This is a look at how the New Jersey Devils and their divisional opponents fared in their matchups this past season. As I’ve written a lot on the Devils with obvious reasons, this post will focus more on the opposing players. Since the sample size for these players and teams is only from two to five games, we’ll treat this as "What Players/Teams were the Devils able to contain?" and also, "Which Players/Teams had their way with the Devils?" In the interest of brevity, on an individual level, I’ll be looking solely at shot generation and Corsi contribution; on a team level, I’ll be looking at efficiency and where shots were generated from.
These four posts will serve as a bit of a preview to future work done on systems, what teams do to counter other teams, and more in-depth analysis. Why were the Devils more/less effective against certain teams? As sample sizes of the opposition grow, we may be able to venture educated guesses into how and why. Let’s get to it.
Summer Passing Series Links
Part One: Efficiency and Winning
Part Two: The Transition Game
Part Three: Offensive Zone Analysis
Part Four: Generating Goals
Part Five: Corsi Contribution
Part Six: Frequency of Offense
Part Seven: Does Accuracy Matter?
Part Eight: Team Comparison
Against the Devils, the Rangers blue line managed to generate thirty-six shot attempts (SAG) and thirteen shots (SG) for roughly 33% Shot Attempt Generation Efficiency (SAGE). The team generated their highest shot attempts with Marc Staal on the ice (64 Corsi Events For, CF), and Staal contributed to a third of those attempts himself (Corsi Contribution Percentage, CC%): six SAG and fifteen of his own shot attempts (individual Corsi Events For, iCF).
Dan Girardi actually led the blue line with eighteen shot attempts of his own, generated six shot attempts, and finished with the highest CC% of Rangers defensemen at 39.3%. Ryan McDonagh contributed to the same percentage as Staal. These three defensemen were the most involved for the Rangers.
Moving to the forwards, we see that the when the Rangers had Derek Stephan (72.7%), Mats Zuccarello (64.3%), or Derek Brassard (63.6%) passing the puck, they were at their most efficient. All three totaled over 10 SAG, as did Chris Kreider (11) and Carl Hagelin (12). Zuccarello generated the most attempts (14) and shots (9) as the Devils couldn’t quite contain him.
Looking at players who were on the ice for at least forty CF, Zuccarello (62.8 CC%, Brassard (48.8 CC%), and Brad Richards (46.9 CC%) were the most involved in the team’s offense in terms of shot attempts going they contributed to.
Overall, the Rangers were 5.1% more efficient than the Devils and generated 10.4% more shot attempts in transition than the Devils. Based on those their matchups this past season, the Rangers were more effective through the neutral zone and their passing game proved deadlier.
In their four games against the Devils, the Flyers blue line began and ended with Kimmo Timonen. Timonen generated fourteen shot attempts and ten shots for a 71.4% SAGE, and he also contributed to 46.5% of the team’s shot attempts while on the ice. Nick Grossman was the next best Flyer (indicative of how poorly run that team is) in terms of Corsi contribution, but the Flyers back end is a mess.
The forwards show only three players over ten SAG compared to the Rangers having five. These were Jakub Voracek (14), Claude Giroux (11), and Wayne Simmonds (10). Among forwards with over forty CF, Scott Harnett contributed to nearly half of the team’s shot attempts while on the ice (nine via pass and fifteen via his own attempts, for a 49.0 CC%). Voracek was next at 47.3 CC%, and Mike Raffl contributed to 46.3% of the team’s shot attempts while on the ice. Giroux only contributed to just over a third (34.5%) of the team’s shot attempts while on the ice. Not sure why one of their best players would not be as heavily involved as Harnett, Voracek, or Raffl, but it seemed odd. Perhaps the Devils were focused more on Giroux, but perhaps not.
On the other side of this are Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. When Couturier was on the ice the Flyers had forty-three shot attempts, but he was only involved in twelve of them. Schenn was more involved, but the Flyers attempted only twenty-eight shots while he was on the ice.
The Devils were 10% more efficient than the Flyers as the team from New Jersey operated at a 56.4% SAGE compared to the Flyers 46.5% SAGE. However, the Flyers controlled 61.1% of the transition shot attempts, so this was a matchup in which the Devils were able to go to work with success in the offensive zone. Even there, however, the Flyers owned a slight edge in offensive zone shot attempts.
The Penguins employed nine defensemen against the Devils this past season. No one generated more than Simon Depres’ six shot attempts. Depres also put up those numbers in only two games against the Devils. Overall, the Penguins blue line was not as involved as other teams’ against the Devils this past season.
No surprise to see Sidney Crosby (16), Evgeni Malkin (13), and Chris Kunitz (11) among the forwards leading the Penguins in terms shot attempts generated. A name you may not have expected to see is that of Jussi Jokinen who generated fourteen shot attempts and attempted fourteen shots of his own. When Jokinen was on the ice he contributed to just over half of the Penguins fifty-two Corsi events (53.8%), which was more than any other forward on the team.
Moving to efficiency, Jokinen drops off significantly as only four of the fourteen shot attempts he generated found their way to the goalie. Malkin (69.2%), Kunitz (54.5%), and Crosby (50%) all had solid SAGE figures. Unfortunately for the Penguins, the rest of their forwards are a mess.
The Devils put up some of their worst displays in terms of efficiency in their four games against the Penguins, managing a pathetic 39.5% SAGE figure. The Penguins were not great at 46.6%, but far better than the Devils. Same old story, another team is more efficient and another team controls the larger share of shot attempts generated in transition.
