End-of-season Airing of Grievances, I

With the final loss of the season still haunting me, it’s time to get some stuff off my chest. It’s the only way to move on, they tell me. First up: fans whining about officiating.

I hate blaming the referees. Everyone does it. Every fanbase in the history of organized athletic competition blames officiating for losses. They weren’t fair. They were biased. They stole the game from us. Everyone does this, and that ought to give you pause. Because unless every other human being but you misunderstands the rules, you’re not being picked on.

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Hello, dear readers

I know I haven’t been writing much here lately. I’ve been doing some things for Raw Charge and working on getting a really big project set up. All of that plus real life has left me without much time to do the kind of thing here that I want to do.

But the Lightning’s season is now over. And that gives the the chance to stop and reflect on some of the kinds of issues I want to deal with. I hope to get some writing done for Puckology in the next few days while all of this is still fresh on my mind.

In the meantime, I do a lot of my thinking-out-loud on Twitter (@Puckologist), and if you’re so inclined, give me a follow there and we can talk.

For now, though, I leave you with Carey Price’s adorable hair horns.

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On the Fallibility of Ryan Malone

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone was arrested for DUI and possession of cocaine early Saturday morning. The details aren’t one hundred percent clear yet, but they don’t really matter hugely outside of a court of law. We know enough to know that there were no injuries and there’s no real reason to suspect he was framed, not that anyone appears worried about that particular scenario. But the details don’t really change anything as far as most of us are concerned.

What matters to most of us is that, once again, we’re playing out a symbolic play using Ryan Malone as the canvas. He is the fallen, the guy who screwed up, who did something wrong. He’s the exception that shows the righteousness of the hockey community. He is the living embodiment of choices and their consequences. Continue reading

Hockey Stats Crib Sheet

For those of you who are trying to remember what all this stuff is. This is, by the way, the absolute basics. If you’re looking for explanations of these concepts, there are myriad places these days to get it. I recommend Down Goes Brown’s Faker’s Guide to Advanced Stats in the NHL.  There’s also a good series at Second city Hockey. And I did an Advanced Stats Primer at Raw Charge a while back that covers some of the basics. Continue reading

Do the Lightning play worse in front of Lindback?

It’s a common refrain all across the hockey world: a team plays differently in front of a backup than a starter. Right now, the assertion is that the Lightning are “sloppy” when Anders Lindback is in the net compared to when Ben Bishop is. And this is the kind of thing that’s extremely easy to check on.

If the Lightning are sloppier, they’ll be giving up more chances and more shot attempts, right? Basically mistakes will be so much more common that opponents will get more chances than they do when the Lightning are not sloppy. If it’s not anomalous and infrequent–if it is a pattern–it will show up in the data. If corsi is lower, it implies opponents got more zone time. If fenwick is lower it implies opponents got more scoring chances. If it happens once or twice, it won’t show up as clearly. If it happens all the time, there’ll be a clear pattern. Continue reading

Teddy Purcell, shooting, and perception: Or, things aren’t always what you think they are

Perception is a funny thing. Humans take in stimuli and interpret them and that becomes our perception. Light waves, sound waves, smells, weight, tactile sensation. All of these things get interpreted in the human brain. They’re all placed in the context that we’ve learned over the years. Every new stimulus is subject to our tendency towards patterning the world around us. And human beings are pattern-making machines. Our brains take in chaos and produce order, whether that order exists or not. And once we’ve discerned some kind of pattern, whether it’s real or imagined, it can take monumental effort to escape it.

Take Teddy Purcell, for instance. Teddy never shoots anymore, they say. Teddy would look for a pass in a shootout. If Teddy has an open shot that he would have two years ago, this year he’ll try to force a pass instead.

The thing is, by all the data, Teddy Purcell is not shooting less than he did two years ago. Continue reading

It’s not just a business

A beloved player gets traded or signs with another team. Fans grieve, get angry, and feel betrayed. It happens all the time, in every country, in every sport. And every time, out come the curmudgeons. “It’s just a business like any business. People leave for their own reasons. Stop blubbering about it.”

It’s not, though, just a business, and it’s certainly not a business just like any other business. Yes, sport generates huge amounts of revenue and there are certainly business aspects to it. But sport is far more than just a business.

Sport is, for fans and for the people involved in it and for society at large, a highly symbolic enterprise. Continue reading

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Anders Lindback positioning on “slot chances” Feb 28 (SYR)

Because I’ve been accused of “cherry-picking” when I said that Lindback didn’t play especially deep in his crease during his Crunch debut, I hereby post the proof that I was not.

Of the 65 chances I captured where the puck wasn’t in the corner or to the outside, 32 are of Lindback. Of those 32 chances, 9 are especially deep. Most of those depth decisions are explainable by the fact that the puck was low and outside and then moved towards the slot area, meaning Lindback is coming off of his posts.

This doesn’t mean he was especially aggressive. Only on a very few occasions did he get higher than toes on the outside of the line. But he didn’t tend towards especially deep positioning, either. At no time was his ass under the crossbar with the puck out front. Lindback didn’t play any “deeper” on the whole than Peter Mannino did.