This one goes to eleven: why stats are hard

In Evan Schemenauer’s Random Thoughts article from January 8, 2018, he talks about Calgary’s offensive struggles so far this year, and how scoring fewer than ten goals will not win you many games. Then he drops this:

Graeme Perrow can probably tell us the stat, but your odds of winning a game scoring less than 10 goals must be less than 10%.

Challenge accepted.

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Game report: Rochester 9 @ Toronto 17

After a rough 0-2 start, the Rock’s wining streak continued on Friday night with a 17-9 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Or if you’re a Knighthawks fan, after a strong 2-0 start, the Knighthawks lost their second straight game on Friday night, a 17-9 loss to the Toronto Rock.

The Knighthawks did not look like the same team that demolished the Bandits a few weeks back. Their offense was haphazard – they actually looked a bit like the Rock in their first couple of games. That said, they were up against the Rock defense, who had a great game. A couple of the Rochester goals were scored from inside (I specifically remember Dawson’s goal – he basically ran straight up the middle almost untouched) but for the most part, they were all outside shots because they just couldn’t get to the inside.

Picture from Rock website, no credit availableAs good as the Rock’s offense and defense was, their transition game was on fire. It seemed that almost every time a Knighthawks possession ended, there was a Rock transition scoring opportunity – a two-on-one or partial breakaway. Burns, Rogers, Merrill, Caputo, Edwards, Sorensen, Harris, even Hostrawser were flying up the floor all night long.

Nick Rose played well in general, stopping most of the shots he should have stopped. He also stopped at least one shot he had no earthly business stopping at all, robbing the Knighthawks of a wide-open almost empty-net goal with an acrobatic stick save. Rochester scored on a very similar play later in the game, but we gave Rosey a pass on that one since you can’t expect that kind of miraculous save twice in one game.

Matt Vinc was not strong in the Rochester net and was pulled after only thirteen minutes. Note that he had already faced 17 shots by that point, but didn’t seem to be seeing the ball well. Angus Goodleaf came in and did a pretty decent job, finishing with a respectable save percentage of 77.8%, but the Rock offense took enough shots that saving 77.8% of them still led to 11 goals.

I know it’s only been a couple of games but trading Stephan Leblanc for Sheldon Burns is starting to look like a brilliant move. Burns is all over the floor, scoring goals and intercepting passes, and seems as much a quarterback of the transition as Brodie Merrill. As I’ve said before (I think), it’s not like Leblanc was a drain on the offense and getting rid of him has helped them. Their improvement over the first two games was just a matter of timing. They’ve simply adjusted after the addition of Hellyer and Jones and offensive coach Blaine Manning has them playing like a well-oiled machine. Guys like Reinholdt, McArdle, and Craig are contributing not only with goals but in getting inside and setting picks; Reinholdt did a particularly nice job with a pick that allowed Schreiber a wide-open look at the net for one of his four goals. The fact that they’re not missing Leblanc (or Lintner, see below) is not a statement on those players or their abilities, it’s a testament to the players they have.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. I feel bad for him – with the Rock’s offense scoring 61 goals in the last three games, the team is not likely to want to make any personnel changes unless they have to. You don’t mess with what’s working. But hopefully that doesn’t mean Lintner sits for significant time. I like what he brings to the team and IMHO he’s too good a player to sit that long.
  • Knighthawks rookie Austin Shanks played his first NLL game and played well, scoring two goals. I picked Shanks as one of my rookie of the year finalists and I stand by that (assuming he gets more playing time), though Zach Currier is making the strongest case for this award thus far.
  • Kyle Jackson scored a beauty, grabbing a rebound directly in front of the net and immediately flipping it behind his back into the goal. The Knighthawks tweeted that it was a “vicious BTB” and vicious was a pretty good word for it.
  • At one point, the ball went under a section of the carpet while three or four players were fighting for the loosie. The ref decided to hold another face-off, meaning that this is a rare case where the total number of face-offs in the game was NOT equal to four plus the total number of goals. This is only the fourth such game this season. Two of them featured a goal at 14:59 of a quarter, so presumably no face-off was held afterwards. This will be the first entry for my new Twitter account, @NLLObscureAndUselessFactOfTheDay.
  • Early in the game, a ref got hit in the shoulder by a ricochet after a shot; it knocked him flying but he got up and continued. Later, a ref was taken down by a collision with a Knighthawks player. Don’t know if it was the same ref but if so, he might have been the first one in the ice bath after the game.
  • Only 7101 people at this game, the lowest regular-season attendance (and second-lowest ever) in Rock history. However, the weather outside was frightful. It was 10-12 degrees and pouring rain in the morning, then the temperature dropped near zero by 2pm and everything froze, then an inch of snow fell before dinner time. By game time, it was ‑10. Those are in Celsius; if you’re a Fahrenheit person, the temperature dropped from 50 to 14 degrees in eight hours.

