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On an exploitable matchup and power play shooting

April 10, 2018, 10:53 AM ET [31 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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On Monday I looked at five key factors​ that will determine whether the New Jersey Devils give the Tampa Bay Lightning a run for their money, and potentially steal the series, or if the season will end in relatively short order.

I still have thoughts on the series, matchups, and some data I want to share so we'll go through that today:

1) Taylor Hall and the top line are going to see a lot of Victor Hedman – especially in Tampa Bay. That's the bad news. The good news is Dan Girardi has somehow found his way onto the matchup pairing and is expected to skate alongside Hedman during Game 1.

It takes a lot to weigh Hedman down but Girardi has somehow managed to do so during their time together. In ~220 minutes at 5v5, the Lightning control 42.73% of the shot attempts and are expected to just score 41.2% of the goals.

Some other pairings that played 200+ minutes together and posted comparably bad numbers include Cody Ceci - Thomas Chabot, Derrick Pouliot - Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal - Neal Pionk and Sebastian Aho - Adam Pelech.

Not great company for a pairing featuring a Norris candidate, huh?

If Jon Cooper is going to leave Girardi on the top pairing, I think that's an exploitable matchup for the Hall line. Hall, in particular, could have a field day while attacking Girardi's side.

2) One thing I like to look at with power play data is the percentage of shots a player takes when on the ice. It allows you to see if teams really funnel pucks to one player (a la Alex Ovechkin) or if they go with a balanced approach and have guys shooting from everywhere.

Here are the numbers for Lightning players that were regularly featured on the man advantage.

Steven Stamkos has the big one-timer but it is Nikita Kucherov who leads the charge on the top power play taking a hair more than one of every three attempts he's on the ice for. Stamkos is more than 7% behind, which is somewhat surprising to me.

On the 2nd unit, the Bolts really fed Mikhail Sergachev and had him pounding one-timers from the point. Ryan McDonagh has actually been practicing on the 2nd power play unit in place of Sergachev. I don't know if that will last, or if they'll put Sergachev out there and roll with two defensemen, but when Sergachev is out there, we know what it's for. The Lightning want him shooting.

3) Here are the individual shooting numbers for Devils players while up a man.

As you can see, the Devils take a much more extreme approach. It is *all* about Kyle Palmieri on that top unit. Be it hammering one-timers or deflecting pucks in the slot, the focus is on getting Palmieri as many shots as possible.

The difference between Palmieri and the next closest Devil on PP1 (Taylor Hall) is almost 15%. Palmieri is the clear shooter, and often times it is Hall who sets him up.

On the 2nd unit, the Devils go with a much more balanced approach. Three players (Sami Vatanen, Pavel Zacha, and Nico Hischier) take more than 20% of the attempts when on the ice. If you include Damon Severson, who regularly skates on the 2nd unit when in the lineup, that number jumps to four. Opposing teams can't really sit on one guy with PP2. That's not the case vs PP1, where opponents would probably be smart to shadow Palmieri and sit on a pass his way.

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