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Statistical Look At The Impact Of Losing Nate Schmidt For 20 Games

Jon Merrill isn’t Nate Schmidt, but as a replacement, he’ll be just fine. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The famous saying in sports when a team experiences something like a long-term injury or a suspension is “next man up.” Just wait, that term is going to be thrown around City National Arena more than “chip on our shoulder” was last year.

Sometimes the “next man” turns out to be a superstar like Lou Gehrig or Kurt Warner, other times it doesn’t work out so well. Most of the time though it falls somewhere in between, where the replacement isn’t as good as the missing player, but not a complete disaster. That’s where we expect the Golden Knights to land with the loss of Schmidt.

First of all, hockey is unlike many other sports where the loss of a player results in a direct replacement. Aside from goalies, a loss of a skater in hockey means a shift in the depth chart. In this case, the replacement of Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt, Griffin Reinhart, Zach Whitecloud, or Erik Brannstrom will not be expected to step in and have the same role and responsibilities as Schmidt. Instead, more than likely Deryk Engelland or Nick Holden will find themselves filling those shoes. So rather than replacing Schmidt with Merrill, it’s like replacing Schmidt with Engelland AND Engelland with McNabb AND McNabb with Theodore AND Theodore with Holden AND Holden with Miller AND Miller with Merrill.

Nonetheless, someone does have to step into the lineup that otherwise would have been in the press box watching the game.

To give a statistical look at what the Golden Knights look like without Schmidt, we start with the expected values Schmidt would have brought to the team both offensively and defensively based on last season’s stats.

Schmidt averaged 22:14 while scoring five goals and tallying 31 assists in 76 total games. He had 57 giveaways and 57 takeaways and registered 103 shots. His point shares were 2.2 offensively, 4.8 defensively, totaling 7.0.

He played 76 games, so we first multiply all the numbers (except TOI) by 1.079 to calculate them to an 82 game total. Then, we’ve divide by 4.1 (or divide by 82 then multiply by 20) to calculate his stats over the course of the 20 games he’ll miss. Here’s what we get.

 Per GameOver 20 Games
Goals0.061.3
Assists0.48.2
Shots1.427.1
Takeaways0.815.0
Giveaways0.815.0
OPS>0.020.6
DPS0.061.3
Point Shares0.091.8

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Splitting Up The Second Line

Last week on the SinBin.vegas podcast, the Golden Knights second line combination scenarios were a big focus. As it currently stands, it appears the Golden Knights have seven forwards that can fill top the six roles. Of course, messing with the top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith is foolish, so that leaves Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch and Tomas Tatar to fill three spots.

10 more goals from Tuch changes the entire outlook of the changed VGK made in the offseason. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unless, as we discussed, Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses a more balanced attack by splitting the four into pairs of two rather than a full line and a leftover. That would leave an open spot on both the second and third lines. Possibly, the distribution of points would create more offense throughout the entire lineup while not sacrificing the offensive talents of one of these four by sticking them on a defensive-minded line.

Let’s put it to the test statistically. To do so, we’ll start by comparing possible combinations of 2nd lines using three of the four available players and compare it to that of the line of David Perron, James Neal, and Haula.

The Perron, Neal, and Haula line produced 70 goals, 95 assists, and 165 points while posting a combined 2.8 defensive point shares.

We used last year’s stats to come up with combined line totals for each of the four potential lines. Each line is named by which player is missing, so “w/o Haula” means a line of Tuch, Tatar, and Stastny.

LineGoalsAssistsPointsDPS
w/o Haula51731244
w/o Tatar60851344.4
w/o Tuch65771313.9
w/o Stastny64621153.3

Before you go scrolling back and forth trying to figure out the difference between each line and that of Perron, Neal, and Haula, we did the math for you.

LineGoalsAssistsPointsDPS
w/o Haula-19-22-411.2
w/o Tatar-10-10-311.6
w/o Tuch-5-18-341.1
w/o Stastny-6-33-500.5

Unsurprisingly, the numbers come up way short offensively. Defensively, however, any of the four options would be better. The biggest concern though is the play of the leftover player. Could Tuch, Haula, Tatar, or Stastny thrive on a line with players like Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, or Tomas Hyka? That’s yet to be seen, but it’s also why the idea of splitting the four high-end forwards came up.

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A Study On The Expected Regression Of William Karlsson

The name William Karlsson and the word “regression” have been joined at the hip this offseason. Following his breakout season scoring 43 goals, posting a +49 rating, winning the Lady Byng, and finishing top 10 in both Selke and Hart, it seems like everyone assumes a decline in 2018-19.

