It’s taken me a few years, but I finally have a name (#ForNow) for my personal favorite fancy stat:

Hockey Goal Differential by Period, or Hockey GDxP, or just HGDP.

If you’ve paid attention to my nonsense for long enough you’ve heard philosophy towards winning hockey games:

A team that wins 2-of-3 periods in regulation are all but guaranteed to earn two points in the standings. 

Me, on way too many occasions over the years.
To put it in simpler terms you treat each period as it’s own separate game, to win the game you aim to win the best two out of three periods.  During the middle of the current playoff drought, it occurred to me the team relied way to much on one big scoring outburst to win. This drove me crazy. The coaching part of my brain knew this was a recipe for failure.

Philosophy behind HGDP

Part of in-game coaching has to be segmenting the games into digestible parts. Typically these segments would be in five-minute increments or span between TV timeouts. Whatever the parts may be, bench bosses are looking for positive trends during those segments, and put together that should lead to positive goal differential.

As one who does not subscribe to the newsletter than one can carry momentum between periods, I find it absolutely vital to to win the goal differential battle every period. It’s hard to put up three goals in a game, let alone in 20 minutes. But if you can win a period 1-0, 2-1 things get easier in your next period. Playing from behind is naturally more difficult since defensive play is beaten into players brains once they’re old enough to vote.

On the flip-side, teams can survive and win games if they lose one period. It’s important to keep that differential to a one-goal deficit. This is one area the Canes look drastically different so far in 2018. My HGDP concept is great until you find yourself down 2-0 midway through the first period. It would take an incredible shift in play to come back and win a game against a team that could get get that magical third goal in a game.

Because that never happens. Does it?

This is where the “compete” buzz word comes into play. This 2018-19 roster doesn’t seem to allow themselves to get down into too big a hole and get stuck in quicksand.   

Tell us more about Quicksand, Shane Falco.

Only three times this season the Canes have had a deficit after a period of two or more goals:

  • October 16, 2018 at Tampa Bay: 3rd Period (-2) included an empty net goal.
  • October 20, 2018 vs Colorado: 3rd Period (-2) included an empty net goal.
  • October 26, 2018 vs. San Jose: 1st Period, a.k.a. the Canes worst period in 2018.

When this group is down, it’s not for long and it’s not by a huge amount. It makes these comeback victories a bit easier. If you remove empty net goals against, the three-game losing streak (WPG, TB, COL) wasn’t as bad as you’d think. The offense dried up, but they never faced an insurmountable deficit.

HDPG totals over the past 5 season through 10 games

Over the years, I track every period of games and label them as Wins (+), Losses (-) or Ties (e). The Bill Peters era of this group only saw the team outscore opponents in a period around 30% of the time. And winning 2-of-3 periods in games happened at a lower rater than that.

As this year goes on, and as I finish compiling data from past seasons, I’ll present the totals through games played marks on a regular bases. Along with tracking those + / – / e marks, I also track goal differential (the right way  NHL dot COM, without shootouts included), HGDP Wins and periods where the deficit is two or more goals.

 RecordPTS+ / – / eHGDP WsDiff-2+ per
20186-3-11310 / 8 / 123+33
20174-4-2107 / 12 / 111-12
20163-4-398 / 10 / 120-34
20154-6-087 / 11 / 121-95
20142-6-268 / 14 / 82-126
2013**4-3-31111 / 8 / 11105
** Maybe Kirk Muller wasn’t that bad of a coach and had mediocre talent? His last season produced the best 10-game start to a season prior to the Brind’Amour era.Quickly scanning numbers in the table, you don’t see a huge variation in the numbers. But just like my HGDP theory, its the small incremental gains we see now that will pay dividends later.

This is the first season in forever the team has record above .500 (and don’t come at me with your hockey .500 bs). The groundwork for better team-play was laid in by Peters’ coaching and systems. The change in goal differential is obvious. But I think scoring was sacrificed in the face of his system. 

What we’re seeing now is they are turning periods they lost into wins, and they’re starting to win 2-of-3 at a greater rater.

I’ll keep an eye on these trends and re-evaluate things after the 20-game mark.

10 Random observations through 10 games

  1. The save percentage isn’t there yet, but Petr Mrazek has been stable. This has been your goaltending analysis for this post.
  2. Lucas Wallmark has the ability to be a top five faceoff center in the league one day. Currently 51.61% in the circle, he’s getting the job done in spot duty. But you can tell he needs to get accustomed to opposing centers he faces. He seems to be kicked out of the circle at an extremely high rate. During the Winnipeg game, I felt as if Mark Scheifele was picking on Wallmark by baiting him into false starts every time they met in the circle.
  3. Staal, Foegele, and Williams has gone awfully quiet in the last five games. For my money all three are complimentary players — while good, they will never drive offensive success by themselves. There is no driver on that line. As we see personnel changes for various reasons throughout the season, I’d like to see this group changes. Remember how quickly everyone fell in love with Nordstrom-Staal-Nestrasil? A good stretch or two isn’t enough, especially when the team isn’t scoring on the power play.
  4. One potential solution to that sub-par power play: remove Jordan Staal from both units. For all the positive contributions he makes to the team, he doesn’t excel at any one offensive skill: he doesn’t have soft hands, doesn’t have a quick release, doesn’t tip the puck exceptionally well, goalie screens are poor. His long reach doesn’t help him as either the net front or high-crease screen. Easy to tie up.
  5. One other change for the PP: see Faulk shoot less immediately off the draw. For whatever reason, this team plays best when they carry the puck in-transition. It makes sense 5-on-5, but it’s hampering the power play. Everyone is trying to make a play too fast. If they’re lucky to win the opening faceoff on the power play, Cheese Buscemi is better off holding the puck draw back to him. His quick blasts that miss the net will exit the zone quickly while players scramble to their position.
  6. I’ve been skeptical of Slavin’s contributions on the power play. But if the focus can move away from outside, point shots first, his ability to control the puck along the blue line will go a long way to aiding the goal scorers. Also 4F, 1D please. They’re not ready for 5F or I’d ask for that.
  7. Dougie Hamilton’s ability to settle pucks down on garbage ice (Thanks, NC humidity) the first 3+ weeks of the season needs to be talked about more.
  8. When a winger is forced out of the lineup for any period of time this year, I think Julien Gauthier is ready to make his NHL debut. I don’t think it’s any surprise he is a big contributor to the AHL’s top team [by point percentage] right now in Charlotte. It’s shocking that a 19-year-old didn’t light up the fastest league in the world last season. And while his overall play and point totals don’t match Janne Kuokkanen, if the Canes need a finisher for some Grade-A scoring chances he’d be my pick for a short stretch of games. He’ll finish the season back in Charlotte, but he’ll earn a cup-of-coffee.
  9. Aho found the “Beastmode” cheat code before the season. Too bad it didn’t work against the Sharks. In what I’d label his poorest performance of the season, he didn’t look bad. But there are nights when you play against three legitimate Norris Trophy candidates you’re not going to make a major impact. He could only add to his 10-game point streak for drawing attention before a simple pass to his countryman.
  10. Teuvo Teravainen is my choice for MVP through 10-games. His defensive play, backchecking as the high-forward in the offensive zone is allowing Aho to fearlessly carry the puck through the neutral zone. And quit all the gripes that he’s too hesitant to shoot the puck. The CorsiCup Champs could use at least one high-skilled player to look for a better play when faced with zero shooting lanes high in the zone. When he finds that lane, like he did after that Aho pass, I know he can laser it pass the goalie. But he hasn’t had to too often yet.