Date: Sunday, December 9th
Time: 5:00 PT / 8:00 ET
Location: Honda Center
TV: Prime, MSG+
The Enemy: All about the Jersey
The Ducks enter this game on the back of their first loss in 6 games, and the news that the team’s leadership group will remain stable for the next few seasons. General Manager Bob Murray confirmed that he would extend his tenure with the Ducks for a further two seasons. Given the close knit group within management, we fans can assume that entire management team will remain in place for this period of time also. It also appears that a coaching change will not be on the cards in the near future, and given the closeness of the current head coach to the current management group, the news that Carlyle has a guaranteed front office job when he retires, and that the coach himself has stated a desire to coach 1000 games, it appears likely that the Ducks will retain their head coach for this season and very likely the next as well. This takes Ducks up to the impending lockout season under the current management group. That is to say while the league may be in turmoil, the Ducks will be going about their business as usual.
During the press conference confirming his extension, Bob Murray made a number of comments regarding the state of the team and what we can assume are his thoughts going forward. Notably he singled out a lack of scoring, and being “out chanced” as areas of improvement.
Coming into this game with the New Jersey Devils, the Ducks rank 31st in the league in shots on net, a full 2.05 standard deviations from the league average and 5.2 shots (on net) per game less than the league median. Additionally, the Ducks are = 30th in the league for generating shot attempts, on a per game basis. But their offensive woes don’t merely end with a lack of ability to generate shots. The Ducks are also struggling to get into clear shooting lanes and make those attempts count. In fact, only two teams (Calgary and Toronto) have a lesser percentage of converted shot attempts to actual shots on net, and both of those teams make up for that shortfall with volume shooting. To be clear, only 65% of the Ducks shot attempts are on net (a raw difference of 14.5 between SAT and shots on net per game). The inefficiency shown here should lay to rest the argument that the Ducks are being patient in the offensive zone, and subsequently are only taking high percentage shots.
That the Ducks are also swimming in the shallow end of the pool with regards to shooting percentages should also help to negate the narrative of looking for and taking high-danger/high-percentage shots at goal. The Ducks currently hold league’s 23rd best shooting percentage at 8.91% However, when accounting for the number of shot attempts and not merely the percentage of goals scored from shots that make it on net, the number dips. Anaheim’s “true” shooting percentage is 5.8%, a mark for which only four teams are worse (Arizona, Boston, Carolina and Los Angeles).
The Ducks’ inefficiencies offensively are in part a reflection of some of the Anaheim faithful’s favoured sons. Jakob Silfverberg is only getting 47% of his shot attempts on net, which is ~1.8 standard deviations from his career mean of 56.7% Ondrej Kase is getting 57% of his shot attempts on net (~0.7 SD’s less than his career mean). Adam Henrique is converting roughly the same number of shot attempts into shots on net as he has in his career thus far, however, his SAT and shots per game are all career lows. Ryan Kesler is also shooting the lowest number of shots on net per game that he has in his career. Like Henrique, Kesler’s numbers started trending down in this facet of his game before he arrived in Anaheim, both trends which have contributed to the current state of the offence. Kesler, however, has been efficient with his shooting, with 63% of his attempts making it on net. A big increase over his career norm. He may not be scoring at his usual clip, but getting pucks on net forces the opposition netminder to work. Work that very few of his team mates are forcing the opposition to do at a regular clip.
With some of these players tied up longer term, and others fan favorites, it’s a point of interest to consider where GM Bob Murray may increase his team’s offensive efficiency. Having moved on from Sami Vatanen, Shea Theodore, and now Brandon Montour, the Ducks are running out of defensemen to deal, and indeed could be in the market for one themselves should further injuries hit. Although that is a concern for another day.
In addition these players being inefficient, some have just been snake-bitten. Rickard Rakell is getting ~0.74 of a SD more shots on net, from his shot attempts, than he has in past seasons. This is alongside the second highest shots per game numbers he’s put up in his career to date. A little bit of puck luck and he could be well on his way back to the free scoring LW we know and love. swung by
This stifled offensive unit comes up against a struggling (2-4-4 over their last 10) New Jersey Devils team that holds the league’s 9th best mark for SAT Against. Interestingly, the differential between the Devils’ SAT For and Against numbers is only +7, as opposed to the Ducks’ -288, suggesting that the Devils are a relatively even team going forward and back. The Devils also hold the league’s 5th best mark for shots on net against per game. To climb up the rankings with that defensive pressure, the Devils are only allowing 65% of their opposition shot attempts to get on net. A league (equal) best mark. That is to say, that as poor at getting shots on net as the Ducks are, the Devils are equally as good at preventing that from happening. Small wonder with quality top pairing defensemen like Sami Vatanen patrolling their blue line.
However, much of the positivity that could be found amongst Devils fans has been overshowed by more glaring performances. Currently, the Devils hold the league’s 4th worst goals allowed per game ranking, riding on the back of the league’s 29th overall save percentage. Former star, Corey Schneider, has been a near non-entity this season, having played utterly abysmal in his 5 games (after coming back from a surgically repaired injury) thus far. Keith Kinkaid, the replacement starter, has not been up the mark. As such the Devils are a team in free fall, and much of the good work their skaters do has been undone by underwhelming netminding. In many ways they are the antithesis of the Ducks. Ironic given how many former Ducks have passed their way in recent years, and how prominent some ex-Ducks currently are on that team.
For those who may wish for further clarity, Alex Potts from the Devils’ SBN site wrote this about their troubles in net.
Nonetheless, the Devils’ wonky netminding may give the Ducks’ struggling offensive unit a chance to get some confidence back. In particular, Rakell could be in for a night, given he’s one of the few Ducks who can get pucks on net. If the Ducks can manage to skate through the Devils and get into positions to force the netminder to make stops, then there is a good chance they can take this game away from the Devils.
The key may be to score early (yes, yes I know, Captain Obvious here). However, consider the Ducks are 31st in the league for SAT when scores are tied, and 27th when they’re behind. The Devils are 16th in the league for tied games, and 8th when they’re playing in front. Notably, the Devils break even with shot attempts when playing in front, suggesting that they play strongly enough to prevent score effects from taking place. Thus the Ducks will need to be wary of them getting the first marker, and would do well to come out with some fire, and get on the board first themselves.
Who I’ll Be Having a Captain At
14 goals, 10 assists, in 27 games puts him on pace, once again, for that magical 30 number. Fresh off a 2 goal performance against one of the leagues easy beats (the LA Kings), Palms is in the zone.
He has 5 goals and 4 assists on the power play, which is something the Ducks should be aware of. What may go under the radar is that Kyle Palmieri is currently second on the Devils for hits, which shows that he is growing into a well rounded player as he gets more and more experience as a premier top 6 forward. It’s a shame he didn’t backcheck twice before scoring in Anaheim, and thus forced Murray to move him for a nominal return, because the Ducks could really use a goal scoring forward that loves to hit right now. Just ask Bob Murray, he’ll tell you.
He’s hot. He’s young(ish). And rooting for him, is pretty much like rooting for the Ducks forwards. If they were also good at goal scoring or were fun to watch, of course.
So nah yeah I’ll have me minces glued to him this evening. Adam and Eve it
Team data collected from NHL.com
Individual player data collected from naturalstattrick.com
All data current prior to the close of last night’s games.