Forward Scoring At Home And On The Road

Playing on the road presents certain difficulties that playing at home does not. In addition to the greater frequency of back-to-back games coming on the road, the coaching has staff has much less ability to control the matchups away from home.

Looking at the difference between home and road performance among Oilers forwards in 2011-12, some interesting trends manifest themselves.

This post started with a look at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. At home, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 34 points in 30 games in 2011-12 – the best points/game rate on the team, better (by a hair) than Jordan Eberle and miles ahead of the other centers on the roster.

On the road, however, something funny happened – Nugent-Hopkins scored just 18 points in 32 games – a rate that puts him back in Sam Gagner/Shawn Horcoff territory. There was also a radical swing in his plus/minus – from plus-7 at home to minus-9 on the road.

In terms of overall scoring, the decline meant that Nugent-Hopkins was twice as likely to score in a home game as he was in a road game.

I’ve gone over the whole set of Oilers forwards and divided their scoring by home and away games. I’ve also projected every regular’s totals over a 41-game schedule (as each team plays 41 home and 41 away games) in order to iron out small differences in games played between the group.

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t end up winning the Calder Trophy, but I do hope he sent a nice fruit basket or something to Tom Renney when his ex-coach got fired.
  • Lest anyone accuse me of mindless Eberle bashing, I should point out that while his rate of scoring on the road drops significantly from his totals at home, it still represents the second-best total on the team (behind Taylor Hall). With that distinction noted, however, is there anyone who doubts that Tom Renney was a) getting him favourable matchups at home and b) that those favourable matchups made it easier for him to generate offense?
  • There’s not a lot to say about the rest of the group here – the gap between the third ranked Hordichuk (+2) and the bottom-ranked Smyth (-8) is smaller than the gap between second and third.

We talk a lot on this site about how the progression of young forwards isn’t linear. A big piece of the puzzle is simply coaching – when a coach gets forwards with the gift of scoring, he typically tries to get as much scoring out of them as he can, right away. That’s what happened with both Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins this year, and something that should be kept in mind going forward: the coach will not protect them at home forever, because eventually the other, less-developed areas of their respective games will grow. There’s value in being the kind of player that decimates softer competition (they do that now) but there’s more value in being the kind of guy who can score regardless of who is facing off at the other end of the ice. Both Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins should eventually be the latter sort of player, but undoubtedly there will be bumps along the way as they grow into the role.

One last note: I’ve also been looking at some of the underlying data – shots for and against at even-strength at home versus on the road, shots for and against relative to ice-time, etc. – and I’ll be posting some of that here over the next few days. 

Related by Jonathan Willis

  • justDOit

    I love watching that under-sized rookie eat up real NHL opponents – even if he was getting the easiest matchups.

    There was one game last year where RNH and Ebs ran the show against the $200M+ pair of Suter and Weber.

  • Chainsawz

    Coach using his best players at home to get favorable match ups??? I hope this comes to end soon so guys like Lander, Hartikainen and Paajarvi can take offense zone draws against lesser opponents… I bet this will do wonders with the teams home record. But at least ON’s brightest bloggers will be right. Or close. But never wrong.

    • Are you an idiot?

      OBVIOUSLY, a coach wants his best offensive players getting the most offensive minutes. In Vancouver, the Sedins typically get insane amounts of time in the offensive zone – and I’ve spent a ton of time praising Vigneault for how he manages his bench. If you look back over the Eberle/RNH articles – particularly RNH – you’ll notice how much I praise Renney for developing them in such a logical fashion.

      There’s not even a hint of a whim of a notion that it’s a bad idea in the post above. That’s straight up your idiotic assumption.

      BUT, eventually, LIKE THE SEDINS, the Oilers will want their star forwards playing offensive minutes against the opposition’s best. Therefore, expecting their level of competition to go up makes perfect sense.

      Do everyone a favour: make judgments on what’s actually written, not what you think is written.

  • Top 3 in the NHL Points:

    Malkin -61% @ home
    Pitts. -54%

    Stamkos – 59% @ home
    Tampa -57 %

    Giroux – 58% @ home
    Philly – 53%

    Eberle – 56% @ home
    Oilers – 51%

    Parise – 57% @home

    Zetterberg – 59% @ home

    Eberle is not alone @ home.Other big guns playing in similar sandbox.I didnt look at zone starts, but the guys on this list are there to score points.

    • Yeah, there’s a slight home bias to player scoring – mostly because NHL teams score more at home than on the road. Looking through team’s top scorers, Eberle has a larger home bias than average, but not ludicrously so – and as noted in the piece above, he is the team’s second-best point-per-game guy on the road, which I think is indicative.

    • Just to give you the numbers, among players who lead their team in scoring, Eberle ranks top-10 in terms of percentage scored at home.

      He’s still (obviously) a good road scorer, he’s just not quite at the same level as guys like Ovechkin, Sedin, Iginla, Staal, Nash, Kopitar, Gaborik, Spezza, Thornton and the like – where they get fairly even splits because though they play offensive minutes they see good opponents everywhere they go. That’s the level, hopefully, that all of the Oilers top picks will end up playing at.

