Just Give Pekka Rinne the Vezina Already

You could be forgiven for doubting. It wasn’t at all clear whether Pekka Rinne would be able to return to the form that had garnered him two Vezina nominations. A lingering hip problem in 2012-13 that probably led him to put up his lowest save percentage in five years. Surgery, followed by post-surgical complications followed by even worse performance in March and into April. And he turned 32 this November. Everyone had questions.

Thankfully for Predators fans—not to mention goalie fans—Rinne is showing that he’s still one of the very best in the league. He may even be playing better than he was before.

It began to show in the World Championships in May, when Rinne’s performance dragged an otherwise mediocre Finnish team to the silver medal.


It has continued through the season, where Rinne has been at the top of the leaderboard in save percentage, goals against, and wins throughout from the beginning. His only real competition this season has been Carey Price. And that’s a tight race. My colleague Paul Campbell (@Paul_G_Campbell) has made the case for Price, but let’s be honest, we haven’t seen a Vezina race this close in a long time.

As of Feb 18, Rinne holds a very slight lead over Price in 5v5 save percentage (via War-On-Ice): Rinne’s .9456 is barely better than Price’s .9425. Rinne is second to Price (again, just barely—.9455 to .9433) in Adjusted Save Percentage (goalies with 750+ 5v5 minutes). Rinne has been very slightly better at stopping pucks in the high and medium danger zones. Price has been better at stopping them in the low danger zone. [Note that whenever possible, stats cited here are through Feb. 18, so that Paul and I are using the same set of data.]

They are first and second in Fenwick and Corsi Save Percentage. Rinne gets 1.11 minutes per shot attempt; Price gets 1.04 minutes. Both are outperforming their Opponents’ On-Ice Goals For/60, Rinne by 0.69 goals per 60 minutes at 5v5 and Price by 0.60. Rinne’s .773 Quality Start rate puts him solidly above his competition. Price’s .652 is sixth among goalies with more than 20 games. They are first and second in GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average), with Price leading there.

In short, going by the numbers, Price and Rinne are currently neck and neck. The differences in most of these numbers are negligible. Which one is ahead in any of the categories changes from day to day. Only the quality start rate and GSAA show much differentiation. This indicates that while Rinne has been more consistent, Price has been behind a worse team.

And that consistency is remarkable. Rinne has simply been dominating all season and has never dropped below .935 in four months. It took Price half a season to catch up.

Rinne v Price over time 201415

The next 20 games will be telling, but I don’t expect to see significant separation in these numbers develop. There simply isn’t enough time left in the season to overcome what has happened so far. It would take a complete collapse by one of the two to really make a winner clear by the numbers. Thus it will almost certainly come down to other factors.

At 32 years old, with a new goalie coach, Rinne has been refining his technical game. He’s playing a bit deeper and a lot calmer, so much so that he makes the whole business look simple. And he’s done this without losing that trademark reactivity. Adding structure without losing creativity. It has been a joy to watch.


Rinne tracks the puck better than almost everyone else. He catches the puck better than anyone else. Positioning, footwork. It’s all there. Night after night, Rinne puts it all together and makes magic happen.

And consider this: Pekka Rinne is more than keeping up with a man 5 years his junior who plays more conservatively. He has been and remains the guy to beat. It’s a remarkable feat for the big Finn. Take the play of teammates out of the equation. This isn’t an award for being the best player on the team. This is an award for goaltending. Unlike Price, Pekka Rinne has been astonishing from day one and hasn’t slowed down yet.

This is his year.

How the Lightning can Be Good at Possession and STILL Mess up their Goalies’ Stats

I was having a great discussion with Kyle Alexander and Dan Stewart on twitter today. Kyle was talking about a comment by the coaches of the Tampa Bay Lightning that cited Goals Against per Game as evidence of the team’s defensive troubles. His point was that the team was by other measures much better defensively.

