Friday, December 28, 2007

Zetterberg vs Lecavalier defensively

There was a particularly insightful post over at Irreverent Oiler Fans comparing Henrik Zetterberg to Vincent Lecavalier. The gist of it is that their offensive stats may be comparable, but when you look at both +/- and shots directed at the net, Lecavalier is very weak defensively compared to Zetterberg.

If I run the 5v5 shot analysis from below on these two, I get something like this:

EXP GA is the expected number of goals allowed by each player, assuming a league average goaltender. EXP SPCT is the expected save percentage under those same conditions.

Two things come out of this data:

1) Lecavalier gives up a lot more shots on goal when he's on the ice than Zetterberg.
2) The shots Lecavalier gives up aren't better shots, but Tampa's goaltending is a lot worse than average, so it looks like opponents score a lot more when he's on the ice.

I think this is the best way to visualize the situation:

Lecavalier leads Zetterberg in two major categories of shots allowed: very high percentage shots (20% chance of scoring, usually within 10 feet of the goal) and low percentage shots (2.5% chance of scoring). Those two cases cancel each other out, so overall, the average opponent shot when Lecavalier is on the ice isn't any tougher for the goalie to handle. This shows up in the minimal difference in expected save percentage.

But that doesn't change the fact that Lecavalier simply allows a lot more shots when he's on the ice, and even if they're not tough to handle, he's going to allow a lot more goals than Zetterberg.


Once again, nice analysis.

We follow the Tampa Bay Lightning as well as the Phoenix Coyotes, and perceptively, we thought that Lecavalier was doing very well comparatively to the other forwards and to his teammates.

Stats tell us otherwise. Thanks!
stats done tell everything about an individuals defensive performance. youre extrapolating numbers from an individual as if its an encapsulated scenario. sure, you bring up better goaltending but you also forget that Detroit has way better defensemen on the ice when Zetterberg is out there which can keep shot totals down, the puck in the offensive zone and keep peoples plus-minus stats high (like say, Dany Heatley's +33 or whatever it is at the moment - even though in the SCF's of last season him and Jason Spezza didnt look like they were interested in hustling or playing responsible defense.).

you can abstract these guys out all you want with numbers and charts but it never tells the entire story or how talented the players ability to actually "defend" is.

dungeons and dragons for hockey nerds
Savagist - there is no doubt that it is difficult to separate individual statistics from team statistics. I will never deny that.

But if you read the original post at Irreverent Oiler Fans, you'll see that the author expressed some doubt as to how much Tampa's goaltending affected Lecavalier's +/-. And I attempted to quantify that effect here, and I think it showed convincingly that, among other things, Zetterberg benefits from better goaltending.

Are you trying to say that Lecavalier is better defensively than Zetterberg? That if we put them both with average teammates, Lecavalier wouldn't appear to have any defensive deficiencies? That's an untenable position, and you can't back that up.

At any rate, I'd like to know what you think does tell the entire story about Lecavalier's defense. I am always looking for insights that will improve the analysis I do.
Hi Hawerchuk -

We looked closely at Lecavalier's play today against the Flyers.

It seems that both Irreverent Oiler Fan and you are pretty close to spot on with Number 4's tendencies defensively.

Sure, he gets the puck deep and puts himself into scoring position. However, he (and his line) allowed the opposition to score four shots on the goalie.

I'm in the middle with stats telling the entire story, as they cannot be used in a vacuum, but here it is clear that Zetterberg is the better overall player.

There were many times where Lecavalier let up when the opposition took control of the puck. I thought he was getting better at that, but clearly he's not.
hi pb - thanks for watching #4's defensively play. That's really the best way for people to evaluate their teams, though obviously it's hard to watch all 30 teams.

I find the numbers really help when I'm looking at a team I don't really know. And if they don't jive with what fans of that team see when they watch the game closely, we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out why.
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