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Showing posts from January, 2008

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Predators GM David Poile shafts the media

Word came today that Predators agitator Jordin Tootoo signed a two-year contract extension, for $1.95 million total.  It's a well-deserved extension, as Toots has rounded out his game admirably this season, and has been at the top of the Predators in terms of Penalty Plus/Minus, meaning that he's added discipline to his aggressive physical game.  Newspaper editors everywhere will surely be chastising general manager David Poile for being so stingy he couldn't cough up a mere $50K more, so that the headlines could read, "Tootoo Gets Two For Two." Mrs. Forechecker and I are going to have get a babysitter and head out for a nice dinner Saturday night, which is Tootoo's birthday (February 2nd, or 2/2, don't you know?).  No, we're not obsessed fans of #22, that's just the anniversary of the day we met ages ago, so we always celebrate Groundhog's Day rather than Valentines Day.

Four Goalies That Handle A Heavy Load, And One That Doesn't

Today's analysis was inspired by a comment left here by Magicpie over at Nucksblog, who wondered whether some NHL goaltenders perform better when they face more shots. That's certainly part of the Common Wisdom of hockey, and when asked, just about every goaltender admits that facing frequent pressure helps them stay focused. But in the final analysis, does this really hold true?

I went back through the game-by-game details for #1 goaltenders over the last two full seasons, to find out which guys fare better facing a ton of shots, and which ones wilt under the pressure. The measurements presented in the graphs below represent Save Percentage for each game, measured against the average Time Between Shots that the goalie faced, with a trendline in bold summarizing that relationship across an entire season. A line that slopes downward to the right shows that as the Time Between Shots becomes shorter, the Save Percentage tends to increase. An upward sloping line indicates a Save Pe…

Predators Get Down to Basics in Boston

Nashville launches the post-All Star Game portion of their schedule tonight in Beantown, taking on a Bruins team (25-19-5) that is one of the pleasant surprises of this season.  Boston was mostly expected to languish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, especially after losing Patrice Bergeron for the season due to injury.  In goal, however, Tim Thomas is having a career year, leading the NHL with a .928 save percentage and earning the victory in Sunday's All-Star Game (granted, he gave up 4 goals on 18 shots, but who's counting).  Team captain Zdeno Chara, who I believe is now 15 feet tall and still growing, is on pace for perhaps his finest offensive season.  Can the speedy Preds escape the intense gravity well that Chara's massive frame emits, bending time and space to take away opportunities in the Boston defensive zone? I'm guessing Scott Nichol could skate right under him... Radek Bonk returns to the lineup tonight (with Josh Langfeld heading ba…

Fantasy Forecheckers Flying High

Sure, now that the All-Star Weekend is behind us, there are plenty of features out today looking at how various NHL teams will fare the rest of the regular season. But instead, let's take a look at something really important: Fantasy Hockey Standings.



There's still a lot of work to be done, as the playoffs don't begin until March 10, but I have to give some credit this morning to the 2007-8 Fab Forecheckers (current roster):

Centers: Jason Arnott, Olli Jokinen, Vaclav Prospal, Bryan Smolinski
Left Wings: Jason Blake, Richard Zednick, Cory Stillman, Vern Fiddler
Right Wings: Markus Naslund, Dustin Penner, Fernando Pisani, Joordin Tootoo
Defence: Marek Zidlicky, Zdeno Chara, Sergei Gonchar, Fedor Tyutin, Ville Koistinen, Mattias Ohlund
Goaltenders: Tomas Vokoun, Rick DiPietro, Jose Theodore

Jason Arnott Shoots Up Atlanta

Jason Arnott represented the Nashville Predators admirably in Saturday night's All-Star Skills Competition, participating in both the Shooting Accuracy and Hardest Shot events.

When it came to Accuracy, Arnott hit the targets in each of the four corners of the net in seven shots, best among the Western Conference stars. In the final matchup with Tomas Kaberle of the Maple Leafs (who went 4-for-4 in the first round), Arnott nailed three targets in four shots, which Kaberle then matched. As a tiebreaker they took a single shot each, which Arnott missed and Kaberle hit, giving the Eastern Conference the points in that area.

Arnott was then the first one up for the Hardest Shot, and popped a 100.3 MPH slapper to set the bar high early on. The next several shooters came up short, until Vincent Lecavalier hit 101.9, and Zdeno Chara defended his crown with a 103.1 MPH rocket.

