to work on a variety of different elements. For the purpose of this writing, the focus is only on the Jets scoring disparity. Of the 22 goals scored so far this season, 11 have come from forwards at 5v5. The split of scoring – aside from the four markers from Ehlers – could use some semblance of balance.
Important metrics in a small sample that will stabilize over time offers a small glimpse into the disparity – and potential warning.
Expected goals is a more contemporary metric that aims to incorporate some elements of shot quality by offering a numerical value to shot locations. Shot quality has been somewhat of a voodoo item among quants, indicating that shot volumes are better predictors of future performance than whether players are putting themselves into more dangerous scoring areas to fire off quick strikes. This attempt to quantify the area of ice is a great step forward.
From the link, contains a more thorough explanation:
Expected goals measures a metric (goals in this case), in relation to the actual/observed results. Data integrity is maintained, taking all shots into consideration, with player (or team level) isolation from shooting location. In short, it tries to incorporate some elements to control for shot quality.
The Jets expected goals (and some other stats) from 2016-17 and 2017-18 is shown in the table below. All values are at 5v5. The highlighted column is individual expected goals.
Two striking items here. Last season, the current season scorers all outperformed their expected goals values. Scheifele fired a 17.17% shooting percentage – while showing 11.7% on-ice (the percentage of shots that went in while he was on the ice). Bryan Little outperformed his 8.81 xG by scoring 12 goals. Nikolaj Ehlers and his 16 goals at 5v5 were attained with a 14.9% shooting percentage while experiencing success on ice at a 7.58% rate.
Scorers can normally sport high shooting percentages, almost inherent in their skill set, looking for soft areas in which to shoot from, and lightning fast pucks on/off stick blades. Expected goals take some of the measure of shot quality into consideration that attempts to scrutinizes the higher percentages.
Looking into this season, virtually every forward is firing in the double digits, except for Blake Wheeler. With one goal at even strength, the Jets best forward hasn’t put up scoring numbers, despite a healthy on-ice shooting percentage (14.6%). He’s also not outperforming his expected goals value (scored once with 1.24 xG).
High shooting percentages and outperforming the expected goals values are two clear signs, the offense may be finding itself more lucky than systemic.
Brandon Tanev and Shawn Matthias with an exceptionally low shooting percentage are falling right in line with the Paul Maurice philosophy of distinctly separating his scoring units with lower roster or defensive units. He (and his staff) may be one of the last remnants of the top-6, bottom-6 philosophy that hockey analytics is shattering through to implement more offensive elements.
Paul Maurice is extremely committed to top and bottom six roles for Winnipeg's forwards. How's that going, exactly?https://t.co/xiP0FyKby8
— Murat (@WPGMurat) October 16, 2017
Playing better defensively should mean that more pucks are being retrieved by the team that doesn’t have it, so the result maybe shouldn’t be measure distinctly by shots/goals against, but rather in incremental increases in offensive production/metrics.
Tactics like a hybrid defensive style, incorporating elements of both zone and man-on-man in the defensive zone adds more stringency and imposes structural restraint and performance effects. Goaltending may have been a difficult weakness to address over the past few seasons, but there’s still some significant work to be done from the blueline out.
It’s very early and the sample size may be small enough to write off a mediocre start. A 4-3 record has the Jets in the Wild Card race (yeah yeah, it’s October) but the season can run away very quick.