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Shark-Infested Blogger


May 15, 2010 2:19 PM

Round Two Performance Grades: Defence

The Sharks forwards did quite well in the Detroit series, but how did the blueline fare? While a statistical comparison does not always answer these questions, it can certainly help. And considering the system run by the Sharks is the one Detroit has been running for years, the comparison at least on the blueline is apt.

Thus I offer you the gold standard of defencemen as a base for this comparison: Niklas Lidstrom. In the preview of the series, I declared Dan Boyle to be the best defenceman in this series--I was wrong. Lidstrom had a goal and three assists in the series. No Sharks defenceman scored a goal, and no one had more than three assists.

But even though the blueline in this system is responsible for scoring, that is certainly not the only measure of their worth. One of the great things about hockey is the plus-minus rating.

In so many sports, the offensive production is all that appears in the statsheet. But in hockey, there is the recognition that someone who is on the ice for a goal may well have contributed, such as when Patrick Marleau screened Jimmy Howard so Joe Thornton could score the team's second goal--he did not deflect it or feed it, so he got no goal or assist, but he was instrumental in the goal being scored. Likewise, who cares if a player scores points but gives the up even more readily?

Unfortuantely for the Sharks blueline, Lidstrom finished plus-six for the series, and Jason Demers was the only Shark to finish above sea level (plus-one). True five of Nicky's pluses came in the Game Four blowout, but outside of that win Lidstrom was still better in that category (plus-one) in his team's four losses than any Shark but Blake and Vlasic (both plus-two) were in the four Sharks wins!

Okay, but what about a player called upon for defence--exposed to scoring chances in his own end and not given many on the other end? We can measure such a player's value in things like giveaways, takeaways, blocked shots, and hits.

Lidstrom registered just five hits and had no takeaways. His six giveaways are not that high considering how much he handles the puck, but the same will be true of Sharks defencemen, especially Boyle. But his seven blocks are pretty good, so while his performance was not without flaw, obviously he produced at an extremely high level in the other two categories, and works as a good standard for how the Sharks blueline should perform; given that, here are their grades, weighted based on expectations:

Rob Blake: B4434616792_b19dbbb13a.jpg

The captain had no points, missed on more shots (eight) than reached the net (six) and had three blocked, finished with an even rating, and only five hits in five games. So why is he a solid B? He had over one-fourth of the Sharks blocked shots (22) and had four takeaways to only one giveaway. Teams that block shots win in the playoffs, and Blake had nine more than anyone else on the ice for either team--one reason why he played just one shift less than the series leader, Boyle.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic: B

Pickles handled the puck more than his defencemate, and thus had fewer blocks (eight) and more giveaways (four) but also was able to get an assist. He was otherwise solid: even plus-minus rating, ten hits, two takeaways, six shots on goal and two more blocked.

Jason Demers: B-

Demers was largely to blame for a Detroit goal because he misread the play, and he had two giveaways to no takeaways, only five hits, and just two blocked shots. But he did was he was supposed to: Todd McLellan specifically singled-out him and defencemate Kent Huskins for moving the puck out from his own end, and he also did well on the power play; the net result of both was a plus-one rating and three assists, some of which came off his 11 shot attempts even though only four got to the net.

Kent Huskins: C+

Husk did less moving the puck out of the zone than his partner, but had just one giveaway to go with his takeaway. It is also for this reason he had just four attempted shots (just one on net) and no points. He was minus-one with two penalties, and his five hits are unimpressive, but his eight blocks were solid given he had the fewest shifts of anyone on the blueline but Niklas Wallin, who played just one game.

Douglas Murray: C

Crankshaft was second in the series in blocked shots with 13, and second in hits with 16. He contributed about what one would expect on the offensive end--an assist, five shots, one more blocked and two missed--but misread plays too often for a stay-at-home defenceman, resulting in a minus-three with three penalties, six giveaways, and just two takeaways.

Dan Boyle: C

Boyle is supposed to be by far this unit's best player, but the Sharks were arguably better off with Demers on the power play (same number of points in two-thirds the shifts) and anyone else but Demers defensively. Danny managed just three points to off-set his team-low minus-four rating and took three penalties. He did play one more shift than Blake, however, because he had some pretty solid peripheral stats: Boyle led the team in takeaways with six (more than off-setting his six giveaways), had seven blocked shots; his 23 shots on goal and 31 attempts were second on the team.

Niclas Wallin: C-

Wallin only played 16 shifts in one game, but it was the series-clinching win. He had two hits, an even rating, and no other stats.

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