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Score Situation Possession and TOI via ExtraSkater

ExtraSkater posted a new page this week that provides possession and percentage of time on ice for 8 different score situations. The Blues ranked first out of all teams in NHL in fenwick when they are up by 2 or more goals. But then you already knew that, right?

Dilip Vishwanat

ExtraSkater's new stats page for team TOI and fenwick for a variety of scoring situations provides an interesting look at a team's possession stats for the percentage of time they are on the ice for a given scoring situation. All these stats are 5v5 so it doesn't include any empty net situations or powerplay situations. If you remember from last season, one of the writers over at Eyes on the Prize came up with an analysis showing the correlation between the possession stat fenwick and whether or not a team made the playoffs (fenwick is just like corsi, except you do not count blocked shots). They demonstrated that at the end of the season teams who make the playoffs have at least 50% fenwick and those who are "cop contenders" have a 55% fenwick (anything over 50% means the team has possession of the puck more then opponent). Possession stats like corsi and fenwick have been shown to be better predictors of team and player performance over the course of the season than most other stats. ExtraSkater uses a fenwick per 60 minutes of ice time. The advantage of using this type of stat is that it evens out the ice time between teams since some teams might spend more time in certain scoring situations than other teams.

As soon as I visited the page on ExtraSkater, I sorted the table by close for the % of 5v5 TOI. I wanted to see where the St. Louis Blues ranked out of all the teams in the NHL right now. A close score situation is defined as the score being within 1 goal during the first 2 periods of the game and tied during the third. I was somewhat surprised to see the Blues at the bottom of the list of teams. However, when looking at all the score situations for the Blues, the close situation is actually the highest percentage of on ice time so far this season for the team. Not sure what to make of this. This could be the result of the Blues having a handful of games where they either obliterated their opponent or were obliterated by their opponent. Interesting to see how some of those games from earlier in the season impact stats later in the season.

But what I was most interested in was the Blues' possession numbers compared against the percentage of 5v5 ice time for specific situations. I am mostly concerned about the Blues possession numbers when they are leading against an opponent. Take a look at the chart below. I have filtered the chart to show just the Blues stats from the ExtraSkater page. You can click on each of the score situation headers to highlight that situation in the scatterplot. Go ahead and click on the "Up 1" column in the table. See the Blues icon that is highlighted? Do you notice how it is the only data point underneath the zero line? When the Blues are up against an opponent by one goal, they actually give up possession to the opponent during 5v5 play. It isn't much, but, let's take a look at how it compares against other teams.

First, click on the team filter and select "(all)" and then click the apply button at the bottom. Then select the situation filter, and unclick "(all)" and just click "Up 1". Make sure to click on apply at the bottom. Now you are viewing all teams % of 5v5 TOI and fenwick per 60 minutes of ice time when they are up by one goal. Now, scroll through the table and find the St. Louis Blues. Click on the team name. See where they fall on the scatterplot? There are about 6 teams that have positive possession numbers when leading by a goal. If you draw a box around those icons on the chart, you will see them highlighted in the table below. You can also hover over the top of the fenwick column in the table to use the sort buttons. The Kings, Blackhawks, and Sharks all have positive possesion when leading by a goal. The Blues, have negative. That is troubling to me.

In my opinion you want the Blues to have more control of the puck when up by a goal. A one goal lead is not a safe lead in the NHL and definitely not a safe lead when you are in the playoffs. As far as I am concerned, if the Blues cannot improve their fenwick/60 when they are up by a goal during 5v5 ice time, they are not going to go as deep in the playoffs as many of us hope they will this season.

The good news however is that the Blues are ranked 3rd in fenwick-close within the Central Division. The only teams ahead of them are Chicago and Dallas. This is a good thing and provides some perspective on the Blues' long term prospects for the remainder of the season. Their fenwick close stat is a nice number to hold on to when they stumble against teams like the Senators because it is a reminder that they are a good hockey club and they are capable of great things this season.