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Florida Panthers Scoring Chances Through Ten Games

Check the bottom of the standings and you see a familiar site – the Florida Panthers. However, these Panthers are a different breed, at least through the first ten games. Florida may only have eight points through ten games, but they’ve only been outplayed twice – home against Dallas and at Ottawa. In fact, though hockey is a game of fractions, the Panthers’ first ten have been a group of unfortunate events. Consider that if Shawn Horcoff doesn’t kick a puck in, Colton Orr doesn’t steamroll the goaltender, and Tomas Vokoun can stop two tips against Atlanta, the Panthers have between 11 and 14 points through ten, and would be considered a surprise on someone’s “Top Five Early Season Surprises” list.

The Panthers are 27th in the league in points earned per game, in front of only the Oilers, Devils and Sabres. But in goal differential per game, the Panthers rank 12th in the league. In even strength goal differential per game, they rank 10th. Their Corsi numbers are fantastic, especially Rostislav Olesz, who leads the team in the stat. The Florida Panthers are playing well, even though the two best players on the team are not playing well.

I’ve been tracking scoring chances for Donny since the beginning of the season.  For those that have yet to see a definition, here it is:

A scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area – loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance to score and a “chance against” if the opposing team has a chance to score. Vic Ferrari makes this all possible  with his tools to evaluate Corsi, head-to-head ice time and scoring chances.

After the jump, we’ll look at the scoring chances totals for the first ten games of the season.

I’ve broken the chances down by forward and defenseman.  TSC = total scoring chances, TSCA = total scoring chances against, CF/15 = chances for per 15 minutes of even strength time, CA/15 = chances against per 15 minutes of even strength time, SCDIFF = scoring chances difference, DIFF/15 = scoring chances difference per 15 minutes of ice time.  The final stat, OPCT, is the percentage of faceoffs taken in the offensive zone, significant because it’s obviously more difficult to start in the offensive zone than the defense zone.  The table is sorted by DIFF/15.

*This table is sortable by column, simply click on the header.

85 R. OLESZ F 43 24 5.808 3.241 19 2.566 39.6
18 S. MATTHIAS F 33 25 6.080 4.606 8 1.474 58.1
27 S. REINPRECHT F 18 12 3.937 2.625 6 1.312 59.3
21 C. HIGGINS F 29 20 3.753 2.588 9 1.165 41.5
61 C. STILLMAN F 37 28 4.538 3.434 9 1.104 43.1
67 M. FROLIK F 32 25 4.383 3.424 7 0.959 53.1
13 M. SANTORELLI F 28 25 4.200 3.750 3 0.450 52.8
19 M. REASONER F 31 28 3.999 3.612 3 0.387 40
10 D. BOOTH F 47 45 5.261 5.037 2 0.224 48.6
14 R. DVORAK F 26 28 3.082 3.319 -2 -0.237 47.3
9 S. WEISS F 29 31 3.876 4.143 -2 -0.267 51.4
26 S. BERNIER F 28 31 4.133 4.576 -3 -0.443 52.1

Olesz has been remarkable. He leads the team in scoring chance differential even though he’s started in the defensive zone more than any other Florida forward. Shawn Matthias leads the Panthers in chances per 15 minutes, and the young center’s breakout season means that the Panthers may end up getting some significant return for Roberto Luongo after all. David Booth has been creating chances, but he’s also been giving them up. However, he’s given up more chances per 15 in the four games he’s been out with Stephen Weiss than any other game.

I’ve talked about Michael Santorelli a number of times thus far, especially related to his defense. Early in the season, when he was matched against the opposing team’s third and fourth liners, he was giving up chances less than half as often as any other teammate. Since moving up to play on the first and second lines, he’s given up significantly more chances than before, but he’s still above break even.

Chris Higgins has been a wonderful signing thus far for Dale Tallon – the left wing has played on all four lines, against the tough minutes and fourth liners and he’s been the stingiest forward on the team.

Only three regular forwards have given up more chances than they’ve created – Radek Dvorak, Stephen Weiss, and Steve Bernier.

*This table is sortable by column, simply click on the header.

24 B. MCCABE D 49 37 5.088 3.842 12 1.246 55.4
43 M. WEAVER D 38 31 3.824 3.120 7 0.705 37.8
5 B. ALLEN D 49 42 4.770 4.089 7 0.681 55.1
52 J. GARRISON D 27 23 3.747 3.192 4 0.555 32.7
7 D. KULIKOV D 41 36 4.126 3.623 5 0.503 52.5
6 D WIDEMAN D 50 46 4.754 4.373 4 0.380 53.6

Every Florida defenseman has generated more chances than they’ve given up, and as a group they’ve been the strength of the Panthers in the first ten games. You can see from the OPCT that DeBoer is giving the difficult work to Jason Garrison and Mike Weaver, allowing the other four defenseman to take on easier work. Bryan McCabe leads the defense in chances for and Mike Weaver has been the best blueliner by the chances against metric.

The Panthers have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference thus far, but good luck convincing the average hockey fan of this.  Gabe Desjardins recently wrote:

I have spoken to numerous NHL executives about advanced statistics and one of their biggest complaints is that the scoreboard is deceptive.  When they win despite playing badly – which happens all the time – they have limited means to convince their players of their poor play.

The Florida Panthers have the opposite problem — they’ve lost despite playing extremely well — but very few people realize it.  If the Panthers maintain this level of play, the wins and points will come.