Game report: Buffalo 13 @ Toronto 20

That’s more like it.

When the Rock hosted the Bandits on Saturday night, nobody knew what to expect. Would we see a repeat of each team’s first game of the season when Toronto’s offense didn’t show up and Buffalo played great? Would Buque rebound from his tough outing against the Knighthawks last week? Would the Rock transition show the improvements that they hoped for with the additions of Challen Rogers and Sheldon Burns? The answers were no, no, and yes.

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2018 NLL predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

East

  1. Toronto
  2. Georgia
  3. New England
  4. Rochester
  5. Buffalo

West

  1. Saskatchewan
  2. Vancouver
  3. Colorado
  4. Calgary

Individual Awards

MVP

Winner: Lyle Thompson
Short list: Mark Matthews, Curtis Dickson
Dark horse: Rob Hellyer

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Nick Rose
Short list: Dillon Ward
Dark horse: Tye Belanger

Graeme HossackDefensive Player of the Year

Winner: Graeme Hossack
Short list: Kyle Rubisch, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Mitch de Snoo

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Justin Salt
Short list: Latrell Harris, Mike Messenger
Dark horse: Jeff Cornwall

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Josh Byrne
Short list: Zach Currier, Austin Shanks
Dark horse: Drew Belgrave

Les Bartley Award

This one is always a crapshoot. The Bartley award is frequently decided by the question “which team played better than we expected them to”, which by definition is impossible to predict. If a team is  stacked and plays well, then the coach isn’t always considered which is unfair. This is why Derek Keenan only has three of these awards and not six or seven.

Winner: Matt Sawyer
Short list: Derek Keenan, Jamie Batley
Dark horse: Pat Coyle

GM of the Year

This one is also tough because trades and signings that happen during the regular season could change the landscape completely, and they’re impossible to predict as well.

Winner: Rich Lisk
Short list: Jamie Dawick, Doug Locker unless the Stealth tank
Dark horse: Curt Styres or Steve Dietrich if the Knighthawks or Bandits finish in the top two in the East

2018 Preview: West division

Just like yesterday’s East division preview, today we’ll cover the West: where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and a haiku for each team.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Look out for

Holden Cattoni. He didn’t really stand out last season with 26 points in 15 games, but had an excellent summer in the MSL. With Jeff Shattler now in Saskatchewan, Cattoni will likely get more floor time and can use his new-found confidence to help the Roughnecks.

Prediction

Jeff Shattler and Scott Carnegie are gone, Mike Carnegie is injured, Bob Snider is on the practice roster, and Wes Berg has not yet signed a contract. In their place are third-overall draft pick Zach Currier, Vaughan Harris (who had a cup of coffee with the Necks last year), and two more rookies, Anthony Kalinich and Tyler Pace. A good crop of rookies to be sure, but those are some awfully big shoes to fill.

Fourth in the west.

Haiku

Shattler on the Rush
Will be a shock to Necks fans
Will they sign Wes Berg?


MammothColorado Mammoth

Look out for

Jacob Ruest. Ruest scored 18 goals and picked up 18 assists in 18 games last year. With Crawford gone, there will be more space on the Mammoth’s right side so along with Keogh and Noble, Ruest will be getting a lot more floor time.

Prediction

Coates and Holding are gone for the year, Bryce Sweeting is also injured, though I don’t know how long he’s out, and Ilija Gajic was not re-signed. Those are some pretty big holes to fill on defense. But the offense didn’t want the defensive guys to have all the fun. Also missing are Zack Greer and Brent Adams. The addition of Ryan Benesch basically fills the hole left by Callum Crawford, though on the opposite side of the floor. If even half of those missing guys are back by mid-season, the Mammoth could do OK but if they’re all gone long-term, Dan Carey may be a busy guy in the early part of the season. He did sign Scott Carnegie to the Mammoth practice roster, so I’d expect to see him on the active roster before long.

Third in the west

Haiku

Injuries on D
Decimating the Mammoth
But Benny’s in town


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Look out for

Ryan Keenan. Keenan had a pretty good rookie season last year, but wasn’t the impact player many thought he would be; 42 points in 16 games isn’t what one might expect from the first overall draft pick. This is a bit reminiscent of Lyle Thompson the year before, but Thompson’s sophomore season was spectacular. Not saying Keenan will win the MVP or bump Mark Matthews from his top spot on the Rush offense, but seeing Keenan hitting the 70-80 point plateau this year wouldn’t surprise me.

Prediction

Personally, I don’t think Evan Kirk is a huge upgrade over Aaron Bold, other than being younger. I don’t think he’s any worse than Bold, and I don’t think this was a terrible deal for the Rush, just not a significant improvement. But Derek Keenan is a big Kirk fan, and I admit that Keenan is probably a better judge of lacrosse talent than I am. Adam Jones, who never really seemed to fit in as part of the Rush offense, is out and Jeff Shatter is in. I’d say at worst that’s a wash and more likely, that’s a net gain for the Rush. So they probably got better at goaltender and offense, and their defense is still the best in the league despite losing John Lafontaine. The Rush are still the team to beat in the West.

First in the west

Haiku

Boldy out, Kirk in
Good goaltender and offense
Still the best defense


StealthVancouver Stealth

Look out for

Tony Malcom. After 38 points in his rookie year, Malcom was on pace for 62 last year but injuries caused him to miss half the season. The New West kid will now be playing home games at home and assuming he’s back to full health, playing with guys like Small, Duch, and Schuss can’t help but bump both his confidence and his numbers.

Prediction

A fair bit of turnover in Vancouver. They lost Lintz, Hodgson, Harnett, Garrison, Wagner, and Toll on the back end and Conway and Durston up front, and Tyler Richards was released. They did gain Tony (the former Anthony) Malcom, they seem excited about draft pick Ryan Fournier, and then Andrew Suitor just fell into their lap a few days ago. The Stealth made big strides last season, and I can see them capitalizing on that this year.

Second in the west.

Haiku

Hodgy retired
Matt Beers becomes the captain
Suitor joins in too

2018 Preview: East division

I’ve left out the summary of offseason roster moves since that’s in my Who’s In, Who’s Out article. Here, we’ll cover where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and as always, a haiku for each team. We’ll start with the East, then cover the West tomorrow.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

Look out for

Obviously first-overall draft pick Josh Byrne will get a lot of floor time but if I had to pick someone else, I might go with Alex Buque. There is some debate over whether he’s ready to be an everyday starter but I think so.

Prediction

Their big problem last year was defense. Improving the goaltending is a start but the Bandits didn’t actually improve the defense – in fact it doesn’t look like they even tried. With the losses of Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, David Brock, and Alex Kedoh Hill, who’s going to prevent Buque from seeing 65 shots a game? Priolo and de Snoo are great but they can only do so much.

Fifth in the east.

Haiku

Cosmo has retired
Crawford replaces Benesch
It’s Showtime, baby!


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

Look out for

Johnny Powless. Only 50 points for Powless last season, but he only played in 10 games. That would give him 90 points over 18 games. Lefty Jordan Hall will be replaced by lefty Jesse King but Jerome Thompson will be playing more transition and defense this season, which will probably result in more touches for Powless.

Prediction

The offense is still top notch, but with all the top-name T/D players who are out, their defense could be shaky. They might win a number of 17-16 nailbiters.

Second in the east.

Haiku

Reigning champions
Lots of defenders are out
Jesse King is back


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

Look out for

Reilly O’Connor. Of the lefties on last year’s Black Wolves squad, Culp, Saunders, and Veltman are gone, leaving O’Connor, Kevin Buchanan, and rookie JP Kealey. O’Connor looked strong in the preseason game against the Rock.

