Welcome to a weekly characteristic the place we strive to have some enjoyable with underlying numbers. The plan is to spotlight just a few developments, then dig beneath the floor to get a greater sense of what they in the end imply, what’s inflicting them, and how possible it’s that they’re going to proceed transferring ahead. Consider them as bite-sized deep dives.

This week, we’re going to take a more in-depth have a look at the crew blessed with probably the most deadly offensive assault within the sport, a goalie that is acquired rather a lot on the road this season, and a crew that continues to exceed expectations.

Tampa Bay’s power surge

Undoubtedly one of many greatest storylines in NHL circles this season has been the spike in scoring. Thanks to some mixture of smaller goalie gear, tighter officiating that makes it more troublesome to decelerate the highest gamers, and groups typically getting smarter about how they assemble their lineups, we’re seeing offensive numbers harking back to a bygone period.

  • From skating with Sidney Crosby on the 2005 WJC to a concussion-shortened profession to a stint in Sweden, the 33-year-old has trod a fascinating path.

  • It was a yr of tragedy, triumph and, OK, just a few undesirable licks. Here is a look again at 12 moments most worthy of commemoration.

  • The Grey Wolves, an over-50 — typically way-over-50 — hockey membership, characteristic a solid of characters that features a 95-year-old World Warfare II veteran, a TV weatherman, an lawyer who’s additionally a mom of seven and a pastor who swears like a sailor.

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The league common save share is south of .910 (.908 to be precise) for the primary time because the 2008-09 season. The league common for targets scored per sport is north of three.00 for the primary time since getting back from the lockout in 2005. A lot of the scoring again then was artificially inflated by sky-high power-play totals, because the league tried to utterly rewrite its rulebook by cracking down on something and all the pieces. This season feels totally different. The scoring now comes throughout as far more natural, trickling down as a pure result of hockey that is being performed at its absolute pinnacle.

No crew higher encapsulates the place the league is at proper now than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who’re presently within the strategy of lapping the sphere all throughout the board. Having rattled off 11 wins prior to now 12 video games, they’re now sitting atop all the league with 58 factors and a whopping plus-48 purpose differential by means of 37 video games. Most significantly, they’re maintaining some respiration room between themselves and Toronto within the Atlantic Division, which can assist them keep away from a nightmarish first spherical playoff matchup in opposition to both the Leafs or the Bruins.

Any manner you slice it, the Lightning have been actually unstoppable this season. At 5 on 5, they’re within the prime three in shot share, purpose differential, precise targets generated and anticipated targets scored. On the power play, solely the Winnipeg Jets create targets more effectively on a per-minute foundation, and no crew has scored more whole targets total.

When scanning their lineup for holes to be probably focused by opponents, there does not actually seem to be something abundantly obtrusive that may be exploited. Due to Brayden Level’s emergence as a bona fide star, Jon Cooper and his employees now have the flexibility to combine and match by rotating two particularly deadly scoring traces. By stripping opponents of the luxurious of having the ability to gear up all the defensive sport plan in the direction of slowing down simply the one group, the Lightning basically drive different groups into the perilous place of getting to choose their poison.

The highest-six will get the lion’s share of accolades and offensive manufacturing, however what vaults the Lightning to the following degree is definitely their bottom-six group. Thanks to a glowing draft document over time, Tampa Bay is ready to complement their prime gamers and spherical out the lineup with a medley of younger, efficient, cost-controlled items.

To finish the yr the fitting manner, Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski rank the ten greatest hockey tales coated on the pod. Amongst many storylines, we assessment John Tavares changing into a Maple Leaf (21:25), in addition to the Golden Knights historic first season (28:24), and more! Plus, in “Phil Kessel Loves Sizzling Canines,” we glance again at Whalers night time in Raleigh. Thanks for listening all yr lengthy! Pay attention »

Whether or not it is Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli or Yanni Gourde, the Lightning are stacked with versatile wingers that might comfortably play considerably larger roles on practically every other crew within the league. However due to how deep the Lightning are up entrance, they’re tasked with the position of feasting on the remaining scraps which might be left over for them when the highest traces are lastly finished consuming. Regardless of not getting to stack up massive level totals as a result, they’re nonetheless immensely priceless to the general operation; each time they’re on the ice they’re wreaking havoc, drawing penalties and maintaining the opposition busy whereas the highest traces get a breather.

In the interim, there is no actual drop off all through the lineup no matter who’s on the market, and if there occurs to be an damage down the highway, there seem to be numerous viable inner choices to step up and contribute. Due to all these chess items at his disposal, Cooper has experimented with varied combos all through the season, and the one ones which have dipped beneath the 50-percent mark by way of shot share and anticipated targets have been those involving Ryan Callahan. Barring a sequence of poorly timed accidents, there is no actual purpose why he must be enjoying to start with when the video games matter most, which conveniently removes the obvious weak hyperlink of the bunch.

