The Calder race is one of, if not my favorite NHL award. Mostly because it’s the only one that generates real discussion and is interpreted in so many different ways by people. What I mean is that some people value different things more than others. I, for instance, value primary points above all else, closely followed by high danger chances created and quality of teammate and competition. Then you have others like Elliotte Friedman who believe that playing all 82 games is a huge bonus, as many other leagues often play fewer than 60.
My ties to the OHL also influence me a bit though, as it’s fun to see the kids who dominated in junior try to make that next step. I love seeing kids, who often are not fully developed physically, make mincemeat out of their fully grown opposition. It takes the game to new heights and challenges the rest of the NHL to keep up. Make no mistake, this youth movement is good for our beloved sport.
1. Won’t Anyone Think Of The Children?
Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks, brother of Predators’ “prospect” Emil Pettersson, was diagnosed with a concussion after receiving a chokeslam from Mike Matheson of the Florida Panthers. Some fans from around the league waited with nervous caution, Pettersson would be back in seven to 10 days and many figured it’d play into Matheson’s suspension. Then, the NHL’s hammer of justice fell swiftly…
The NHL decided that using Kane’s finisher was worthy of two games and that a clearly premeditated move would not be harshly punished. Honestly, I don’t think the initial hit was dirty at all, it’s just the last little bit where Matheson throws Petterson to the ice.
What was this all for? Revenge because a 19-year-old made you look foolish? Grow up, sometimes elite talent will make anyone look bad. Hockey is all about getting up after a mistake and learning from it. I hope Pettersson learns from this, and scores next time so that Matheson won’t get a chance to hit him.
2. Speaking of Injuries
Off in the Canadian capital, things are somehow getting even worse for the Ottawa Senators. Recent fourth overall draft pick, Brady Tkachuk, has been sidelined with a torn ligament in his left leg after a big hit against the Dallas Stars. He’ll likely miss about a month, but will luckily not require surgery.
I’ve questioned the Senators about a great many of their choices, and taking Tkachuk was certainly one of them. One thing is for certain though, the kid has heart and I love the way he plays. Brady and his brother, Matt, do a great job of antagonizing. They remind me of a much more likable Corey Perry, in that they’ll force you to draw a penalty and then score while you’re sitting in the box. I wish nothing but a speedy recovery for another Calder trophy hopeful.
Now, as for Predators’ fans, why should you care? Let’s not forget that in the trade that brought Kyle Turris to Nashville, a (now) 2019 first-round pick was sent from the Senators to the Avalanche. There’s a very good chance that the Senators will finish last in the entire league, and either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko will join Colorado. The Central Division is going to get even better, much to the chagrin of every other team.
3. Tolvanen On The Board
Former first round pick Eeli Tolvanen scored his first professional goal on North American ice. Yes, he scored many goals while in the USHL, but he technically wasn’t a professional as he wasn’t paid. Also, he did score quite a few goals for Jokerit of the KHL, where he was a paid professional, but let’s remember that he scored those on international ice! So yes, this was his first professional goal in North America.
The flashy Finn has gotten off to a “slow start” by registering one goal and two assists for three points in five games. It should be noted that the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville’s AHL team) are 4-0-1 in their first five games. A good start, although it’s likely due to their older talent.
Winning in the AHL is a weird thing. It’s fine to be bad because it likely means your prospects have graduated to the big club, and it’s great to be good because it means your prospects are maturing and developing in a friendly situation. But then there’s a third option, winning without prospects. The Admirals are mostly winning without their prospects. Sure, there’s Alex Carrier (22), Tolvanen (20), and Anthony Richard (21), but a lot of their big guns are older. Rocco Grimaldi, Matt Donovan, Nicholas Baptiste, and Connor Brickley are all career AHLers and are currently four of their top seven scorers. The other three are the previously mentioned youngsters. We’ll see what happens, but Milwaukee might not be a great place for Tolvanen to develop if Grimaldi and others are taking up ice time.
Young scoring talent is so precious in today’s NHL, the Predators better take care of what they have in Tolvanen.
4. Lucky Preds
Stat time! The Predators are the fourth luckiest team so far. They’re currently rocking a 104.5 PDO at five on five! For those that don’t know, PDO is used to determine luck. It combines team shooting percentage and team save percentage. The general rule is that everything will always regress to the mean, with the mean being 100. So an over-performing team will have a number above 100 while an underperforming team will have a number below 100.
So, it’s not odd to look at the 104.5 and say, “wow, the Predators are getting lucky”! Where is it coming from, you might ask? Well, it’s the goaltending, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have been standing on their heads at five on five. They have a 94.81 save percentage, good for fourth in the league. That’s about three percent better than the 15th highest team. The Predators shooting percentage is just about normal. They’re currently at 9.72, but that’s less than a percent better than the 15th highest.
Was that math-y enough for you? No? Fine, let’s get even deeper. There’s this wonderful website called Corsica.hockey that’s run by the brilliant Emmanuel Perry. It has tons of advanced stats that aren’t found on any other free website, but it has one above almost all others. Manny Elk has an expected goals model that is probably the best to date, although there are some others that equally as fascinating.
The math behind it all is super interesting, but I’ll direct you to Corsica for that information, let’s get on with the stats. The Predators have scored the fourth most five on five goals with 14 while giving up seven, the fifth fewest. All in all, good enough for 66% of total goals. But these numbers aren’t necessarily expected… In the same six games, the Predators were expected to score 11.31 goals, about three fewer than actual. After learning about the goaltending stats above, it should come as no surprise that the Predators have given up over three goals fewer than expected (10.35). The Predators technically rank 15th in the NHL in expected goals against, but that’s only because of games played. They’re the sixth best team in the NHL in terms of expected goals against per 60 with 2.13, which is about a percent more than their actual goals per 60 (1.45).
What do the numbers mean? Well, the Predators are getting extremely lucky. I’m glad that they’ve started the season 5-1-0, because I could very easily see a skid in their future.
Do you like these articles? Do you like articles where the author delves deep into all kinds of stats? Do you like knowing just how good Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi are at entering the offensive zone? Well, I have an opportunity for you. Michael Wade and I are keeping our own stats this season, more specifically, we’re tracking zone exits, zone entries, and blue line defenses. But it’s a lot of work for just two people.
If you want to make an impact and help move Penalty Box Radio into the future, why not help us track these stats? It’s a good time, we’ll give you tons of credit, and you’ll go to sleep every night knowing that you made a difference. Feel free to reach out to PBR, or Michael on twitter at @wadem117 or me at @georgem1019. Even if you just have suggestions or questions, feel free to ask us. I have all the time in the world for someone who just wants to learn or help out.