Analytics Mailbag: How good was Canadiens’ pairing of Markov, Petry?

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov (79) celebrates his goal against against the Arizona Coyotes with defenseman Jeff Petry (26), center Torrey Mitchell (17) and left wing Daniel Carr (43) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s analytics mailbag time again, where we answer your questions with the best data hockey has to offer.

As always, if you asked a question that requires a very in-depth answer, it will likely become its own article sooner rather than later!

Editor’s note: The language of some questions has been slightly edited for clarity.

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@domluszczyszyn: I wanna know, which teams on offence recover the most rebounds? Which players are best in the offensive and defensive zone?

Circling back to last week’s mailbag, Dom wants a bit more information on rebounds.

My first thought without looking was the Carolina Hurricanes, since they lead the league in scoring chances off the forecheck. But while they’re good, they don’t rank the highest in recovered rebounds per 60 minutes at 5-vs-5 — the Vegas Golden Knights do with 9.77 — and the team that recovers the highest percentage of the rebounds their opponents give up is the Columbus Blue Jackets, at 49.7 per cent.

However, the Blue Jackets were only the eighth-best team at turning those recovered rebounds into shot attempts from the slot. The team that did that the best? The Montreal Canadiens with 2.3 every 60 minutes.

As for specific players recovering rebounds, it’s tough to do percentages there, but pro-rated the best forwards at recovering rebounds in the offensive zone are Jake Guentzel with 3.73 per 60 minutes, followed by Tomas Hertl at 3.54, Cody Eakin at 3.5, Mark Stone at 3.42, Brendan Gallagher at 3.41 and Phillip Danault at 3.39.

In the defensive zone — and this one is going to be a bit of a shocker — the leader by volume is Brent Seabrook at 4.19 every 60 minutes. Following Seabrook is Brent Burns at 4.11, Troy Stecher at 3.7, Jeff Petry at 3.62, and Radim Simek at 3.55.

With two Sharks, a Blackhawk, and a Canuck on there, I think it’s fair to say your team allowing more shots against can boost your numbers in this area a little bit. I’m not sure how much value I would put on it without adjusting for team play first.

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@ballards_legacy: How much do you value XGF and XGA? They seem to me to be dangerous absolute measurements but I seem to see many rely on them as though they are more absolute than not.

They’re imperfect, like any metric, but dangerous? I don’t see how. They’re more predictive of future goals than goals, shots, or shot attempts — no matter if you’re using public or private data. Anything that gives you better information that has more predictive power is a good statistic.

Can they be wrong? Of course. Every metric can mislead you because the future has yet to be determined.

Using only expected goals to evaluate a player entirely isn’t very smart, but I don’t know anyone who uses one statistic, even if it is a combination of statistics. Single number combination metrics are good places to start, then you go into the detail work.

@JonathanWillis: How much of Martin Jones’ save percentage is Jones and how much is the defence?

The Sharks aren’t very good defensively, but Jones is definitely a problem. San Jose is currently 29th in the NHL in goals allowed above expectations, with their goalies giving up an extra 0.2 goals every game at even strength. That’s actually an improvement over last season where they gave up 0.26 more goals per game than expected.

Of the 35 goaltenders who have played 1,500 or more minutes at 5-vs-5 this season, Jones ranks 34th in save percentage from the inner slot, 34th from the slot overall, and 35th from the perimeter. The only goaltender who has been comparably bad is Mike Smith.

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@arola_teemu: Teravainen is one of best defensive wingers and still produces lots of points, so is it okay to say that he is a top-five two-way winger in the league?

@grahamr_9: Is Teuvo a top-five defensive forward?

Two questions about Teravainen’s defensive acumen, and they’re not off the mark.

Top-five might be a little lofty but without a way to easily separate wingers from centres, Teravainen is in the top 25 per cent of all forwards in defensive impact.

Most of Teravainen’s defensive impact is in the neutral zone, where he’s in the top two per cent of all forwards at stripping opponents of the puck, top two per cent in blocked passes and top five per cent at recovering loose pucks. He also boasts one of the lowest defensive zone turnover rates in the NHL, so he’s blossomed into a player who can be trusted defensively with and without the puck. He is a phenomenal two-way forward.

@scottmatla: Just how good was the pairing of Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry?

There were a few questions from fans of the Canadiens about Andrei Markov, who just announced his retirement from the game. The General was easily the best defenceman to spend the majority of his career with the Canadiens since the Big Three from the legendary 70s dynasty.

Scott asked about Markov with Jeff Petry, but in his last season in the NHL Markov played on two different top pairings in Montreal — each one facing the toughest competition of all available pairings.

With Petry, the pair posted an expected goals rate of 54.5 per cent, and with Shea Weber the pair had an expected goals rate of 53.3 per cent. While Markov wasn’t on the ice with one of those two, the Canadiens’ expected goal rate was around 48 per cent. No matter who he played with, they were elevated by his presence.

Even in his late 30s, Markov was among the league leaders in slot passes for defencemen, about on par with the average forward, and led all defencemen in one-timer passes on the power play in 2016-17.

@WallyWest1978: If you could take the best offensive NHL defenceman and the best defensive NHL defenceman and combine them into one player, which two would you be using and, more importantly, what would this Super Defenceman’s name be?!?

It would take a lot of investigating and number-crunching to answer this one fully, but in broad strokes over the 2019-20 season, the defenceman with the biggest offensive impact would be Roman Josi, while the defenceman with the biggest defensive impact would be Jonas Brodin.

I guess that means the peak defenceman we could create right now would be Roman Brodin. That player would be worth league maximum, and you might want to play him 35 minutes a game.

@tcondo: Kevin Fiala vs William Nylander: Who is better accounting for teammates, and who is worth more based on contracts?

Fiala has finally had the breakout season everyone was waiting for, and in a way so has Nylander, though he has been excellent throughout his career.

Nylander is the more potent offensive weapon, creating and getting more scoring chances and higher quality chances, but Fiala is more involved defensively, and he’s become quite the effective forechecker as well — in the 83rd percentile among forwards in offensive zone loose puck recoveries.

Both players are fantastic transition players, moving the puck up the ice at excellent rates, but they aren’t very comparable stylistically aside from that. Because Nylander has been better for longer, I’d rather bet on him continuing to be a sure thing than I would bet on Fiala staying this good.

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