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Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Help Me Understand: NHL, Hot Takes, and More

Welcome to the seventh edition of Help Me Understand.

Sports, hot takes and narratives. Some make sense, others perplex me.

— Help me understand how Sidney Crosby was the third finalist for the Ted Lindsay along with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. The Ted Lindsay award is for “The most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by the members of the NHL Players’ Association.” This is simply who was the best.

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Crosby finished 10th in points. He was 42nd in 5×5 scoring. Brad Marchand, Nathan MacKinnon and Leon Draisaitl had better seasons.

Points:
Draisaitl: 31-53-84
Marchand: 29-40-69
MacKinnon: 20-45-65
Crosby: 24-38-62

Player                  SF%         GF%      xGF%      SCF%
MacKinnon         61.4%      65.7%    63.7%     65.07%
Marchand           62.4%      63.8%    59.2%     58.4%
Draisaitl              50.3%      62.5%    50.7%     49.2%
Crosby                50.8%      56.3%    51.6%     53.4%

Draisaitl had the most points. He was also +22 at 5×5 on a team that was -1. The Oilers were -23 when he wasn’t on the ice.

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MacKinnon was +23 at 5×5 and the Avalanche were +20 when he was off.
Marchand was +20 at 5×5 and the Bruins were -6 when he wasn’t on.
Crosby was +11 at 5×5 and the Penguins were +15 when he was off.

Crosby did not have a better individual season than the other three. This award isn’t for more valuable to their team. It is who was the most outstanding. Now maybe the players know McDavid is winning, which he will, so they gave a respect vote for Crosby. I get it. I likely won’t matter who was the third, because McDavid is the easy winner, but I disagree with Crosby being third.

— A few people asked me to help them understand why home ice advantage doesn’t matter as much in the first round of the playoffs as it does in the regular season. The 16 playoff teams won 65% of their home games in the regular season. However, the overall league average was 53%.

In the first round the home team won 51% of the games. In the regular season, usually the better teams are able to defeat the weaker teams more often, especially on home ice. But in fact, home ice advantage in the playoffs, overall, is similar to the regular season average. The top teams don’t win as often as they do in the regular season, because they don’t get to face clearly weaker opponents.

— Teams who scored first in the regular season won 67.8% of the games. In the first round of the playoff the team scoring first went 31-14 (68.8%). So far in the second round it is 5-2 for teams scoring first (71.4%). So not much difference overall than the regular season as well. But it is still a clear advantage to score first. I still don’t understand how some tried to argue a few years ago that scoring first wasn’t that important.

— Help me understand how McLovin turns 40 today. Such a legend. And such an awesome movie.

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— How is it possible that Connor McDavid can’t draw one penalty in his previous eight playoff games? In those eight games he was on the ice for 197 shot attempts for to 136 against. He was on for 53 high danger chances for an 28 against. Clearly he had the puck more than the opponents, and was in a position to have an infraction called against him.

He played 160 minutes at 5×5 without one penalty being called against him. In the previous to regular seasons he skated 1,993 minutes and had a 1.23 penalties/drawn per 60 with 41 infractions called on him in 106 games. To have none in consecutive playoff seasons is the perfect example of how the NHL prefers to have their best players “fight and battle” through obstruction rather than call the rulebook. It is asinine, and hopefully the NHL superstars start voicing their displeasure, at the very least in close-door meetings.

— The NHL should simply watch the NBA to understand how to market its best players. The NBA’s star players are putting on great performances every night in the playoffs and it has been amazing theatre. I get the games are different, but in the NBA, the rules don’t hinder the best players. They allow them to flourish, while the NHL caters to the lesser-skilled players and by refusing to call the actual rulebook, it allows those players more freedom to hold, obstruct and do whatever they can to slow down the superstars. It is idiotic.

— Help me understand why we continue to plant Silver Maples in Northern Alberta. Cities waste hundreds of dollars every year planting them and you need to baby them like crazy and hope they get established, or they don’t make it. Many don’t. I’m annoyed my landscaper planted one in our yard four years ago. Coddled it for years and it still didn’t make it. Ugh.

— Which Tampa Bay forward, actually forwards, will garner the most interest this summer? The Lightning will have to trade two of their larger salaries and I doubt it will be Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point or Anthony Cirelli.

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So that leaves:
Ondrej Palat: one year, $5.3m cap hit:
Yanni Gourde: Four years, $5.166m
Tyler Johnson: Three years, $5m
Alex Killorn: Two years, $4.45

I assume Tampa will protect Kucherov, Stamkos, Point, Cirelli, Hedman, McDonagh, Cernak, Sergachev and Vasilevskiy. They could lose Gourde in the expansion draft, and I wonder if they opt to try and trade him rather than lose him for nothing?  Seattle should get a really good player from Tampa, but which other team(s) will as well via trade?

—  If there was a goalie in net and Mark Schiefele delivered the same hit to Jake Evans would you view the hit differently? Discuss.

— Help me understand why some claim analytics are pushing teams over the top. Toronto is heavily invested in them and it hasn’t helped them more than other teams. Every team uses them, some possibly more than others, but does having them clearly lead teams to better decisions? I think that should be the discussion. I see teams that are perceived to be heavily invested in analytics and teams who aren’t both making good and bad decisions.

I think those who are too pro-analytics, and those that are anti-analytics are the small minority. Analytics are a good tool. They aren’t the only tool, and I think most understand that now, but I still keep seeing some trying to fuel the pro/anti analytics argument. I don’t understand why. Move on.

— Edmonton should be better next season, because it is almost impossible for the production from their top-six wingers at 5×5 and their bottom six forwards to be as bad as it was this season. Does anyone think Edmonton will only get 15 goals from their top-two left wing spots next season when playing with McDavid and Draisaitl?

And the bottom six combined for a total of 26 goals at 5×5. Bet the house they combine to score more than 0.46 goals/game next year at 5×5. Help me understand how they could possibly be worse next year.

— But can their defencemen be as productive scoring goals at 5×5? They scored 0.43 goals/game this season with Darnell Nurse leading the way with 12.
2017: 0.35 goals/game
2018: 0.31
2019: 0.24
2020: 0.25

You might see a slight regression in goals/game from the blueline, but I don’t expect it to be much as many of Nurse’s goals were quality shots.

— Help me understand where the Oilers goalies will play next season. Holland is planning on re-signing Mike Smith, so they will have him along with Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock under contract. They also have Stuart Skinner, Ilya Konovalov and Olivier Rodrigue signed. Skinner had a breakout season in the AHL. Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft said this when I asked where Skinner improved the most this season.

“His ability to mentally handle the workload every night. He’s always had the physical tools, and this season he was able to manage his rest away from the rink, his workload in practice and morning skates. He became an elite goalie at this level,” said Woodcroft.

They will want him to play a lot again this season, while Konovalov will come over from the KHL. Could he possibly push for the backup job, or will he and Skinner battle in the AHL?

It is a good problem to have, but I wonder what they do with Stalock. You don’t want him taking reps from the younger goalies in the AHL.

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