By: Rich Miller (@pensbender)
Shot attempts (Corsi) are a good way to break down the pace of a game and shed light on how a team/player is performing over time. Possessing the puck is obviously very important and theoretically the team who has the most shot attempts probably possessed it the most. It certainly is not the be-all end-all stat, but is one of the several quintessential factors worth examining to determine why a team/player has or has not been successful.
Tyler Dellow of Sportsnet has developed a chart called Visualizing Corsi which illustrates an individual player’s 5-on-5 Corsi percentage directly correlated with their time on the ice with a specific teammate. The purpose is to look for certain trends. Who plays well with who? Are the best players seeing the most ice time? Where are the holes? Are there legit reasons or explanations? NARRATIVES!!!
I applied it to the Penguins, here’s how it works…
The left-most column is Pens forwards who have played more than ten games, sorted by who has the most 5-on-5 TOI/60. The defensemen are sorted along the top in the same manner from most-used to least-used on a per game basis. The numbers are the Corsi percentages of the forward when on the ice with the corresponding defenseman found at Hockey Analysis, the color codes are self-explanatory.
The most basic way to understand Corsi percentages: If a player’s number is less than 50%, the team is being out chanced while they’re on the ice. Also, red means bad. N/A’s were entered for players who had less than 30-total minutes of ice time together.
Granted half these guys are injured, but work with me here…
The regulars on the top-two lines have been really good. They’re all at or near 50% with the main high-minute defensemen.
There’s obviously been a lot of inconsistency with the bottom six. Brandon Sutter and Chuck Kobasew are unique scenarios, however. Though the Pens are being badly outchanced while they’re on the ice, they’re both positives in goal differential (each is a +1) –which is odd. This is a good example of shot attempts not telling the entire story. Digging a little deeper, the defensemen these two both share the ice with most are Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta. Niskanen has been unreal and clearly is the Pens best possession defenseman right now while Maatta leads the team with 70 blocked shots. You really can’t say enough about the jobs these two guys have done so far this season, obligatory mention that Maatta is only 19.
Sticking with the bottom six, Joe Vitale has surprisingly been pretty good this season despite not seeing a lot of ice time. Overall, the team is a positive in shot and goal differential when he’s on the ice. He saw time with the Crosby line Monday night after Pascal Dupuis left with a lower-body injury.
The Martin-Orpik columns are rather underwhelming, but if you consider almost all of their even strength time is spent paired with the Crosby line against the highest level of competition then it begins to look a lot better.
Kris Letang was second among defensemen in TOI per game but has mostly underachieved. Lots of red in his column.
Rob Scuderi will certainly be welcomed back to the lineup while Simon Despres has definitely made a case for himself to stay.
The fact that Craig Adams and Tanner Glass’s numbers don’t look good here is relatively inconsequential. They are both low minute guys who are good at killing penalties. You’ll take whatever you can get from them in terms of puck possession.
Deryk Engelland = bad for puck possession.
Not sure how Chris Conner is in the NHL.
Notable overall Corsi percentages for guys with less than ten games: Brian Gibbons (53.3%). He’s the only one who is a positive.
Okay so what does it all mean?
Again, we’re only talking about shot attempts here, but clearly it’s visible that the Pens are a top-heavy team at forward. Their bottom six for the most part has been pretty bad. Their defensemen have been unbelievable, and so far that depth at defense is covering for the lack of depth at forward. The Pens will likely look to improve that depth at forward before the trade deadline this season, you can draw your own conclusions from here.