Personally, I’m not a fan of assumptions, I prefer facts, or at least stats I can package as something resembling facts. So, I set out to see if regression for William Karlsson is indeed inevitable, and if so, how major it may be.

The normal way to project a player’s statistics in the NHL (or any sport for that matter) is to look at that player’s career history. However, with Karlsson that doesn’t really work. To begin his career he was seeing minimal ice time, playing on the fourth line, and had defensive responsibilities similar to those of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s on the Golden Knights. In Vegas, he’s the top line center, is used in all situations including the top power play and penalty kill units, and plays on a line with two high-level offensive players. His stats in Columbus are essentially hogwash because his role has changed so much, but at the same time, simply using his one mega season in Vegas feels like a bit too small of a sample size to project his future.

Actually kind of surprised we even have a picture of him NOT scoring. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So, I had to find another way. The way I chose to go about it was to examine the follow-up seasons for players who have had years in which they put up numbers similar to Karlsson’s.

What I found, in short, is that there’s basically no chance William Karlsson repeats his incredible 17-18 season. Literally, every player (except one) who scored 40 goals, every player who shot better than 20%, every player with a massive +/- rating, every player with a high shooting percentage, and every player with impressive defensive numbers saw their statistics decline the following year. That’s 47 of 48 players over the course of the last five years.

I’ll prove it in a second, but before you go jumping off the cliff, while the numbers suggest a drop-off, they do not suggest Karlsson’s going to become an average player. Instead, they show just the opposite. Using this method of comparing players with similar statistical seasons to Karlsson, he should be projected to score 35 goals, shoot at around 16%, and stay a legitimate Selke award candidate.

Here’s how I conducted the study. First, I found every season in which a player matched (or led the league) in the best statistical categories for William Karlsson. Those are Goals (Karlsson had 43, 3rd in NHL), Shooting Percentage (Karlsson shot 23.4%, led NHL), Plus/Minus (Karlsson was +49, led NHL), Even Strength Goals (Karlsson had 31, tied for 3rd in NHL), and Defensive Point Shares (Karlsson had 3.5, led all forwards in NHL).

After finding all the players who had qualifying seasons, I looked up what they did in that same category the following year. I added up all of the follow-up season numbers and divided it by the Karlsson-esque season numbers to show the percentage of regression to be expected in each category. Here are the numbers.

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Exactly How William Karlsson Scored Each Of His 43 Goals

Backhand, wrister, deflection, empty netter, you name it, Wild Bill did it. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We all fondly remember William Karlsson’s 43 goal season as a glorious collection of one-timers, diving empty netters, and between the legs dandies, but now thanks to TSN’s Travis Yost we know exactly how #71 put all 43 goals into the back of the net on the way to one of the most incredible breakthrough seasons in NHL history.

The numbers are fascinating to read, especially when you look at Lady Byng winner William Karlsson’s chart.

The Golden Knights star center will probably forever be known for this, but according to Yost’s research, Karlsson scored the majority of his goals by wrist shot. Yost found the goal percentages by shot type; backhand, deflection, slap shot, snap shot, tipped shot, wraparound, and wrist shot. As you can see on TSN’s chart, Karlsson has an incredibly lethal wrist shot. The top line center scored 41.9%, or 18 of 43 goals off his wrister.

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Pacific Division Goaltender Rankings

ESPNNNNNNN’s Greg Wyshynski spoke with TSN Edmonton this week about the Pacific Division and Jon Gibson’s eight-year extension goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.

He’s a solid goalie. He’s a workhorse, it’s a position you don’t have to worry about. They’re a contender. Gibson is going to give them a chance and make them a contender for a bit. -Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

Just like Vegas, the Ducks re-upped their goalie but have many questions elsewhere on the ice. While Gibson may help Anaheim compete, at this moment Fleury is in a better spot to win.

So, with that in mind, let’s rank the goaltenders 1-8 in the Pacific Division. We charted top centers earlier this week, so let’s do the same with the PAC-8’s goaltenders.

