Henrik Zetterberg’s four-assist night highlighted by dazzling no look pass

Jared Clinton
Henrik Zetterberg

Johan Franzen is going to owe Henrik Zetterberg a couple gifts.

The two Swedes connected for a pair of goals before the Red Wings game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was even half through. The first of what would be four assists for Zetterberg on the night was an absolute laser of a pass that found Franzen sneaking in backdoor for a tap in. The second, somehow, put that one to shame.

With just over five minutes gone in the second period, Zetterberg corralled an arcing puck that landed right in front of his feet. The Wings’ captain broke around Leafs’ Jake Gardiner, drove to the net, and, with no angle to shoot, fed a behind the back, no look pass to Franzen for his second of the night.

Zetterberg followed it up with the primary assist on the Gustav Nyquist’s goal and a secondary helper on Justin Abdelkader’s marker early in the third. The Wings held on for a 4-1 victory. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Eric Staal in Toronto’s sights?

Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

In their quest to land a true first-line center, the Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly cast their eyes south to Carolina and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Maple Leafs held discussions with the Hurricanes during the summer, but the asking price could be “enormous.”

McKenzie speculates such a move could cost the Leafs either Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak (as the Hurricanes would need a center to replace Staal), a first-round pick and perhaps defenseman Jake Gardiner, but he believes it’s a price the Leafs are willing to pay. Read more

THN Analytics: Slow start? Firing the coach might not be the fix

Randy Carlyle (Getty Images)

By Benjamin Wendorf – special to THN

As the fervor dies down from the fever pitch of opening games, NHL teams and their fanbases shift into the time-honored ritual of agonizing over early-season results. A few coaches begin to feel the walls close in, and regardless of testaments of faith by upper management, at least one will be fired in the first few months. Do teams carry out these decisions wisely? What kind of measures can help us determine if it’s a good move?

Reaching back to the THN Analytics stats primer, the best team measures we can use relate to regression and possession. For regression we can use “PDO,” or a team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage (for historical comparisons, I only use the first two periods to avoid the effects of “protecting” leads). It’s often expressed as a whole number like 980 or 1000, rather than their actual values of .980 or 1.000. Teams that are far above or below a range of about 990 – 1100 pull heavily (or regress) towards that range the remainder of the season. PDO is a great metric for this kind of study because its measure speaks directly to a team’s success in scoring or preventing goals.

Possession is currently best measured by Fenwick Close, but we can go further back in NHL history by using a team’s shots-for in the first two periods divided by both teams’ shots-for in those periods, called two-period shot percentage or 2pS%. It runs side-by-side with Fenwick Close, has a strong relationship with outscoring, and provides about 50 more years of data.

Using these two measures, we can look at a large body of coaching changes in NHL history. Through 140 coaching changes (minimum 20+ games for each coach), the before-and-after of PDO and possession is telling:

Screen shot 2014-10-16 at 7.42.33 PM

Historically, the changes have barely registered an uptick in possession (that 0.4% is worth a little less than one more goal-for), but that PDO shift would be good for about 14 more goals-for. In other words, NHL teams tend to cut bait when bad luck, not necessarily bad leadership, seemed to be the bigger problem. For comparison’s sake, I also put together a complete list of 97 coaching performances where the coaches had significantly low PDOs through the first 20 games but didn’t get canned: Read more

No NHL edict directing linesmen to break up fights before they start

Ken Campbell
Dion Phaneuf (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

According to the NHL’s director of hockey operations, linesmen Greg Devorski and Scott Driscoll acted of their own accord when they decided to intervene before Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf could start fighting Tuesday night, and were not following a league edict.

And that’s because there isn’t an edict for them to follow.

There was no shortage of consternation from fans and television analysts when the two linesmen intervened in what everyone assumed would have been a doozy of a fight between Phaneuf and Iginla, former teammates and friends who have attended each other’s weddings. This was not a staged fight, they argued. It was more of an “organic” fight that is much more palatable because it arose from the high emotions of the game. And to be fair, there was a lot of contact and some questionable hits prior to the incident. Read more

Goodbye, NHL enforcers. Believe it or not, I won’t miss you

Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There was a time when I watched a hockey game and if there wasn’t a fight I felt ripped off.

I loved a good  scrap; so much so that when Steve Dryden offered me a position at The Hockey News in 1992, I took the job on the condition I would never have to write an anti-fighting story. I was well-aware of Dryden’s stance that there is no place for fighting in hockey and I did not share the sentiment.

How the times have changed. I have not yet completely sided with the anti-fighting movement, but I am close. Very close. I no longer have a thirst to see two huge men pound on each other even though the dinosaur in me understands why the game needs such an outlet.

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Is The Hockey News biased toward the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Ronnie Shuker
MapleLeafsMain

So, yeah, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 1-2-0 to start the season. Ho hum. There will be a lot of that in Hogtown this season: losing.

To the surprise of a certain segment of the NHL fan base, however, we at The Hockey News collectively don’t really care whether the Maple Leafs win or lose. We have no horse in that turtle race. Sure, there are Leafs fans among us, but there are also Canadiens fans, a Flames fan and, until recently, even a Panthers fan (no joke). Heck, there’s also some egghead editor whose allegiance shifts annually with his Stanley Cup prediction. (This season, it’s the Ducks.) Read more

Toronto Maple Leafs juggle struggling Jake Gardiner, soaring Stuart Percy

Ryan Kennedy
Toronto's Stuart Percy  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Jake Gardiner brings one of the highest risk-reward games to Toronto’s depth chart, but early on in the season, the young defenseman seems to have been usurped by rookie Stuart Percy, who counters with smarts and mobility. On the morning of Toronto’s home tilt against Colorado, the big question was whether Gardiner was going to draw in after he had been scratched for the Leafs’ big win in New York over the Rangers. Coach Randy Carlyle was cagey after the morning skate, saying it was a “coach’s decision” (but you’re the coach!) and that the final answer would come after warm-ups. But one thing is clear: Percy is making it hard for the Leafs to take him out.

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Breathe easy, Maple Leafs fans – Phil Kessel scored

Josh Elliott
Cody Franson, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk

It’s incredible how quickly Leafs Nation hits the panic button. Only in Toronto will a 0-2 start to the season become cause for concern – and cause for throwing a jersey on the ice.

But blow out the New York Rangers 6-3 – with a three-point night from Phil Kessel, no less – and the tone in Leafs Land changes pretty quick.

After the Leafs dropped a hard-fought opener to Montreal 4-3 and fell apart in a 5-2 loss to the guns-blazing Pittsburgh Penguins this week, some were talking like the sky was falling in Toronto. Heck, one panic-stricken fan was so hopeless that he threw his jersey on the ice in Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh.

That guy probably regrets chucking his sweater now, because Sunday’s team looked nothing like the one in Toronto on Saturday.
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