Truth By Numbers: Examining Pageau’s stunning November with Senators

Bill-Kostroun/AP

Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, left celebrates his goal with defenceman Dylan DeMelo (2). Pageau scored a hat trick as the Senators defeated the Devils 4-2. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)

The idea of trading him in order to make the most of the rebuild has been the talk of the town in Ottawa, and a large reason why that kind of talk is happening is because Jean-Gabriel Pageau is shooting the lights out in November.

Pageau’s 10 goals in November so far lead the league, just ahead of Connor McDavid’s nine, so how could he not be the guy we shine the spotlight on this week?

SPOTLIGHT PERFORMANCE

A career average 10.5 per cent shooter, Pageau is scoring on 38.5 per cent of his shots on goal in November, so before we go anywhere we know that a large part of this hot streak is going to be good fortune in a small sample, but how much of it is a great performance that might not be sustainable, and how much is just having everything go right?

When you look at just 5-vs-5 numbers, Pageau’s November doesn’t come out looking very great. He sits just 13th on the team among forwards in scoring chances per minute played, which is the exact opposite of a special performance, but there’s a bit more to dig into than rate stats show.

Part of the reason why Pageau is scoring a lot is that he’s being played a ton; his 170 minutes at even strength so far in November trails only Nick Paul and Connor Brown, and he’s played a fair amount at 4-vs-4.

Overall he ranks fourth on the team in scoring chances at even strength, which is good but not spectacular, but his completion rate is absurd; but only from one area.

In November, Pageau has scored nine goals at even strength, and seven of them have come from the inner slot. That’s the most dangerous area of the ice and carries an expected shooting percentage nearing 20 per cent for shots on goal, but he’s managed to take only eight total shot attempts from there, all eight on net, and 87.5 per cent of them have gone in.

From the high slot and perimeter he’s scoring slightly ahead of league expectations, but with only one goal from each, that’s bound to happen if you don’t shoot much and manage to squeeze one puck through. That’s nothing compared to the more than quadrupling of expectations from the inner slot.

This hot streak hasn’t come with an increased rate of scoring chances for Pageau, or an increased rate from the inner-slot, but he does lead the Sens in one specific area; inner-slot shots with no pressure with five. It doesn’t explain his absurd level of success, but it does give a hit as to what is going on. Pageau is getting great looks, going to the right places, and he’s just getting rewarded at more than four times the expected rate for his play.

Pageau remains a fantastic defensive centre, but anyone who is looking at this hot streak as some unexpected awakening of his offensive potential is primed for disappointment, especially if they give up more in a trade than they would have before.

Sign up for NHL newsletters
Get the best of our NHL coverage and exclusives delivered directly to your inbox!

NHL Newsletter

*I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

THE QUESTION

This week was a crazy one for Steve Dangle, his Leafs are playing terrible, they fired Mike Babcock and promoted Sheldon Keefe, he scored a goal at the Eric Lindros Celebrity Hockey Classic where he and his team raised over $100,000 for Easter Seals Ontario, and I told him he wasn’t allowed to ask me about the Leafs.

So in lieu of more Leafs content, Steve requests…

"Please explain to me how Cale Makar is this good"

It’s pretty crazy what Makar has been able to do offensively this season, scoring over a point per game as a rookie at just 21 years old, and he’s doing it without getting the usual rookie sheltering that even the best young defencemen get when they break in.

Makar isn’t playing the toughest minutes on the team by any stretch, but he also hasn’t been hidden from anything, head coach Jared Bednar trusts him. Part of the reason for that is because as great as Makar has been offensively, he’s been nearly as impactful on the defensive side. 22 games into Colorado’s season, Makar is tied for the best on-ice inner slot shot differential in the NHL among defencemen. Pretty incredible stuff, but let’s look at what everyone is talking about; his offensive performance.

What makes Makar such a threat is that he’s dominant in more than one area. Defensively he’s had a huge impact — as previously stated — but he’s also one of the league’s premier transition players already in his young career, completing the fourth-most successful transition plays in the NHL among defencemen this season.

That exemplary transition play has allowed him to join the rush more often than most defenders, with the only defencemen who produce more chances off the rush being Roman Josi and Miro Heiskanen, with Rasmus Dahlin tied with him.

Those are some phenomenal names to be listed next to, and overall Makar ranks 12th among defencemen in the number of chances he creates for his teammates. That’s some incredible work for a rookie defenceman, and as great as he is at even strength, he ranks in the exact same spot at generating offence on the powerplay. Colorado has a special player on their hands here.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

BUY OR SELL

• The Boston Bruins are once again one of the best teams in the league, if not the best, and aside from exerting extreme control over shot locations to control shot quality, they’re continually able to boost their own expected goal rates with their puck movement. Boston takes a league-leading 15.4 per cent of their 5-vs-5 shots as one-timers, four percentage points better than the league average. The area they exploit the most is the high slot; nearly 36 per cent of their shot attempts from there are one timers. Guess where David Pastrnak likes shooting from?

• How good is Sidney Crosby? Guess which players lead the entire league in pass receptions within the slot… Did you guess Jake Guentzel and Dominik Simon? I don’t think we truly appreciate how many decent to good players Sid has made great.

• Who receives the most passes from their teammates overall? If you sit down and think about it you can probably guess. Look at all the rosters in the league, and think which player stands out as the guy all their teammates think "just give it to him and we’ll be ok". Nope, not McDavid or Draisaitl, it’s Artemi Panarin.

• Know who else receives a ton of passes from their teammates? Young Quinn Hughes in Vancouver. Only 10 players in the league receive more passes per minute played than Hughes does, and it’s almost entirely a list of NHL superstars. The only defencemen who receive the puck more are Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, and Kris Letang.

• Breaking things down by possession time, only Sam Girard and Cam Fowler have the puck on their sticks more often than Quinn Hughes does at 5-vs-5. Hughes is carrying the puck for 5 minutes and 10 seconds for every 60 he’s on the ice, which doesn’t sound like a ton but like I said, it’s the third most in the league. This kid is one to watch, the Canucks are leaning on him heavily and he hasn’t buckled

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.