Overall, the Skills Competition had its ups and downs; the Young Stars game was fun to watch, as the rookies s…

This Hockey Fan Has a Dream, Too

With apologies to one of the truly great pieces of American rhetoric... please place tongue firmly in cheek before reading. I am happy to join with you today in what will go down as one of the lamest reinterpretations of a famous speech in the history of the hockey blogosphere.Almost fifty score days ago, the NHL Commissioner, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of hockey fans who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of the Great Lockout.
But almost three years later, the hockey fan still is not safe. Three years later, the life of the hockey fan is still sadly crippled by the manacles of franchise instability and the chains of high ticket prices. Three years later, the hockey fan lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Three years late…

How Hard Is The Road Ahead?

With NHL playoff races tight in both conferences, one factor that could help decide who makes it and who doesn't is Strength of Schedule. In order to help sort this issue out, I've updated the NHL Super Schedule so that the metrics for opponent strength (Win Percentage, Goals For, Goals Against, etc.) have been updated with team values through the games of January 17, 2008. There is also a new field at the far right (Date Value) which can be used to sort and select based on dates, so for example today being January 18, 2008, that translates to 39465 in that column. You can download your own copy of the spreadsheet from Google into Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or whatever spreadsheet program you like, and hammer away at the numbers yourself.

So who's got the hardest and easiest rows to hoe as we come into the final half of the 2007-8 Regular Season? Instead of focusing on Opponent's Win Percentage (which is horribly skewed by the standings point awarded for OT/SO Losses),…

Duck on the menu in Music City

Tonight marks the fourth in a key seven-game stretch for the Nashville Predators, wherein each night they face a team above them in the Western Conference standings.  With shootout losses against Columbus and Chicago prior to Tuesday's 3-0 win over Calgary, they've garnered four points in the first three games, and have gone 4-1-2 so far in the month of January.  With Anaheim in town, however, the Preds will be facing some stiff opposition.  Scott Niedermeyer's return from an extended vacation, err... retirement has the Ducks looking like Stanley Cup champions once again, and last week they dominated Nashville 5-2 out in California. For the Predators, the story recently has been hot goaltending once again from Chris Mason (who appears to have finally shaken off the effects of the flu which hampered him last month), along with steady offensive contributions from Jason Arnott (7 goals, 10 assists in his last 15 games) and J.P. Dumont (7 goals, 7 assists in his …

Time to go shopping, Mr. Poile

Now that the Nashville Predators know that Steve Sullivan won't be riding to the rescue this season, the focus shifts to GM David Poile, who needs to bolster the team's offensive attack. There have been long stretches on more than one occasion this season where the offense struggles to produce more than 1 or 2 goals a night, and another two-week drought like that could drop the Preds perilously far behind the other Western Conference playoff contenders.

So what kind of deal would Poile be looking for? If the prognosis is indeed for Sully to return for next season, then perhaps the sweet spot here is to look for a pure "rental" player, an upcoming free agent that Nashville has little to no intention of re-signing, and would cost the least in trade compared to a productive player signed to an extended contract. Defense and goaltending are basically well-stocked, so the need to be addressed is up front. It's time to round up the usual suspects... please note of cours…

Crank Up the Trade Speculation in Tennessee...

Just prior to tonight's 3-0 victory over Calgary, Steve Sullivan apparently addressed his teammates in the dressing room and informed that he's not going to be back on the ice during this 2007-8 season, due to the back injury he suffered last spring (article from John Glennon at the Tennessean). This basically puts to bed all the speculation about when he'd be back in the lineup, although his doctors maintain that he should be good to go for next season.

Tonight's game was a dandy, with J.P. Dumont scoring again to keep his hot streak going, and Martin Erat potting one after missing two wide-open backdoor opportunities on a previous power play. Chris Mason was stellar in net, earning his 2nd shutout in his last three starts, and Shea Weber returned to action, looking a bit rusty during his time on the power play. My "unsung hero" award in this one is Greg de Vries, however, who, in the absence of usual agitators Jordin Tootoo and Darcy Hordichuk, seemed to …

Give Me Victory, or Give Me... well, whatever you have, I guess...

Tonight brings another key Western Conference matchup for the Nashville Predators (21-19-4) as the Calgary Flames (22-16-8) come to town, leading Nashville by six points in the playoff race, though the Preds have two games in hand. Both squads are 5-3-2 in their last 10, and coming off recent losses; the Flames dropped a 2-1 decision in Edmonton Sunday, while the Preds lost in a shootout with Chicago.

Given the fact that making it to overtime ensures each team at least one point in the standings, it becomes critical in these intra-conference matchups to put away your opponent in regulation, and maximize your opportunity to jump in the standings. Nashville had to come from behind to send the game with Chicago to overtime on Sunday, but in Columbus Saturday night, an early shift to a "prevent defense" allowed the Blue Jackets to tie things up midway through the 3rd, en route to another shootout loss for Nashville.

The problem here is that Barry Trotz can point to these games and…

Don't Ease Off That Throttle!

