2008-02-06

The Habs' Happy Hooker

Koivu's untimely hook and subsequent benching last night got me thinking about penalties. Here are the penalty taken/drawn numbers from Behind the Net for individual players and for the team while that player is on the ice.



The diff columns are just the Drawn minus the Taken. Positive is good, negative is bad.

The most importing thing here is, unlike last year, the team is in the black. Seeing how the Habs have a good PP and poor PK, that is crucial.

The item at the forefront of everyone's mind is Koivu's penalty taking tendency. Individually, he's taking 1.7 per 60 - tied with Kostopoulos for worst on the team. That's the bad news.

Taking a look at a slightly bigger picture, his individual differential is -0.8. That's pretty much par for a Habs centre. Smolinski and Lapierre are also at -0.8, while Plekanec is even.

Looking at an even bigger and more important picture, the team draws 2.4 more per 60 when Koivu is on the ice. That's just a hair behind the Plek-Kast-Kovy line's diff, despite Koivu playing tougher defensive assignments. Not bad.

If you consider that Koivu is -0.8 individually and the team is +2.4 while he's on the ice, that means his linemates and defensemen are a collective +3.2 while he's on the ice. That's a big number - by far the biggest on the team. So how are Koivu's linemates achieving the +3.2? The defensemen are pretty much all negative. He hasn't skated with Kovalev or A.Kastsitsyn. The most you get by adding up the individual numbers for Higgins and Ryder/S.Kastsitsyn is 2.4. It seems we have a paradox.

I think the answer is Koivu quite literally making his teammates better in this statistical regard. He's an aggressive player. He's hard on the puck. This means he takes more penalties, but it also means he gains possession of the puck. You take way more penalties when the other team has possession of the puck. If you are good at gaining and retaining possession, you are going to draw more penalties than you take. Koivu's aggressiveness looks bad on the surface (his individual -0.8), but it is a huge net positive for the team. That's why I think it was a bad move to bench Koivu last night. Ottawa dominated possession and it almost cost the Habs the game. That's now at least three home games in a row that they've been outshot and outchanced at EV.

In contrast to Koivu is Chipchura. During his stay in Montreal he bucked the trend for Habs centres and was a solid individual +1.1. However, his team number was -1.1. That means his linemates were a collective -2.2 while he was on the ice. That's the worst on the team (although Latendresse is close behind). When Chipchura was on the ice, the team simply didn't gain/retain possession and it cost them penalties. He's a rookie, and he'll learn the ropes. Possibly from Koivu.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous MathMan said...

I agree that Koivu's penalties are partly due to his aggressiveness. He is drawing these things when he's trying his darndest. He just needs to remember to keep his stick on the ice when he's giving that second, third, or fourth effort.

He's being unfairly bashed for Tuesday's game, I think. His line had a very solid game until that point, even if they couldn't quite bury, and he was often the catalyst. And he's got six points over his last seven games, I believe.

Tangentially, Alex Kovalev has been among the league leaders in penalties drawn all year, which is a very valuable trait and should put his high ratio of points on the power play versus even-strength into some perspective. He's drawing penalties 5-on-5 and scoring on the PP.

2/06/2008 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Olibou said...

I believe Koivu is, this year, going trough what Kovalev went trough last year, that is the painful adaptation to the fact that he is not that fast anymore. Like Kovalev, I believe he will pull it off and enjoy many mor productive years. The very real progress (or, more precisely, return to normal level) in the +/- column, his continuing ability to draw penalties, his not so diminished points output (he is certainly not enjoying a cheechooesque implosion) and what I see when I watch the games tells me that the guy is still a very valuable player.

That being said, a couple of things:
- 1.7 per 60 is *brutal*. You look at the guys hovering around 1.7 and then those around 1.2 (Kovalev), and you see that something's wrong. I think, again, that it is a fluke year.

- The PK has gotten to the point where we aren't bad anymore. The emergence of Pleks and Kovy as "closers" (getting the last 30 seconds of the PK) is an interesting developpment. But it has to be said, we are now 15th on the PK...

- Carbonneau is getting better all the time, but I certainly have doubts with his handling of the situation. Higgins is bothering him more than Koivu, methinks...

- Ryder will be with us till the end for one and only one reason: possible injury to Kovalev or Siarhei. Makes me sad. Carbonneau seems to have given up on him, but again, the guy is sly and knows the Montreal media, so wo can tel what hey are really up to?

2/07/2008 1:29 AM  
Blogger Jeff J said...

Yeah, consensus seems to be that Koivu is having a bad year but his numbers look good - particularly GA while he's on. It's a huge improvement over last year, especially when you consider he's doing a lot of the work Bonk did.

2/07/2008 3:27 PM  
Anonymous AD said...

I liked this post.
For a league wide take on something similar, I posted some stats here on time in the penalty box translated to salary.

http://puckthathit.com/2008/02/21/how-much-are-those-penalties-costing/

Behindthenet has a great collection of stats... I'd love to see how many of these penalties were taken in the offensive zone and how many were not.

2/28/2008 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the bad news just keep on coming...

http://verbatim66.wordpress.com/2008/04/01/youppi-traded-to-pittsburg/

4/01/2008 12:39 PM  

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