The Elite

Jonathan Quick
2017–18: 33-28-3 Record, 5 Shutouts, 2.44 GAA, .921 Save %, 37 Quality Starts
Career: 293-195-56 Record, 49 Shutouts, 2.28 GAA, .916 Save %, 305 Quality Starts

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In six separate seasons, Quick finished in the top ten for most wins and goals against average, including last season. LA’s goaltender was ninth with 33 wins, and tenth posting a 2.40 GAA. The 2012 Conn Smythe award winner’s 49 career shutouts are fourth among active goaltenders, one ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury. Quick steps his game up in the playoffs posting a 2.23 career postseason GAA and a .922 career postseason save percentage. The Golden Knights swept the Kings in the first round but LA couldn’t put the blame on their goaltender, who posted four consecutive quality starts. Without Quick in net, the series would’ve been a two-game mercy rule.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury
2017–18: 29-13-5 Record, 4 Shutouts, 2.24 GAA, .927 Save %, 31 Quality Starts
Career: 404-229-72 Record, 48 Shutouts, 2.56 GAA, .913 Save %, 319 Quality Starts

What more could I possibly say about Fleury? Golden Knights fans witnessed a star reborn and lead their team to the Stanley Cup finals. Fleury amazed start after start… remember he started 20 out of 21 games down the stretch? Fleury had a renaissance season becoming an All-Star for the first time since 2015, finishing fifth in the Vezina award voting, and passing 400 career wins. To top off a near-perfect season, the 33-year-old morphed into a flying brick wall in the postseason. In 20 playoff games, Fleury allowed just 47 goals, and registered 12 quality starts. Sure, I gave Quick the slight edge, but it’s clear which goalie Vegas fans would rather in net.

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Ranking The Top Centers In The Pacific Division

This week the NHL Network ranked the league’s twenty best centers. Lady Byng trophy winner William Karlsson came in at 17th place, not bad for a guy who wasn’t rated in the top 100 last season. Connor McDavid, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf and Leon Draisaitl were the other Pacific Division centers to make the NHL Network’s list.

So let’s have some fun and rank the top centers in the Pacific Division.

1. Connor McDavid: There’s not much to write. McDavid has 256 career points in 205 games, averaging 1.22 points per game. The Edmonton center has more points (208), goals created (77), assists per game (.84), and adjusted points (220) than any other player in the NHL since 2015-16. McDavid will continue to remain the top center in the division, and the league for many, many years.

2. Anze Kopitar: Again, this is another no-brainer. The Kings captain has averaged almost a point of game over his career, and put up his best (1.12) PPG average last season. After 12 NHL seasons, the Slovenian continues to get better. Kopitar ended the season with a career-high 92 points, and took home the Selke trophy. Also, he’s a faceoff wizard. Against Vegas in the postseason, Kopitar posted a 60.4% faceoff win percentage. Pretty impressive, considering the puck was in his zone most of the series.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

3. William Karlsson: I battled myself trying to be as objective as possible and at the end of the day, ranking Karlsson third behind McDavid and Kopitar was the only right decision. Most of the players on this list have consistently produced for multiple seasons. However, the overall skill Karlsson showcased leads you to believe he’ll repeat his production from 2017-18.

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Total Goals To Win The Pacific Division

The Golden Knights scored 99 of their 268 goals against Pacific Division opponents. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last season it took the Golden Knights 268 goals to win the Pacific Division title. Vegas finished fifth in the NHL behind Tampa (290), Winnipeg (273), Pittsburgh (270) and Toronto (270). The league average for goals scored was (244), 24 short of the Golden Knights’ output. San Jose (247) was the only other Pacific Division team to score more than the league average.

Clearly, the Golden Knights produced enough offense last season to win their division going away. Vegas was only five tallies behind Winnipeg, the Western Conference leader, and we all know how that ended up. Vegas, Tampa, and Winnipeg were in the top five in regular season scoring and all appeared in the conference finals.

Here’s how the rest of the Pacific Division teams fared in 2017-18.

Anaheim
231 Goals (19th)
2.82 Goals For Per Game
220 Goals Scored in 2016-17
2017-18 (+11 Goals)

Arizona
206 Goals (30th)
2.51 Goals For Per Game
191 Goals Scored in 2016-17
2017-18 (+15 Goals)

Calgary
216 Goals (27th)
2.63 Goals For Per Game
222 Goals Scored in 2016–17
2017-18 (-6 Goals)

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Drawing Penalties Could Be A Problem In 2018-19

James Neal’s face seemed to attract sticks to it last year. VGK might need a new stick/face magnet if they want to keep up the scoring pace in 18-19. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of the 2017-18 season, the Golden Knights drew 249 penalties, good for 15th in the NHL. Vegas converted on 53, ranking them 12th in power play goals scored and 10th in power play percentage at 21.4%. Compare that to the 3rd overall ranking in even strength goals and it’s fairly clear the Golden Knights did not rely on a man-advantage to win games.

