Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Slump Busting

For Thrasher fans December has been a month without much holiday cheer. After winning the first two games of the month the team has fallen on hard times blowing leads and getting blown out (TB, NYI). A five game winless steak haunts the team.

To cure the disease you need to figure out what the problem is, so what exactly is the cause of the most recent slump? I've seen some people point to the injury of Andy Sutton as the cause. Now I'm not a huge Sutton supporter, but I'm open to the evidence so I sat down and did a quick look at the month-by-month output of the Thrasher offense and defense so far this season.

Month

Offense Average

Defense Average

Difference

October

3.62

2.69

0.92

November

3.21

3.14

0.07

December

2.00

3.71

-1.71


I think even the math-challenged can see what is going in the table above. The Thrashers offense has suffered a dramatic collapse. So far this month the offense has declined 41% from the production levels seen in October and November. While not quite as extreme as the decline in offense, the defense has also suffered allowing 21% more goals than it did during Oct-Nov period of time.

Where is the offense drought coming from? Is the power play to blame or even-strength play. Well I did some quick calculations (i.e. I did not remove the SO goals so this isn't perfect) and looked at the Thrashers Goals Scored per game and then broke it down into power play goal production and Even Strength + Short Handed Goal production.

Thrasher's Offense Production

Month

Goals per Game

PP Goals per Game

ES + SH Goals per Game

October

3.62

1.08

2.54

November

3.21

1.00

2.21

December

2.00

0.86

1.14

Again the above table is pretty stark. You can see that Power Play goal production is down a bit, but the decline is not enormous. The same can not be said of goal production at Even Strength which is roughly half of what we saw in Oct-Nov period. Ouch! Those are some ugly numbers for a team that hopes to be a contender. Atlanta simply MUST convert more of those even strength chances of they are going to pull themselves out of this slump.

What about the defense? I hear a lot of complaints about the team's penalty killing sitting in my section of the stands. So I ran the numbers and separated out the team's Goals Against Average per game into Power Play Goals Against and all other Goals Against (ES+SH).

Thrasher's Defense by Manpower Situation

Month

Goals Against per Game

PP Goals Against

ES + SH Goals Against

October

2.69

0.85

1.85

November

3.14

1.21

1.93

December

3.71

1.14

2.57


This chart is pretty stark as well. While the Penalty Killers may have given up some dramatic last second goals, it is the even strength situations that are really killing this team. You simply can't win in the NHL if you give up two and a half goals every game at even strength. Now how much of that is due to the absence of Sutton requires more data crunching and I don't have time at the moment, but I may in the next couple of days. But let me just say that when I watch the games it isn't the Havelid-Hnidy defensive pairing that is hurting us most nights. More than anything it has been the de Vries-Vishnevsky duo that are skating back to the bench with their heads hung low.

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