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Behind the Numbers

Behind The Numbers

Stats reveal NHL all-underrated team

True value of Mikael Backlund, Jakob Silfverberg, Cory Schneider, others shown by numbers

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

Most teams have secondary players who make key contributions but don't get a lot of publicity and could be poised to break out.

Statistical analysis is at its best when it serves to find such individuals, including those on the following NHL all-underrated team.

 

Tobias Rieder, LW, Arizona Coyotes

Rieder's importance to the Coyotes is best demonstrated by how he slows down Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, one of his most frequent opponents. During the past three seasons, the Sharks have been responsible for 56.1 percent of on-ice shot attempts when Thornton has been on the ice, and 52.5 percent when he has faced Rieder.

Against all competition, the opposing team's share of shot attempts against the Coyotes drops from 53.6 percent to 51.2 percent when Rieder is on the ice, despite his being assigned frequently to take on top opponents like Thornton and in the defensive zone.

Video: ARI@BUF: Rieder dances around Lehner for SHG

 

Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames

With 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 66 games, Backlund is one of the League's most surprising team-leading scorers. Playing on a highly effective shutdown line with Michael Frolik and rookie Matthew Tkachuk, Backlund has boosted the Flames' share of 5-on-5 on-ice shot attempts from 49.5 to 54.7 percent, despite starting 357 shifts in the defensive zone, which leads Flames forwards, and 190 in the offensive zone.

Far from being a blip, those great shot-based metrics are nothing new for Backlund. In his NHL career, the Flames have outshot their opponents 5,317-4,852 with him on the ice, with Backlund boosting their share of all on-ice shot attempts from to 47.0 to 52.3 percent. The increase of 5.3 percent ranks 11th among the 602 active players with at least 100 games since 2009-10.

Video: DET@CGY: Backlund hammers the puck home for OT winner

 

Jakob Silfverberg, RW, Anaheim Ducks

Every point matters, and the Ducks have added quite a few in the shootout thanks to Silfverberg, whose career 54.3 shootout percentage (19 goals on 35 shots) is tied with T.J. Oshie of the Washington Capitals for second in the League among active players with at least eight attempts. (Brandon Pirri of the New York Rangers is 10-for-18, ranking first at 55.6 percent.)

Silfverberg also is the unheralded right wing on one of the League's top defensive lines with Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano, who handle the tough minutes. Since he joined the Ducks for the 2013-14 season, Silfverberg's most frequent opponents at 5-on-5 have been Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks (124:00 and 123:33 of ice time, respectively), Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings (90:33) and Joe Pavelski and Thornton of the Sharks (87:30 and 86:30, respectively). Furthermore, his zone start percentage of 44.37 percent is second-lowest on the Ducks (Kesler is at 39.90 percent).

Despite those tough minutes, Anaheim's share of all shot attempts has improved from 50.6 percent to 52.4 percent when Silfverberg is on the ice.

Video: TOR@ANA: Silfverberg roofs own rebound to tie game 

 

Calvin de Haan, D, New York Islanders

During the past four seasons, de Haan's most frequent opponents at 5-on-5 have been Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (80:30), Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers, (77:32), Chris Kunitz of the Penguins (76:25), Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals (75:13) and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals (70:59).

With de Haan having to face those players so much, his offensive numbers would seem likely to suffer. Instead, he has boosted the Islanders' share of shot attempts from 49.3 to 51.0 percent and is plus-11. During the past two seasons his 356 blocked shots rank third in the NHL behind Francois Beauchemin of the Colorado Avalanche (388) and Kris Russell of the Edmonton Oilers (363).

Video: NYI@DET: de Haan's shot bounces into net for PPG

 

Jaccob Slavin, D, Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes' defense soon could become one of the League's best because of its core of talented young players that includes Justin Faulk, 24, Slavin, 22, Brett Pesce, 22, and Noah Hanifin, 20. They also have prospects Haydn Fleury, Trevor Carrick, Roland McKeown and Jake Bean in the system.

If one breakout star is to be selected among them, Slavin is a good choice. During his two NHL seasons, Slavin's average ice time per game at even strength of 18:36 ranks second in that group to Faulk (19:15), and his average shorthanded ice time per game of 2:34 is first.

He's the player coach Bill Peters relies on to shut down top competition like Crosby and Islanders center John Tavares, who are Slavin's second- and third-most frequent opponents, and yet he leads the Hurricanes with a plus-16 rating since 2015-16.

Digging through more of Slavin's numbers during his two NHL seasons, his 247 blocked shots are 34th in the NHL, and his three shootout goals (in seven attempts) are tied with Riley Nash for the Hurricanes lead and rank second among NHL defensemen to Kris Letang of the Penguins, who is 5-for-9.

Video: CAR@NYI: Slavin beats Berube with huge slap slot

 

Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils

Since he was acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks on June 30, 2013, Schneider has been among the best goalies by any metric. With an NHL career .923 save percentage, he is tied with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins for first among active goalies who have started more than 70 games, which includes a League-leading .843 save percentage against high-danger shots, as calculated by Corsica.hockey.

The reason Schneider fails to get more recognition when it comes to the Vezina Trophy and the NHL All-Star Game is that too much emphasis in goaltender evaluation is placed on wins and losses, which effectively are team statistics. It's not Schneider's fault that the Devils have averaged 2.19 goals per game in his 219 starts. Based on his career 61.6 quality start percentage, which leads active goalies according to Hockey-Reference.com, he has given them a chance to win.

Video: CBJ@NJD: Schneider stones Wennberg, covers the puck

Note: Opposition ice time figures sourced from Hockey Analysis

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