Nonetheless, power play goals remain the easiest way to score in the NHL (aside from empty netters of course) and the Golden Knights certainly cashed in on a few big ones along the way to a Western Conference Championship.

During the year 26 different Golden Knights drew penalties. Two players made up for 55 of the 249, or 22%. Those two players are now members of the Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues.

James Neal led the Golden Knights drawing 29 penalties in the regular season while David Perron was right on his heels with 26. The next closest Golden Knights were Jonathan Marchessault and Colin Miller, each with just 19. (Plus, Neal missed 11 games and Perron missed 12. Math says if they had both played the entire 82 game season they would have drawn a combined nine more penalties.)

55 penalties at a scoring rate of 21.4%, what the Golden Knights finished the regular season with, adds up to nearly 12 power play goals created off drawn penalties by only Neal and Perron.

The Neal, Perron, Haula line drew 68 penalties while the top line of Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson drew just 40.

Tomas Tatar and Paul Stastny, the two players expected to replace a majority of Perron and Neal’s minutes drew a combined 36 penalties.

The numbers are alarming, especially considering Tatar has yet to show the success he’s had elsewhere in Vegas. It’s not crazy to think however that Tatar, Stastny, and the increased role for Alex Tuch can help to replace the 41 goals Neal and Perron produced, but expecting these same three guys to draw 50+ penalties is probably asking a lot.

The real bummer is this likely means fewer times to chant “shame” at the guy sitting in the box too.

Golden Knights Weren’t Just Off In The First Eight Minutes

Wonder if Gallant makes any changes to the lineup. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

NBC announcers Joe Micheletti and Pierre McGuire used words like panic, upset and frustrated to describe the Golden Knights in Game 1. In the first period, Micheletti even said “Winnipeg is the quicker team” and he wasn’t wrong, at that time. The Jets deserve a ton of credit jumping on Vegas early and winning the series opener.

However, outside of the first twenty minutes of play, the final numbers tell a different story. The Golden Knights average game stats were all out of whack but can take away some positives.

Shots on goal
VGK – 21
WPG – 26

  • Vegas tied their lowest SOG total over the entire regular season and postseason
  • First game this season without a shot from Erik Haula, Colin Miller, James Neal and David Perron
  • First game since 2/21 (loss at Wild) that James Neal failed to register a shot on net
  • Colin Miller now has four postseason games without a shot on net
  • David Perron has three postseason games without a shot on net

Giveaways
VGK – 11
WPG – 14

  • Third highest total of giveaways in a playoff
  • Vegas is 1-3 when they turn the puck over 10+ times in a game

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The Most Impressive Stat Of The Playoffs Came On The Road In Game 6

Through two rounds of the playoffs, the Golden Knights lead postseason teams in a few crucial statistics. First and for most, Vegas is tied with Tampa for the most postseason wins with eight. Vegas leads the playoffs with 204 blocked shots and 106 takeaways despite playing the fewest number of games of any playoff team. However, the stat of the postseason may have happened last night in the series-clinching Game 6.

Against a desperate Sharks team, Vegas played smart protecting the puck and maintaining possession all game. Amazingly, the Golden Knights gave away the puck only once in Game 6. One giveaway in a road closeout game. One!

Unsurprisingly, they are the first team this season to complete a game with just one giveaway.

Some argue giveaway/takeaway stats are not truly accurate, but even with the margin of error involved in scoring hockey games, one giveaway is incredible. The definition of a giveaway is when a player’s own actions result in a loss of possession to the opposing team. Think back, can you even remember the one?

Overall, the Golden Knights have hit their giveaway average in four of ten postseason contests.

Fewest Giveaways in a single playoff game (1)
Fewest total Giveaways in Playoffs (83)
Fewest Giveaway average per game (8.3)

Won’t lose many games giving away the puck just once in 60 minutes. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas was so responsible with the puck in Game 6 that San Jose had trouble gaining possession for a majority of the night. To be fair, the Golden Knights only created two takeaways in last night’s closeout game, but that was likely a result of Vegas playing conservatively with a lead while their opponent chased.

If the Golden Knights continue to play error-free hockey, the remaining teams should look out. Surprisingly, Vegas turned the puck over 15 times in Game 5’s victory. Proving the Pacific Conference Champions can win a sloppy game or two… or eight.

(In case you were wondering, Deryk Engelland committed the one giveaway in the game. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of giveaways, keep your eyes out for the next Adam Kutner contest. He’s giving away, see what we did there, two tickets to every Western Conference Finals game, and it’s free to enter. More details soon.)

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