The Islanders dressed ten defensemen in their five games against the Devils this past season. Only Travis Hamonic reached double digits in SAG (11). Hamonic, unsurprisingly, was most involved in the Islander’s offense as he contributed to 36.5% on the team’s Corsi Events. Thomas Hickey generated eight shot attempts and attempted fourteen of his own. Unfortunately for the Islanders, their efficiency looked about as appealing as a TV broadcast from Madison Square Garden. Positionally, they finished with a 36% SAGE, which is terrible.
In terms of volume, Brock Nelson led the forwards with ten shot attempts generated. Only three, however, registered as shots on goal. More efficient players were Josh Bailey who generated eight shots on eight attempts. I think he’s an tremendously underrated player. Colin McDonald generated six shots on nine attempts. Frans Nielsen generated give on eight attempts. So, overall, the Islanders were far better at forward than they were on the back end.
The teams were about even in terms of efficiency, hovering just above the 45% mark. Once again, the Devils opposition generated more shot attempts in transition and the Devils controlled play in the offensive zones. This seems to be a common theme, so as I collect more data in the coming season, I’ll be looking for tendencies or how teams set up to defend and attack the Devils. We know what happens, but we need to know how and why.
Ryan Murray was easily the Blue Jackets’ best passing defensemen when it came to generating offense (11 SAG, 8 SG). No Columbus blue liner contributed most to the team’s Corsi events than Murray (42.1%). Jack Johnson doubled the next highest iCF total on the blue line and James Wisniewski generated nine shot attempts, but only three registered as shots on goal. Wisniewski was involved as often as Murray, but less efficient.
Brandon Dubinsky enjoyed playing against the Devils this past season. In his four games he was involved in 54.3% of the team’s Corsi events: ten via pass and fifteen from his own shot attempts. R.J. Umberger had some success against the Devils as well, but the team didn’t generate as many Corsi events when Umberger was on the ice.
Cam Atkinson (12) and Boon Jenner were (10) the second and third best forwards in terms of their iCF volume. Both were more shooters than passers, reaping the benefits of the passing of Dubinsky and others. Mark Letestu generated six shot attempts and attempted nine of his own, and was involved in over half the Corsi events while on the ice, not bad for a bottom six forward.
The Devils controlled the shot attempts generated via passing against the Jackets, but were a few percentage points behind in efficiency.
The Capitals had one of the worst blue lines last season according to the data I’ve tracked. They generate very little via their passing with Dimitry Orlov and Karl Alzner leading the group with four SAG each. That’s simply not good enough and it puts a lot of pressure on the forwards. John Carlson and Orlov at least were contributing via their own shot attempts (10 each).
Nic Backstrom generated seventeen shot attempts and nine shots against the Devils. A Swedish beast. He attempted thirteen of his own shot attempts and led the team in Corsi Contribution Percentage at 55.6%. He was the Caps best player against the Devils this past season. Alexander Ovechkin led the team in iCF with eighteen, but only generated two shot attempts via his passing. At least both registered as shots.
Troy Brouwer (10) and Marcus Johansson (10) were the only other forwards in double digits in shot generation, though Brouwer only saw one of his attempts register as a shot and Johannson saw four do the same. Not the greatest efficiency there.
Efficiency was about the same, 0.6% edge to the Devils. Each team controlled shot generation in one area of the ice over the other—predictably, the Devils controlled 60.6% of offensive zone shot generation and the Caps controlled 56.4% of the transition shot attempts generated. Volume was better for the Devils. Considering how woeful the Caps blue line performed, you’d have liked to see the Devils dominate more.
Jordan (11) and Eric (15) Staal led the team in shot attempts generated with Nathan Gerbe (9) and Jiri Tlusty (9) tied for third. Jeff Skinner led the team with eighteen of his own shot attempts. Of players on the ice for forty or more Corsi events, Gerbe (52.5 CC%), Skinner (51 CC%), and Eric Staal (46.7%) is how they ranked in terms of Corsi involvement.
The Devils played against the Hurricanes in much a similar fashion as other opponents: controlling offensive zone shot generation and falling behind in transition shot generation. The efficiency was about the same for both teams.
Lend a Hand, Will Ya?
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, with more data comes more concrete analysis. As any statistical work should do, this process evolves and becomes more refined based on what is most relevant. After compiling all of this data for a season of the Devils and their opposition, I’ve discovered that about 10% of the tracked data tells us 90% of what’s relevant. By this I simply mean passes that lead shot attempts and shots tell us far more than the passes that do not lead to events. I’ve decided to change up my approach for the coming season.
I’ll be updating my Primer to reflect this, but by adding new categories for how and where shot attempts are generated, it will give us a more in-depth look at how and where teams create offense and what players are more involved than others. In addition to this, I’ll be tracking all 5-on-5 situations as well as 5-on-5 close situations to be able to account for score effects. An added bonus is that this significantly reduces the amount of events I’ll be tracking and makes it much less time-consuming. That’s where you come in.
If anyone has been interested in tracking stats or has tracked zone exits or entries previously and wants to try something new, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@RK_Stimp) and let me know. If you just did one team, you’d probably be looking at 50 – 75 events each game, which isn’t too bad and won’t interrupt the flow of the game that much if at all (think 15 – 25 events per period). Let me know and don’t be shy.