Put all of it into one full bundle, and you have acquired a crew that is trending in the direction of offensive totals that we’ve not seen in 30-something years:

High targets per sport, 2000-01 to 2018-19

In truth, the final time a crew averaged the next goals-per-game common than what the Lightning have finished to date was all the way in which again in 1995-96, when a Pittsburgh Penguins crew that boasted Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr on the peak of their powers (not to point out Ron Francis, Petr Nedved, and Sergei Zubov) scored a ridiculous four.41 instances per sport.

But as spectacular as they have been early on, the Lightning in the end have a lot bigger long-term targets than simply securing the common season scoring title. With the Washington Capitals having lastly exorcised their playoff demons final yr, arguably no crew’s present core carries more playoff baggage than Steven Stamkos & Co. do in the mean time.

The excellent news is that this yr’s model appears prefer it probably has one other gear to hit. Given simply how shut they’ve come prior to now, being loaded with that additional little bit of offensive expertise may very nicely be the distinction between as soon as once more falling quick in excruciating vogue and lastly getting over the hump to win all of it.

Bobrovsky, you are again on the case!

Sergei Bobrovsky’s current surge is encouraging for the Blue Jackets, who’ve a troublesome choice to make on the goaltender as his free company approaches. Jared Silber/NHLI through Getty Pictures

After an extremely shaky begin to the season, Sergei Bobrovsky seems to as soon as once more be the annual contender for the Vezina Trophy that we have come to anticipate over time. He is coming off stupendously dominant week that earned him the NHL’s first star honors, bumping his save share for the season up to .913.

Postgame evaluation and spotlight present airing every night time all through the season from Barry Melrose and Linda Cohn. Watch on ESPN+

It is nonetheless at some extent that is nicely beneath his typical customary, however contemplating the mixture of his private .882 mark in October and the league common that has dipped down to .908, the truth that he is already again up to the place he’s comes as a testomony to simply how good he is been on late. It is also value noting that his total numbers are being dragged down by two separate eight-goal-against stinkers, the place it was curious as to why he wasn’t pulled. If you happen to take away these two from the equation, his season whole shoots up to .928, which is probably going a greater illustration of his precise true expertise degree. The Blue Jackets have wanted each little bit of it: with Joonas Korpisalo persevering with to wrestle to recover from the .900 Mendoza Line in internet, and intriguing prospect Elvis Merzilkins nonetheless a yr away, they’re as reliant as ever on Bobrovsky’s brilliance on a nightly foundation.

For our functions right here, what’s far more fascinating than the efficiency to-date of Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets is the place the 2 events wind up going from right here, with Bob a pending unrestricted free agent. Assuming they determine to play the string out and see what occurs come the summer season, it’s going to present us with a comparatively unprecedented situation.

Going again by means of the archives of the free agent contracts which were dished out over the previous handful of years, there hasn’t actually been a scenario in current reminiscence the place a goalie that was anyplace remotely close to Bobrovsky’s caliber grew to become accessible for bidding on the open market in the course of the prime of their profession.

Here is the full checklist of multi-year contracts which were handed out to goalies that had but to play a sport for his or her new crew over the previous 5 offseasons. There’s usually certainly one of two varieties of contracts that comprise the checklist:

  • A veteran goalie that is introduced in to be a part of a time-share, representing comparatively low acquisition danger but additionally equally restricted upside

  • A goalie that is flashed potential early of their profession, with the crew buying and selling for his or her rights and signing them to a long-term deal banking on them having room to develop

UFA goaltender offers

For the groups throwing large cash at established goalies on the open market, the monitor document is not precisely inspiring. Ben Bishop, who’s the closest facsimile to Bobrovsky among the many bunch purely by strategy of elimination, has been completely positive in Dallas. But it surely’s not as if his addition has all of a sudden given the Stars the facelift they anticipated, and his contract looms massive as an onerous one within the years to come. A lot of the others had been both a wash that did not actually lead to something wonderful, or had been downright disappointments from the leap.

A part of that has to do with the goaltending place itself, which has confirmed to be quite unstable and unpredictable. With a lot uncertainty concerned, groups have correctly moved away from the thought of investing vital long-term sources, due to the very actual danger of changing into hooked up to an anchor that it presents. On the similar time, you do not actually recognize the significance of a dependable goaltender till you do not have one. Contemplating Bobrovsky’s Vezina-level monitor document, there’s presumably numerous groups presently craving that No. 1 puckstopper that will throw warning to the wind and line up for his companies if given the possibility. Assuming he finishes the season sturdy, he ought to nonetheless give you the option to money in handsomely this summer season.

On a crew degree, the Blue Jackets themselves are clearly strolling a quite delicate tight rope right here. Whereas the shrewd play can be to money in and recoup an attractive mixture of future property for Bobrovsky (and Artemi Panarin) on the commerce deadline, doing so would characterize a quite merciless blow to a loyal fanbase that is been passionately supporting the franchise by means of the darkish years. That is one of the best group of expertise they’ve ever had in Columbus, and transferring away from it and not using a single playoff sequence victory to present for it could be an agonizing consequence.