The Nashville Predators 12-game winning streak over the Columbus Blue Jackets came to an end Saturday night, dropping a 2-1 decision in the shootout. Frankly, this is one the Preds should have had sown up, after taking a 1-0 lead late in the second period on a nice goal by Alexander Radulov. Right from the outset of the 3rd period, however, it appeared that Nashville was trying to just run out the clock. Forwards would merely gain the red line with possession and dump it into the Columbus end, making time for quick line changes.

Just past halfway through the 3rd, however, Dan Hamhuis gave the puck away to Nikolai Zherdev deep in the Predators zone, and a quick feed to Rostislav Klesla resulted in a shot that beat Chris Mason (who was generally strong in the Nashville net) to tie things up with 9:15 left. Once they remembered that offense was part of the game as well, the Predators went on the attack and threatened to score the game-winner in regulation; up through the Klesla goal, …

Nashville Predators First Half Review

After Monday night's 5-1 trouncing in Anaheim, (but before their 7-0 rout of the L.A. Kings) the Nashville Predators have now hit the halfway point of the 2007-8 regular season, so it's time for a State of the Preds review. At 20-19-2 after 41 games, Nashville currently sits in 4th place in the Central Division and 12th in the Western Conference, five points out a playoff berth currently held by Colorado. You can also reference the 1st Quarter grades for comparison, if you like. All numbers after each player's name are as of Game 41 against Anaheim. One of the main measures I'm using here is the Rating derived at BehindTheNet.ca, where they calculate the GF-GA rates per 60 minutes for each player in various situations (5-on-5, 5-on-4, etc.). The main Rating represents the difference between the team's GF-GA per 60 minutes when a player is on the ice, versus when they are on the bench. This helps reflect the difference between a guy who's coast…

Jason Arnott, NHL All-Star

The NHL Western Conference All-Star team has been announced (hat tip to Kukla's Korner), and Jason Arnott is going to represent the Nashville Predators in the midseason spectacle. Arnott leads Nashville with 7 PP goals This is a fine choice, and not just a token "we need one guy from every team" pick.  Arnott's on track for a 30 goal, 40 assist season, and is among the top players in the game in 5-on-5 action.  This is his second All-Star selection, the first coming in 1997 when he was still an Edmonton Oiler.

Preds Deliver a Royal Thumping

It sure was nice to see the Predators do something this week that the Tennessee Titans couldn't do; score a touchdown in California. Not much else to say other than "wow", given last night's 7-0 beating the Predators put on the Kings in Los Angeles last night, avenging a 6-0 defeat suffered there earlier this year.  J.P. Dumont scored to stretch his goal-scoring streak to six games, tied for best so far this season with Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, and Darcy Hordichuk looked like an effective hockey player for the second straight game, impressing me more than anything I've seen out of him in the last couple seasons.  He was aggressive with the puck, got his first goal of the year, and used his size and strength effectively.  Unlike the view from the L.A. side, this was an important game for Nashville, which is steadily climbing back into the playoff hunt, having passed Chicago and Columbus in the standings over the last few days. Oh yes, and Rya…

Halfway home, and picking up steam

The 2007-08 NHL season hits the halfway mark this weekend, so it's a fine time to reflect on the season so far, and in particular some of the outstanding performances from a statistical point of view. The individual goal-scoring race is going to be a doozy right down to the end of the season, as the main contenders at this point (Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla and Alex Ovechkin) all put a ton of shots on net, and boast excellent, but not unbelievable shooting percentages.  By this I mean that while I can see Kovalchuk maintaining his 21% pace over the course of a career season, a guy like Mike Ribiero (who leads Dallas with 21 goals) isn't going to keep scoring on 36.8% of his shots.  All three of those top snipers should keep pushing each other night after night, making the Rocket Richard race a joy to watch for fans all around the league. Since I've updated the Penalty Plus/Minus spreadsheet over at Google for the first time since the holidays, I can tell you…

Oilers - Predators Game Day

The Predators host the Edmonton Oilers tonight at the Sommet Center, and by my count, this marks the 18th time in 19 home games that the Predators have hosted a game against a team that has played the night before; last night, the Oilers won in St. Louis 3-2 in overtime, on the strength of two goals by Dustin Penner (a nice boost for the Fab Forecheckers, my fantasy hockey team).  Before winning last night against the Blues, Edmonton had gone 0-4-2 in their last six to seperate themselves from the rest of the Northwest Division, seven points behind 4th-place Colorado.  Even their 17-20-4 record is a bit overly optimistic, as 10 of those victories have come via the shootout, rather than during regular action.  You have to give credit to the Oilers for their success in the post-overtime spectacle, but it's hardly a reliable way to rack up points in the standings.  In their only previous meeting this season on November 2nd, the Predators won 4-1 in Edmonton, during t…