Because everything’s really about goaltending if you try hard enough, I happily hijacked Kyle’s point and we started talking about how the defense affected Bishop instead of talking about how Bishop was affecting the defense. Hahahah. See what I did there? Continue reading

The Value of Failure

“If you spend your life only learning from survivors, buying books about successful people and poring over the history of companies that shook the planet, your knowledge of the world will be strongly biased and enormously incomplete. As best I can tell, here is the trick: When looking for advice, you should look for what not to do, for what is missing as Phil Plait suggested, but don’t expect to find it among the quotes and biographical records of people whose signals rose above the noise. They may have no idea how or if they lucked up. What you can’t see, and what they can’t see, is that the successful tend to make it more probable that unlikely events will happen to them while trying to steer themselves into the positive side of randomness. They stick with it, remaining open to better opportunities that may require abandoning their current paths, and that’s something you can start doing right now without reading a single self-help proverb, maxim, or aphorism. Also, keep in mind that those who fail rarely get paid for advice on how not to fail, which is too bad because despite how it may seem, success boils down to serially avoiding catastrophic failure while routinely absorbing manageable damage.”

–David McRaney, You Are Not So Smart: Survivorship Bias [emphasis added]

I’ve been playing with the ideas from this passage for more than a year now and I’m still not sure how to get a handle on it, at least as far as hockey analysis is concerned.

We do tend to focus almost exclusively on success in our analysis. It is, in fact, a core principle to do so. Remove anyone from your analysis who hasn’t seen enough success, who doesn’t have enough time.

By doing so, unfortunately, we prevent ourselves from seeing the things the successful and the unsuccessful have in common. Which means we’re assuming that the things that all successful players have in common are things that unsuccessful players do not share, when we don’t know that. We can’t see what kinds of failure are manageable and what kinds are catastrophic. Which means we may be missing out on some very important information.

The problem is that there’s an important reason why we do it that way. Randomness has a huge effect on the measures of process we use for hockey, so we have to somehow escape that somehow. The most straightforward way to do that is to have ice time/shots faced minimums. I’m not sure how to do it any other way, but I am concerned, from working with goaltending career data of all stripes, that the method hides a lot of players from view. And a lot of what those players do—at least as far as we’re able to see it right now—is very similar to what successful players do.

How, then, do we make visible the difference between success and failure? I have to admit that I don’t have a good answer to this question. But I do wonder how much the invisibility of failure has affected our answers to important questions about what hockey teams ought to do to have success.

A Message to Sam Fels and the Committed Indian: It’s not okay

I attempted to send Sam Fels this through The Committed Indian’s “contact us” page, but kept getting failure messages. I decided to just do it this way instead, because I keep having the same discussion over and over and it’s very frustrating.

There’s a lot of messages by now on your post about the name of the magazine. Thank you for opening this up to discussion; it’s a discussion that needs to happen.

At this point, however, I fear that some important messages are going to get lost in the noise that’s going on there. And there’s a lot of misinformation being spouted about where Native people stand on this issue. Continue reading

It’s Not as Simple As That

Today is Bell’s annual #LetsTalk day on twitter. You can get together with everyone else on twitter and help raise money and awareness for mental health. Just RT or tweet using the hashtag and Bell will donate 5 cents (offer valid in Canada only, but hey, it’s just a click). You can do whatever you want with it. Talk about your experiences. Declare your intention to listen to anyone and everyone. Easy-peasy.

Nothing, of course, is really that easy, and that’s especially true of mental illness. Continue reading

Jonathan Quick is Better Than You (Or Me, Or Most People)

I’ve been thinking about this article by Sam Page on whether Jonathan Quick is an elite goalie and the more I consider it the more it niggles at me. Not because I think Quick isn’t elite. I have no hesitation whatsoever in naming him one of the best goalies in the world right now. More because Sam’s answer to the question ended up being an uncomfortable one that boiled down to “um…focus, I guess?” Which is really not the right answer, although it’s part of it. Continue reading

The Great Puckology Fan Survey: Results

First I want to thank everyone who answered. I got a lot more responses than I had expected and had to close the survey down early. [It costs money to have unlimited responses, and if I were going to invest actual money in this kind of thing, I’d want to do a much better job of writing questions than I did.]

But what you’re really interested in are the results, right? Here ya go. The super-scientific* Great Puckology Fan Survey results. (*Defined here as “not at all scientific.”)

The responses were largely dominated by Boston and Chicago fans, thanks to Stanley Cup of Chowder (and the “handsome, charming, and intelligent” @HBAdventure) and Jen LC (@RegressedPDO) promoting the survey. Fans of those two teams accounted for 45% of the results, 20% for Boston and 25% for Chicago. Next most popular were the Lightning at 8% and Toronto and Nashville at 5%. Only the Anaheim Ducks weren’t represented at all, but who really cares what those people think anyway?

