BY PETER HOUSTON – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
While this abbreviated NHL season is still too young to start drawing conclusions, it’s certainly not too early to start wondering. And for anyone who watched the Chicago Blackhawks-Calgary Flames game on Hockey Night In Canada this past Saturday, they must be wondering; what’s wrong with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook?
The pair were Canada’s best defensive duo at the Vancouver Olympics and are arguably the best tandem in the game. But on Saturday night they didn’t look like it. The Flames, not known for their offensive prowess, outshot Chicago 47-19. Keith and Seabrook were on the ice for many of those chances, though in all fairness no one on Chicago’s back end really did much to contain Calgary. But if you look at some of the advanced numbers, you can see that this isn’t just a one game anomaly.
If you look at Seabrook and Keith’s relative Corsi numbers*, they are ranked last and third last on the team. That basically means they have spent a lot of time in the defensive zone giving up a lot of shots. Some would argue that’s because they play against stronger competition than their teammates, usually matched up against the opposing team’s best line. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case. According to their Quality of Competition rating*, Keith and Seabrook haven’t been taking on the toughest assignments. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson have been the “top pairing” when it comes to facing the other teams’ best players.
Another argument that could be made to explain Seabrook and Keith’s poor Corsi numbers is that they are put on the ice more often than not when the Blackhawks have a faceoff in the defensive zone. Again, that’s not true. If you exclude Michal Rozsival (who’s played just three games), Seabrook and Keith are first and third on the team in offensive zone starts (Nick Leddy second) with Oduya and Hjalmarsson taking the most faceoffs in the defensive zone. If anything, their higher percentage of offensive zone starts should be inflating their Corsi numbers.
While Keith and Seabrook are still averaging more ice time (about 24:30 a game) than Oduya and Hjalmarsson (about 21:40 a game), the tides may be turning. In that game against Calgary, Oduya and Hjalmarsson both played more minutes than Keith and Seabrook and it was Oduya and Leddy on in the key final minute when Chicago needed a goal to tie the game. Yes, it was just one game, but the advanced statistics seem to suggest a trend.
*Relative Corsi more or less measures how well a player drives possession and controls the puck in the offensive zone relative to his teammates by creating a +/- number. It is calculated by counting goals for and against, saved shots, missed shots, and blocked shots.
*Quality of Competition (QoC) is measured by taking a player’s plus/minus and adjusting it to his teammates plus/minus while the player was not on the ice. If a player has an extremely high plus/minus relative to his teammates, he’s probably a pretty good player and will have a higher QoC rating. Then you get the average rating of all of a player’s opponents, weighted for how much time they played against one another, and you find out how strong his quality of competition was.
-All advanced stats are from behindthenet.ca
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