Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bloody Chiclets: Some Early Stats and Online Games

NHL logoDucks logoSens logoLeafs logoNiedermayer decision coming soon? Five games into a less than fantastic start for the defending Stanley Cup champions and Nidermayer is soon going to fill us in on whether or not he's going to grace the Ducks with his presence? And therein lies the answer to this increasingly self-serving display of procrastination.

Niedermayer simply wants to convince his teammates and the rest of the league that he, in fact, is not expendable. The longer the Ducks struggle, the greater his loss is felt and the more his stock rises. At the merest hint that Anaheim is returning to form, he will slide back into the line-up and ride the wave with them, undoubtedly bolstering their fortunes even more as they improve beyond what these first few games suggest.

More likely, he's doing a stint of scouting his current/former team to see if it really is worthwhile to return for another year. Without the assurance of another competitive season with a reasonable shot at repeating as champs, it may seem like a redundant uphill slog to someone like Niedermayer who already has four Cup rings and a barnful of other hardware.

Or, he could just be enjoying the experience of not getting hammered into the boards (and doing a good deal of hammering himself) in October for the first time in almost 20 years.

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Hard to start crunching numbers or establishing trends with only a handful of games played by most teams, but here's an interesting stat. The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently the most penalized teams in the NHL (discounting the Ducks, who have played two more games than the Buds and the Sens, though their per game average is still lower.) Ottawa and Toronto have 31 and 30 minutes in penalties respectively while both have been short-handed 20 times over the span of three games.

The difference between Ottawa and Toronto is that the Senators haven't allowed a single goal while killing penalties while the Leafs have given up two. Ottawa has actually fared even better than that, scoring two short-handed goals. Toronto has allowed a short-handed goal but scored none of their own.

With the man advantage, Ottawa has scored two goals and Toronto just one (the game winner in overtime against the Canadiens yesterday.)

At least some part in why Ottawa has the maximum six points after three games and Toronto just three. Special teams are a huge part of any team's success and this year will be no different as it appears the obstruction and stick penalties will be called as tight as ever.

The numbers aren't that far apart of course, and most importantly, the three games make it all the more lacking in significance. Still, I'm dying to start seeing the trends develop so I thought I'd get some early practice. After ten games things will warrant a far closer and more relevant look.

As for the stats themselves, I've relied on Yahoo! sports for the above numbers. I have seen at least one discrepancy elsewhere regarding the number of times Ottawa has been in a penalty killing situation, with the Globe and Mail quoting 19.

Speaking of stats, there is a satcheful of online sites that cater to those who love the numbers games. The NHL site is a good starting point and also includes links for all the individual team sites. Hockeydb provides some great individual player numbers and details that span over their entire careers. I like ShrpSports for the snapshots they provide of previous seasons including the standings as they were at any particular date in the past.

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The attempts to watch games online have proven fairly useless so far. What happened to those glorious, uninterrupted stretches of streaming during last season's playoffs? No doubt it's down somewhat to my internet connection though there are limits to what I can do to improve that. Radio is a weak alternative but still provides some respite.

I like the feature from NHL.com that gives you the real-time scoreboard of individual games on your monitor together with a pretty good ticker of all the action. The detail in the ticker is impressive with surprisingly intricate play by play that includes shot type, blocks, hits, penalties and of course goals.

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To access the scoreboard for a particular match-up, go to NHL.com Scores and then click on the "Real Time" link that appears next to a game that is currently in progress.

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