      • DSF

        The truly amazing thing about last season’s rookie crop was the performance of Landeskog in home/road splits.

        The kid is a beast, playing the toughest competition and outscoring them by a ton on the road.

          • Cheap Shot Charlie

            I’ve never seen someone with such great hindsight! Maybe you could tell us all about how if we picked the winning lottery numbers last week we would have won last weeks lottery!!!

            Time to start focusing on what you have and not what you could have had.

            And what you have is a *HUG*!!!

            p.s. if you did a little forward thinking you would have seen that coming. 😉

          • DSF

            Sure I do. The information is readily available.

            Here are the home road splits for the top 5 rookies last seson:


            Home – 23

            Road – 29


            Home – 34

            Road – 18


            Home – 23

            Road – 28


            Home – 19

            Road – 26


            Home – 22

            Road – 19

            So, the only other top rookie from last season who didn’t score more on the road was Hodgson and that is likely a function of the way he was showcased by the Canucks with huge offensive zone starts to pump his trade value.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Failure once again DSF.

            The original poster said:

            “The even more amazing thing is that RNH would have blown Landeskog away in scoring had he had the same amount of games”

            To which you replied:

            “Not if he played #1 QC and didn’t get zoomed on zone starts.”

            You have no idea how many points Hopkins would have had playing a full season against #1QC without beeing “zoomed” on zone starts (whatever that means.

  • It didn,t help last year that with injuries/ineffectiveness to our skill players, we were basically a one line team. Easy for opposing coaches to match up on the road.

    All the more reason we needed to pick Yakupov. Going in to the season we should have 2 top lines, and i think it should make a big difference when it comes to matchups on the road.

    They can’t put thier best checkers out against 2 lines.

  • OilClog

    He’s still (obviously) a good road scorer, he’s just not quite at the same level as guys like Ovechkin, Sedin, Iginla, Staal, Nash, Kopitar, Gaborik, Spezza, Thornton and the like – where they get fairly even splits because though they play offensive minutes they see good opponents everywhere they go. That’s the level, hopefully, that all of the Oilers top picks will end up playing at.

    How many of those players were at eberle’s level this early? 2 or 3? Eberle’s job isn’t to play against the likes of those players, his job is to make the opposition pay when they’re not on the ice. When we have Horcoff, Smyth, Belanger types it only makes sense to use them to their abilities.

    The forward group is at the point where the opposing coach is going to have to pick his poison. Eberle has proved time and time again he’s a killer under pressure.

    Under hand jabs because Eberle hasn’t reached iginla or ovechkin status is idiotic. Thorton was traded.. I mean, it’s just hard to stomach.

  • paul wodehouse

    …so much unreal talent the one i liked the most is where he appears to be passing the puck to 89 in the slot …who lets it go through his legs so 14 can bang it home … set play? i think so …yikes!!!

  • DSF

    Mr. Willis,

    I’m curious how the points production home and away split at even strength. Is the dichotomy with 93 and 13 as magnified when their strength on the power play is removed?

    • I haven’t split the point production between even-strength and power-play, but my guess would be that it’s even more pronounced once the power play is taken out of the picture.

      To use RNH as an example, the Oilers out-shot the other team 239-to-190 at even-strength at home last year. On the road, they were out-shot 253-to-189.

  • vetinari

    I keep thinking of the disclaimer you read about at the start of mutual fund reports- “past performance may not be an indicator of future results”… but hey, it’s all we’ve got, right? I wonder how much a change in coaching will affect the kids? I think of Ovechkin’s performance and point totals over the last few years with his different coaches as an example.

  • The Soup Fascist

    While it is obvious matchups and who controls them are the major factor in limiting road points, is there a trend that the bias decreases over time? That is, a rookie is not as in tune with travel, nuances of different rinks, not as aware of the tricks of the trade, etc as a veteran.

    JW, have the home / away scoring ratio of the Crosbys, Stamkos, Tavares of the league improved over time? I would suspect playing in a hostile NHL rink is a learned skill.

    I like Landeskog he is a great player. But all around players typically do not draw the toughs like the #1 offensive center on a team. Whichever line RNH centered became the defacto #1. And until Gagner breaks out (and Yak will help) RNH is on an island. He draws the hometeams top defensive center all the time. Even Sid gets a break with Malkin.

    Look for home away distribution to improve due to additional talent and the kids figuring it out.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Natural progression of our young elites should improve those figures this year . Veterans will also get better as the team is now better and deeeper . Paajarvi should help increase those figures as he finally starts to become the player we expected of him . Hemsky should flourish this season . Yakupov and Schultz can only help rest of team move forward this year . Can’t see anyone on team having a downturn in this turnaround season . Jones may also escalate .

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Watching all those highlights made me very sad………it’s because we will have to wait for another year to see RNH, making all those wonderful plays.

    Yea, if there is one guarantee it’s Bettman will force another lockout and the players having a union mentality……..outside of wage parity…….will oblige.

    I hope for the love of God this does not happen…….but it seems that labour negotiations do not move until everyone forces each other to suffer!

    I hope that SNW changes feeds to the baby Oilers!