Suffice it to say, there’s rather a lot on the road within the coming months for everybody concerned.

The Barry Trotz system

To the shock of some, Barry Trotz has the Islanders pushing for playoff place. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports activities

With John Tavares set to go up in opposition to his former crew for the primary time this weekend, let’s take inventory of the place issues stand all these months later.

He is personally loving life with the Toronto Maple Leafs proper now, enjoying alongside Mitch Marner. In a scenario the place he is surrounded by more expertise than ever earlier than, it ought to come as no shock that he is presently on tempo to shatter his earlier private bests for each targets and whole factors.

The New York Islanders crew he left behind could also be more fascinating, as a result of following his departure there was objectively no good purpose to imagine that they’d be hovering round a playoff spot like they’re proper now. After shedding their famous person heart and making an attempt to change him with what can pretty be summarized as a bunch of overpriced filler this summer season, there was a justifiable expectation that the crew would crater into a good deeper gap.

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As a substitute, they have been shockingly competent to date. They’re only a couple factors out of a wild-card spot with some video games in hand because the NHL returns from the Christmas break, and are sporting a optimistic purpose differential. Whether or not they’re in the end ready to maintain this up and probably make a push in the direction of that playoff berth is a completely totally different query, however the truth that it is even a dialogue proper now’s one thing value exploring additional.

From a pure expertise perspective, there is no manner they need to be forward of groups just like the Panthers, Hurricanes and Flyers within the standings. Contemplating that the personnel from one season to the following is not dramatically improved, the one factor that basically has discernibly modified has been the teaching.

In typical Barry Trotz vogue, his arrival behind the bench has seen the Islanders shore issues up defensively following final season’s abhorrently porous efficiency in their very own finish. Their goals-against per sport has dipped all the way in which from three.57 (31st) to 2.71 (third), which in the end raises the million greenback query: how a lot of that defensive enchancment is due to higher goaltending, and how a lot of that’s due to Trotz’s heralded construction and system?

Whereas the reply is probably going someplace within the center as a result of the 2 usually go hand in hand, it is value contemplating that Trotz’s groups have been exceeding the purpose share we would anticipate them to have based mostly on their shot profile for years now, and by a quite sizeable margin:

The Trotz Distinction

Staff Season Precise
targets for
targets for
Islanders 2018-19 54.68 49.05 5.63
Capitals 2017-18 52.68 47.08 5.60
Capitals 2016-17 60.94 51.13 9.81
Capitals 2015-16 55.42 51.55 three.87

There’s clearly one thing deeper happening with what Barry Trotz groups select to concede defensively, and how that mixture of high quality and amount strategically surrendered affect the outcomes. After being frolicked to dry on a nightly foundation final season by a crew that clearly had no sport plan in its personal zone, each Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak (in his new residence with the Bruins) have since seen their numbers wildly enhance in a really quick time frame.

  • From skating with Sidney Crosby on the 2005 WJC to a concussion-shortened profession to a stint in Sweden, the 33-year-old has trod a fascinating path.

  • It was a yr of tragedy, triumph and, OK, just a few undesirable licks. Here is a look again at 12 moments most worthy of commemoration.

  • The Grey Wolves, an over-50 — typically way-over-50 — hockey membership, characteristic a solid of characters that features a 95-year-old World Warfare II veteran, a TV weatherman, an lawyer who’s additionally a mom of seven and a pastor who swears like a sailor.

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In the meantime, the mixture of Greiss and Robin Lehner has been good for fifth in five-on-five save share and second total this season, behind simply the heroics of John Gibson in Anaheim. It is definitely been a giant departure from simply final season, when the Islanders had been 25th and 29th in these two areas respectively.

The advance of the opposite underlying defensive shot metrics hasn’t been fairly as excessive, however they’ve nonetheless gone from league-worst to a minimum of respectably middle-of-the-pack throughout the board. At five-on-five, they’ve gone from 30th in photographs in opposition to and 31st in high-danger makes an attempt conceded to 10th and 17th in these two classes. The penalty kill has equally gone from completely dreadful (73.2 %, 31st within the league) to a much-improved mediocre (78.1, 21st).

A part of that change has clearly come on the worth of their very own offensive totals, however there’s one thing admirable about the way in which they have been ready to come to phrases with their present actuality and act accordingly. Given the roster composition, in the event that they continued to play the kind of back-and-forth monitor meet type they did final season, they’d get blown out of the water. This Islanders crew won’t win too many high-scoring shootouts, so it wants to sluggish issues down and grind video games out purely out of necessity as a survival tactic.

Expertise finally wins out within the NHL, and there’s solely a lot that even Barry Trotz and his system will probably be ready to squeeze out of this roster. However for now, the strings he is been expertly pulling have them wanting like a troublesome out on a nightly foundation, which is a whole 180 from their defensive debacle final season.

There’s lengthy been debate in hockey circles about how a lot affect a coach and his system can realistically have on a crew’s outcomes. If the Islanders are any indication, the reply is: a powerful quantity.

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