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Hockey Analytics

NHL Lines Analysis

by Gus Katsaros
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

NHL playoffs are around the corner. For some that will mean getting primed for playoff pools, for others it’s the countdown to a Stanley Cup Champion. Whether you’re in it to win the playoff pool, or for your favorite team to lift the enchanted Cup in June, there are tools available to make both experiences somewhat more enjoyable. Taking WOWY’s (with or without you) to the next level are new Line Tools.


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When Hockey Analysis went dark and it’s proprietor David Johnson joined the Calgary Flames, my biggest concern was access to the type of information available through the former Puckalytics Super WOWY. HA founder, Johnson who launched Puckalytics as an upgrade to his previous Hockey Analysis site, put together a searchable database for different combination of players (teammates and opponents) on the ice and performance between defined periods of time.


When paired with line charts from HockeyViz for game by game combinations, Frozen Pools or the rejuvenated Shift Chart for matchups and microanalysis there’s a diversity of information available on players on ice and enhancing analysis.


Two sites that contain linemate information that I use regularly are Corsica.hockey and Natural Stat Trick. The former for overall aggregated performance and the latter for game by game statistics.


Corsica has a feature to search players individually but doesn’t have the capability of lining up, Auston Matthews and William Nylander shifts when they were on together. The results are an aggregate of line combinations featuring the players when on the ice.


Natural Stat Trick offers up to five players on the ice with game logs or WOWY’s, and also includes a neat ‘By Date’ functionality that can isolate a specific date range similar to the Puckalytics SuperWOWY. This offers expansive framework for overall line performance when used in parallel with individual player analysis.


An example here is of Florida’s pairing up front of Aleksander Barkov and Evgeny Dadonov. They’ve lined up together all season, except for a second quarter shoulder injury to Dadonov, missing eight games and playing with Vincent Trocheck before being reunited just prior to the third quarter. They’re shot attempts moving average together reflect that as it dips hard before the steep incline. Clearly, they are a menace when playing together.

Barkov and Dadonov


In Columbus, if Seth Jones isn’t already considered a Norris Trophy candidate, it shouldn’t be too long. Below is the pairing at 5v5, with a recent dip as the duo was split late in the season.


Jones and Werenski


The Bruins first line has been incredible defensively this season (except for last night’s debacle against Winnipeg), with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand being avid and dangerous offensively as penalty killers, and joined with David Pastrnak as the third. They’ve been on the ice for nine goals against in 425 minutes, and that’s impressive (average among top-25 lines in ice time is 18 goals against).


However, not enough is being said about the Detroit trio of Anthony Mantha, Gustav Nyquist and Henrik Zetterberg who have allowed only seven goals while on the ice, appearing frequently over the third quarter before recently being broken up. It’s too bad the offensive elements don’t match up the defensive proclivity and coach Blashill has moved Mantha off the unit.


View post on imgur.com


Together, the pairing of Nyquist and Zetterberg have cantered a rollercoaster of on-ice shooting percentage that hit bottom in early February (2.9%) and to hover near the season average (7.7%) recently. Normally, and over large enough samples, the relationship between shooting percentage and shot attempts is inversely proportional, meaning as percentages decline, the shot attempt rates increase.


Goals scored on a smaller volume of shots provide a percentage boost and when pucks aren’t going in in regular intervals, the number of attempts increase, while taking a percentage hit. We see this in the increase in shot attempts per game for a rolling 10-game average, from early January, to the present with the dip in the end for the Red Wings forward pairing as shown below.


Red Wings


The Toronto Maple Leafs line of Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau, have been stellar since they formed 20 games ago, shortly after mid-season. Peak shooting percentage for the unit hit 17.6% on March 3, hitting a steady decline, following a decline in shot attempts as well at 5v5 from the 12 attempts per game, to dip down below eight with a small uptick in recent games. They’re scoring rates at 5v5 have declined, with the shot attempts dipping as well.




The Calgary Flames were officially eliminated from postseason contention only recently and the line of Johnny Gaudreau, Michael Ferland, Sean Monahan have played the most this season according to Corsica.Hockey. They have outperformed their expected goals (xGF - 33.67) by scoring 41 goals for, while allowing 24 goals when on the ice, 7.49 goals less than the expected goals against of 31.51 (xGA), while shooting 10.1% as a line overall. They’re 10-game moving average looks like the chart below, where the on ice shooting percentage bottoms out at 2.8% just prior to Christmas.




The line combo is shown in red in the chart below that outlines where they place among the team’s line combinations measured by expected goals per 60 minutes and real results GF/60.




The size of the bubble indicates the total time on ice, and not too far from the top of the NHL list is the line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik. The gap between those two top lines and the rest of the team is dizzying.


View post on imgur.com



There’s value in using line analysis tools like these, especially for those that may be delving into playoff pools.


Pool strategies can be implemented in different forms, but having access to line performance, pinpointing good/bad periods over the season can be a positive influence on decision-making. If you’re looking for an edge to picking a player over the other, these tools can prove invaluable.

Gus Katsaros
Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey