I know why you’re here. You’re either a skeptical San Jose Sharks fan looking for a talking point, or you’re an angry Pittsburgh Penguins fan ready to bash the argument I’m about to make. I know how it goes.
Yesterday, NHL on NBC’s social media channels posted this graphic regarding Joe Pavelski‘s lack of production in the Stanley Cup Final:
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 8, 2016
They also posted an image that said, “The Sharks have NEVER won the Stanley Cup.” As if that wasn’t abundantly clear to anyone who has watched this series for more than 11 seconds. But I digress.
The post about San Jose’s captain is an alarming truth. No. 8 does not have a single point in four games this series.
Naturally, Pavelski has come under quite a bit of scrutiny from the local and national media because of his perceived disappearance. That is to be expected. Meanwhile, outlets are praising the play of Sidney Crosby, who has two points in the Cup Final so far. That is also to be expected.
But despite the differences in production and the skewed media coverage, Pavelski is actually out-playing Crosby in every statistical category that involves having the puck and being dangerous with it.
Take a look at this table:
|Pavelski||Statistics in Cup Final||Crosby|
|9||Individual High-Danger Chances||5|
|15||Individual Scoring Chances||11|
|39.9||Defensive Zone Start Percentage||31.2|
|All data from War On Ice|
Over the last four games, Pavelski has four more scoring chances than Crosby, all of them of the ‘high-danger’ variety. He also has a better faceoff percentage and double the corsi differential compared to the Penguins’ captain. This is all while starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone—where faceoffs are harder to win and shot attempts are more difficult to get.
This trend continues into their head-to-head matchup.
|Pavelski||Pavelski and Crosby on the Ice||Crosby|
|29:48||Time on Ice||29:48|
|All data from War On Ice|
While I admit this table has fewer details than the previous one, it still shows that Pavelski is edging out Crosby in possession even when they are on the ice together. That is difficult to do when the team around you has been performing below expectations.
The American has generated more chances, more dangerous chances, and more shot attempts, while winning a higher percentage of faceoffs, than his Canadian counterpart. The only reason he is being battered by analysts is because he has had some terrible luck that has kept him off of the score sheet. A goal is a fairly rare event, and it’s unreasonable to criticize someone’s point total over the course of just four contests. Would you like more from him? Absolutely, but he’s not having a bad series just because the puck hasn’t gone in for him.
I know what you’re thinking right now: “All of these analytics don’t mean anything because it takes goals to win games.” I agree, it does take goals to win games. But if you want to use that black-and-white approach, you’re only counting lucky occurrences and disregarding actual performance. Hockey is more than points and productivity.
Because you know who has been more productive than Sidney Crosby?