NHL Wish Lists for Santa: Goalies in the Central and Less Wild Shooting
The NHL staffers at numberFire have caught the Christmas spirit and have written wish lists to Santa for each NHL team. Last week, Derek Breitenstine covered the Pacific Division, check back December 18th for the Metropolitan, and December 23 for the Atlantic divisions. This week: Alex Gutjahr writes for the Central Division.
There isn’t a lot to write about the Blackhawks that hasn’t been said before. They have been one of the best teams in the league for the past six seasons. The team bounced back after the New York Islanders broke up their eight-game winning streak Saturday night to beat the Calgary Flames Sunday. The Blackhawks have sat atop our power rankings with an impressive 0.94 nERD for the past few weeks, which indicates goal differential compared to a league-average team.
All this comes despite missing Corey Crawford, their starting netminder since November 29th with a lower body injury. Both Antti Raanta and Scott Darling have picked up the slack and the Blackhawks now have three goalies with a goals-against average under 2.00.
The sad thing is that once Crawford comes back, Darling will most likely be sent down to the American Hockey League’s Rockford Icehogs, as he is on a two-way contract. There are a few goaltenders with full-time gigs that haven’t performed up to Darling’s level this year.
Dear Santa: A full-time NHL job. ~ Scott Darling
A year after they helped coach Patrick Roy win the Jack Adams Trophy for Coach of the Year and finished at the top of the division, the Colorado Avalanche have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Nearly all their players have fallen off last year’s numbers they reside at the bottom of the division with a 10-13-7 record.
The Avalanche rank near the bottom of the league in pretty much every advanced metric, and if they can’t improve immediately and drastically after the holidays, they will be in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
|5-on-5 Stat||Percentage||League Rank|
|Goal for %||47.1%||22nd|
|Corsi for %||45.1%||28th|
The one bright spot has been the play of Calvin Pickard. After coming in to the year as the third-string goalie, he has outplayed his teammates.
Pickard has also earned the praise of his head coach.
Dear Santa: a time machine to go back to last season.
Tyler Seguin leads the league in points, and the Dallas Stars are tied for the fewest points in the division with the Avalanche. Weird. Seguin is obviously not the Stars’ issue. Neither is Jamie Benn nor Jason Spezza.
They make things big in Texas, and the Stars’ secondary scoring problem is huge. They have only three players with more than 15 points, and no one -- other than Seguin -- has scored more than 10 goals.
The biggest problem for the Stars has been the fall-off of Kari Lehtonen, who is having his worst season of his career. (He even played better in Atlanta…remember them?)
Anders Lindback hasn’t been any help either. He has a 4.64 goals-against average and a .861 save percentage since signing as a free agent in the offseason. If the Stars are going to salvage this season th,ey are going to have to find a line to contribute offensively outside the top unit, and Lehtonen will have to shake off his season-long slump.
Dear Santa: Another Tyler Seguin -- or at least half of one.
One of the worst kept secrets in the NHL last summer was Thomas Vanek’s pending signing with the Minnesota Wild. There was much hope that former Sabre, Islander, and Hab would add some scoring to complement Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Since his arrival in the North Star State, Vanek has only scored three goals. Both his and Pominville’s shooting percentage have been way below their career averages, and neither can seem to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
|Player||Career Goals/Gm||Career Sh%||2014-15 Goals/Gm||2014/15 Sh%|
It isn’t as if the Wild aren’t getting chances. Traditionally a defensive team, the Wild rank seventh in the league in 5-on-5 Corsi for as well as Corsi for percentage and the team as a whole is 10th in 5-on-5 shooting percentage. If Minnesota is going to compete for the postseason, its high-paid talent is going to have to start earning their bucks by putting pucks in the net.
Dear Santa: Shooter Tutor ~ Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek
The Nashville Predators have been one of the league’s most surprising teams this year. With a 19-8-2 record, they seem to be en route to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. In Nashville, attendance is up (16,844 fans per game versus 16,600 last year), and goals-against are down.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne is leading all starters in pretty much every category: wins, goals-against average, save percentage. After last year’s season was shortened by an injury, Rinne has bounced back and posted the best number of his career.
While, he is likely to regress slightly, Rinne has established himself as one of the standout goaltenders this year.
Nashville’s defensive prowess isn’t just about its goaltending ether; the Predators have four defensemen in the top-40 in Corsi-for-percentage (minimum 200 minutes played), which calculates the percentage of shots a given player is on ice for versus against. (Team shots+blocked shots+missed shots)/opponent shots+blocked shots+missed shots).
|Player||League Rank||Corsi for %|
That list doesn’t include their captain, Shea Weber, who ranks seventh amongst defensemen in points with 11 -- albeit slightly off his pace from last season.
Up front, the Predators are being led by Filip Forsberg and his rookie-class leading 12 goals and 17 assists. After a torrid October and November, the forward has not slowed down at all in December, adding six points in five games.
General manager, David Poile, has built a formidable team from the crease out, and they are buying into coach, Peter Laviolette’s, system; as the old adage goes: “Defense wins championships.” The Predators are not quite there yet, but they are a team to watch in the Central Division and are the closest thing to competition to the division leading Blackhawks.
Dear Santa: a case full of trophies. Vezina and Jennings for Pekka Rinne, Calder for Filip Forsberg, Jack Adams for Peter Laviolette, and maybe even a Selke for Shea Weber if he agrees to be extra good the rest of the year.
St. Louis Blues
Keeping up with our goalie theme, hands up if you had the St. Louis Blues as a probably destination for Martin Brodeur at the start of the year. With Brian Elliott and Jake Allen at the start of the year, the Blues seemed set to let them battle for playing time with Elliott having the edge as starter with Allen as the long-term plan for the franchise. When Elliott got hurt on November 25th, the Blues signed Brodeur, and he has been splitting duties with Allen.
Elsewhere in the lineup, the Blues are firing on all cylinders: the STL line of Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jori Lehtera have been one of the most consistent units in the league and has helped Tarasenko crack the top-10 in the league in scoring. Equally impressive is Kevin Shattenkirk and his 22 assists, which ties him for the lead among blueliners.
The Blues are in second place in the division right now with a 20-8-2 record and rank third in our power rankings with a 0.66 nERD. While their plans in net are uncertain for when Elliott returns, the Blues are a team to watch. Come deadline time they are well positioned to add a piece or two for an extended playoff run; according to capgeek.com St. Louis will have about $3.5 million in cap space come the deadline.
Dear Santa: More fans at our games. On average the Scottrade Center is at 91.8% capacity, which puts them in 22nd in league: too low for such an entertaining team.
Finally, the Winnipeg Jets. They are yet another Central Division team that has went the way of their goaltending. In this case, the “Masters of the meshed mansions” (credit Joe Bowen) have kept the playoffs within reach for the franchise. Both Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson have put up impressive numbers.
It is a good thing that the netminders have carried the team because, despite being a top-10 Corsi percentage team, the Jets rank 29th in 5-on-5 shooting percentage and average fewer than 1.9 even-strength goals per game.
|5-on-5 stat||Stat||League Rank|
|Goals for/60 mins||1.86||24th|
|Corsi for %||52.2%||10th|
If the Jets are going to challenge for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference, they are going to have to get more production from their forwards; with only three skaters over 20 points, the team is not very deep and will need help putting the puck in the net.
Dear Santa: More scoring and a playoff spot. The fans in Winnipeg deserve it.