Nathan MacKinnon's exceptional play in the 2013-14 playoffs had people thinking he was bound for superstardom. While his numbers don't match the hype, his underlying statistics say he and a few others could be scoring machines in the second half of the season.
The first half of the season is officially in the books, which makes the perfect opportunity to look at who can bounce back after under performing during the first 41 games. Thanks to recent advances in NHL analytics, it’s become much easier to pinpoint why certain players aren’t scoring at their normal rate. Whether it’s bad luck or bad play, the answer can usually be found in the numbers.
Every player goes through scoring slumps. It’s the nature of the game. But when you’re halfway through the season, you start worrying that maybe the player has just lost his touch. It seems to be expected that goal-scorers fill the net like clockwork, but that’s just not how it works and the production usually comes in random bunches. Really, it’s all about creating chances. If a player is creating chances, the goals will eventually come. Here’s a chart showing that relationship at 5-on-5, with shooting percentages determining the size of the bubble.
Three outliers are immediately noticeable thanks to their small bubble size and position in the bottom right (lots of chances, but not a lot of goals). Unsurprisingly, it’s three players who’ve had trouble scoring in the first half:
Patrick Sharp, and
Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon came into this season with very high expectations after an explosive playoffs, but has just eight goals on the season and only five at 5-on-5. Hossa is getting up there in age, but he’s actually getting more chances this season than in any other season as a Blackhawk. He too has just five goals at 5-on-5 and nine total for the year. Sharp is perhaps the most snake-bitten. He’s scored on just 2.4 percent of his shots at 5-on-5 and has only two goals at 5-on-5 this season (nine total). It’s not from a lack of trying for any of them. Players like
Vladimir Tarasenko and
Tyler Seguin – who are at the top of the scoring race – are registering a similar amount of scoring chances, meaning MacKinnon, Sharp and Hossa are creating the same amount of chances, they’re just not converting at the same rate. There’s obviously skill to that, but under normal circumstances Hossa, Sharp and MacKinnon would definitely have a lot more goals. The three usually score between 0.8 to 1 goals per 60 minutes, but their production has been basically cut in half this season. The reason for the extended dry spell in the first half is their shooting percentage is way below their average levels. In due time, the goals will come.
The bad luck won’t last forever and there’s every indication from their past production that the trio should see a spike in the second half. Here are five others that should see an uptick in production in the second half.
Matt Duchene: Duchene flirted with a point-per-game pace over the last two seasons, but this season the former third overall pick is on pace for just 50 points. The reason for the low numbers is because of the powerplay where he has just two points. When he’s on the ice, the Avs have a shooting percentage of just 4.5 which is about one-third his usual rate.
Taylor Hall: Really, you can put any of Edmonton’s big three here thanks to a struggling powerplay that’s lowered overall production, but Hall has been the most disappointing. On pace for just 56 points after consecutive seasons above a point-per-game, his problems are similar to Duchene’s: just five powerplay points and a low on-ice shooting percentage.
Aleksander Barkov: The uber-talented pivot for Florida hasn’t been scoring at the rate he was billed at with just nine points in 30 games, a lower pace than his rookie campaign. You can’t blame this one on the sophomore slump, though. He’s driving possession for Florida and getting chances, but his teammates aren’t scoring when he’s on the ice. Barkov is scoring on 8 percent of his shots at 5-on-5 while his teammates are converting on just 5 percent.
Evander Kane: He’s scored at just below a first line rate for most of his career, but Kane’s had an unusually slow start to the year with 17 points in 29 games. Garret Hohl of Arctic Ice Hockey looked into this and one of the biggest reasons for Kane’s low totals is that he’s only assisted on 12.5 percent of goals scored while he’s on the ice during 5-on-5 play. He’s averaged around 30 to 40 percent throughout his career so expect him to start finding his way on to the score sheet.
David Perron: Percentage of ice-time at 5-on-5 with Sidney Crosby since being traded: 93 percent. He’s also on the first powerplay. That’s probably all you need to know about Perron.