Overall about 60% of respondents live in their team’s market. This was very slightly higher for small market than big market teams (about 70%), but not so much higher that I think it would hold up under more rigorous testing conditions. I suspect that the fans who get exposed to this kind of survey are possibly more likely to live “abroad,” so to speak, than all fans. Someone buys tickets, after all.

About half of the people who responded follow more than one team, which was a little surprising given how much grief people get for doing this. [Note: this question was for the benefit of Christine Gunn, who gets blasted on twitter for her love of other teams. You go, girl. Ain’t just you.] Chicago, by the way, was the most popular second choice, at about 15% of those who answered this question. About 14% say they follow specific players rather than other teams. No other teams stood out much.

The officiating question was interesting. Most people (69%) felt like there wasn’t any particular bias during games and about 15% said the officials favor the home team. A few people cited specific situations, such as whoever’s losing, or different tendencies during playoffs as opposed to the regular season. One or two said the refs aren’t biased, they’re just incompetent. Fans of small market teams were very slightly more likely to see bias than big market teams, but a majority of both groups said there was no particular bias. Remember that the next time you’re on twitter during a game.

The worst fans in the NHL are…drumroll, please….

It’s a three-way tie between Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia at 16.8% each. Sorry, Toronto (8%). And St. Louis (7%). And Chicago (7%). And Pittsburgh (6%). And Vancouver (6%). Besides we all know the real answer here.

Most people listen to their home team’s broadcast, but a good proportion said they listen to a variety of sources. In fact, the proportion of people who said they listened to more than one broadcast source was greater than the proportion of people who live out-of-market. Small market fans are a little more likely to listen to a variety of sources than larger market fans.

Most people felt that the national media was at least somewhat fair to their favorite teams. Only 13% were dissatisfied enough to say that the media was not fair to them. Nearly half (48%) felt the national media was fair.

However, there was a stark difference between small market fans and bigger market fans. Small market fans were far less likely to characterize the media as fair. Seventy percent of small market fans said the media was only sometimes fair to their team and big market fans were about twice as likely to call the media fair (40% compared to 20% of small market fans.)

As for the worst national media source:


ESPN 23.84%
Blogs/Puck Daddy/Yahoo 10.60%
specific broadcasters 9.27%
newspapers (generally Sun) 9.27%
Sportsnet 5.96%
All national media equally bad 6.62%
Other 6.62%
No Opinion 6.62%

And finally, small market fans were somewhat more likely to be dissatisfied with their local media (30%) than larger market fans (13%) but most people were at least partly okay with local media.


Note: It’s kind of tough to say with clarity which teams are “big market” and which are “small market.” Going on, for instance, city population or tv market size doesn’t capture what part of that population is really watching hockey. Going by attendance puts you at the mercy of building capacity and determining what part of that attendance is from out-of-towners. Going by franchise value ended up pretty useless. In the end, I cobbled together what I felt was a reasonable distinction of 10 “big” markets (BOS, BUF, CHI, DET, MIN, MTL, NYR, PIT, TOR, VAN) and 10 “small” markets (ANA, ARI, CAR, CBJ, FLA, NJD, NYI, NSH, WPG, TBL). Everyone else is somewhere in between.


The Great Puckology NHL Fan Survey

UPDATE: The response was so good that it reached SurveyMonkey’s response limits. I’m going to close the survey now and I’ll tabulate the responses I have. Thanks for your enthusiasm. It was an unexpected gift.



Just for fun, I created a survey on SurveyMonkey for NHL fans. It’s really short, only 10 questions. If I get a good response, I’ll do a full analysis of the results. I’d appreciate any promotion you care to give it as well as any comments or suggestions you guys come up with. I know that some of you guys aren’t primarily NHL fans and I’ve got some questions about that, too, but that will have to wait for another time.

And without further ado, I present the Great Puckology NHL Fan Survey.

And thanks for reading.




Pekka Rinne’s Vezina-worthy Season and PDO Reality

Sigh. James Nelson and I keep having this argument about the Nashville Predators’ PDO and goaltending situation. And let’s face it, he’s wrong and I’m right ;-) but we’re kinda both drawing a similar conclusion (the Preds are more good than lucky). But there’s a premise in here that’s worth talking about because even if the conclusions are similar the way we get there matters. Continue reading