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Behind The Numbers

Kucherov, Giordano, Pettersson have cases for NHL awards, statistics show

Underlying numbers provide different lens to evaluate player performance

by Scott Cullen / Correspondent

Nikita Kucherov, Mark Giordano and Elias Pettersson are among the picks for the Behind the Numbers 2018-19 NHL awards.

Taking an analytical approach to the awards does not mean overhauling everything we believe about who deserves to be honored for their performance during the regular season, but it offers a different lens through which to process and evaluate player performance.



Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The right wing led the NHL with 128 points but there might be a tendency to diminish the value of that production because Kucherov had 48 of those points on the power play. That left him with 80 at even strength, tied with Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane for second place, one point behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Kane led forwards in even strength time on ice with 18:47 and 18:44 per game, respectively. Kucherov averaged 16:12, so when it comes to per-minute production, he ran away from the field with 4.69 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play (minimum 20 games). 

Steven Stamkos, Kucherov's teammate, had 3.92 points per 60 minutes to rank second among those to play at least 70 games. Kucherov's 4.69 is easily the best since the NHL started tracking this scoring rate in 2009-10. The second most productive rate in that time (minimum 70 games) was Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin with 4.15 in 2011-12. Given that historical excellence, Kucherov has the underlying numbers to deserve the award as NHL Most Valuable Player.

Video: TBL@BOS: Kucherov sets record with his 128th point



Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

When the 35-year-old was on the ice at 5-on-5, Calgary controlled 57.34 percent of the shot attempts, second among all defensemen to play at least 70 games behind Dougie Hamilton of the Carolina Hurricanes (57.64).

Giordano's relative shot attempt percentage of plus-5.19 tied for third with Brian Dumoulin of the Penguins among defensemen to play in at least 70 games behind Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators (5.58). Not only did the Flames have dramatically better shot attempt results with Giordano on the ice, he also had 2.35 points per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 play, second behind Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks (2.42). 

The Flames were controlling play with Giordano on the ice and he was contributing offensively at an elite level. That well-rounded performance sets him apart from the rest of the contenders at the position.

Video: ANA@CGY: Giordano buries slap shot past Miller



Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars

Though there remain variables in goalie performance that aren't adequately measured, one of the main points is that even-strength save percentage provides a more consistent base for evaluation, that a team's penalty-killing unit, for example, can provide a wider variance in terms of quality of shots allowed. So save percentages while shorthanded can be relatively more dependent on the team than the goalie.

Bishop was best at even strength with a .938 save percentage, which provided the foundation for his .934 save percentage in all situations, the best among goalies to play at least 40 games. 

There may be arguments about Bishop's workload (46 games), but more active goalies like Pekka Rinne (56 games for Nashville Predators) and Fredrik Andersen (60 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs) also had respective even-strength save percentages of .928 and .927. Their greater quantity of work is not enough to overcome the quality of Bishop's work.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm7: Bishop kicks out Edmundson's quick shot



Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks

The 20-year-old center ranked first among rookies with 1.30 goals and 1.76 assists per 60 minutes. Pettersson's points per 60 minutes was third among rookies since 2009-2010 behind Mathew Barzal (3.50 in 2017-18) and Artemi Panarin (3.12 in 2015-16). 

The top rookie defensemen, Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars) and Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres) had a relative shot attempt percentage of plus-3.11 and plus-3.09, respectively, indicating that their teams fared more than three percent better in terms of shot attempts with them on the ice. Pettersson was in a similar neighborhood, with a relative shot attempt percentage of plus-2.91, so that doesn't stand as a point of differentiation.

Beyond the two defensemen, Pettersson's other top challenger is St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who had a .936 even-strength save percentage in 32 games. The only point up for debate is whether 32 games from Binnington is enough to win an award over skaters who played more than 70.

Video: VAN@CHI: Pettersson sets Canucks rookie scoring mark



Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

Though enhanced stats will not tell us everything about a player's contribution, they do provide details that lead to a clearer picture of his performance. But it can still be difficult to quantify defensive performance. In the case of Stone, who played for the Senators and Golden Knights this season, each of his teams fared better with him on the ice.

Stone's relative shot attempt percentage was plus-8.16, second among forwards to play at least 70 games behind Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings (plus-9.77). Stone's teams consistently outshot opponents when he was on the ice and he is an exceptional forechecker who had 122 takeaways, 22 more than Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov. 

Since 2005-06, there are three other seasons when a forward had more than 122 takeaways: Pavel Datsyuk had 144 in 2007-08 and 132 in 2009-10, and Stone had 128 in 2015-16. Stone has a rare ability to retrieve the puck and it results in his teams generating consistently better results with him on the ice.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm3: Stone tallies first career hat trick

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