Prediction

Those who aren’t fans of Aaron Bold say that the reason for his success in Edmonton / Saskatchewan was the great defense in front of him. Well, now we’ll see if they’re right. That’s not to say that New England’s defense is lousy, but it’s not at the same level as Bold has been used to.

Third in the east.

Haiku

Aaron Bold in net
Evans, Crowley score up front
No Bill O’Brien


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

Look out for

It might seem weird but I’m going to say Dan Dawson. Dawson had his worst season in ages in 2017 but looked great at the Heritage Cup. I think he’ll rebound this year. We may not see 100+ points but he’ll look more like the old Dan Dawson than the 2017 model.

Prediction

After one of the lowest-scoring seasons in NLL history (9.72 goals per game, the 11th lowest average ever), the Knighthawks used their second-overall draft pick to grab… a defenseman who specializes in face-offs. I mean no disrespect to Jake Withers but I don’t think that’s what the Knighthawks needed. They did also draft Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell, both forwards, and it’s possible that Cody Jamieson will return sometime this season, but there’s been no word on that.

Fourth in the east.

Haiku

Billy Dee comes in
But he will not help them score
And still no Jammer


RockToronto Rock

Look out for

I’m really tempted to put Rob Hellyer here but that’s too obvious. I’m going to go with Drew Belgrave. I don’t know if he’ll be a Rookie of the Year candidate but I liked how he looked in the pre-season.

Prediction

Hellyer, Hickey, Jones, Schreiber, Leblanc. Out of curiosity, what’s the record for most 100-point players on the same team in one year? I’m glad you asked! It’s the 2005 Toronto Rock, who had three (Doyle, Manning, Sanderson). How coincidental. If this year’s Rock can stay healthy, this could be one of the most potent offenses ever. I’m looking forward to the first Rock/Swarm game, which could end up 38-37 in OT.

First in the east.

Haiku

The front line is strong
Hellyer, Jones will score a bunch
Good team gets better

Pre-season game report: Black Wolves 10 @ Rock 13

Saturday night featured the final game of the pre-season, the New England Black Wolves visiting the Toronto Rock. After a strong first quarter, the Rock gave up the lead in the second and were down 7-5 at the half. New England continued their strong play in the low-scoring third, taking a 9-6 lead, but Toronto’s offense suddenly came to life in the fourth. They scored four goals in about a minute and a half to take the lead. New England tied it up at 10 but two more goals by the Rock plus an empty-netter gave the Rock a 13-10 victory.

Aaron Bold started in net for the Black Wolves, and I was interested to see how he’d perform for his new team. The answer: pretty well. He only allowed five goals, and made all the stops he was expected to make. He wasn’t super-energetic but wasn’t really tested much so he didn’t have to be. Doug Jamieson played the second half and despite giving up more goals, I thought he was better than Bold. He faced an Adam Jones penalty shot, where he waited Jones out and then prevented the last-second dunk attempt, and stopped a Latrell Harris breakaway as well. He did allow the four goals in 90 seconds but besides that short blip, Jamieson was great.

Nick Rose played the entire game for the Rock and was solid. One move he seems to be making more this year is when a shot comes in low, he stops it and flips the ball high in the air, then either catches it or reaches up and scoops it. Seems like a dangerous move to me; I’d rather have him just catch it, but it’s better than giving up a rebound.

The Black Wolves warming up. Photo credit: me

Both teams were without one or two of their top scorers: neither Shawn Evans nor Kevin Crowley played for New England and Tom Schreiber was missing for the Rock. Evans was there and participated in the warmups but didn’t play in the game. I thought Kyle Buchanan and Reilly O’Connor played really well on the offense and David Brock on the D. I was sitting near friends and/or family of Wolves transition player Colton Wilkinson, and he also played well, even scoring a pretty transition goal.

For the Rock, I saw Dan Lintner a lot, and Hellyer / Hickey / Jones looked pretty good though there were some sloppy plays here and there – someone passing to where someone else was a few seconds ago, or where they thought they should be rather than where they are. I also noticed Drew Belgrave and Brock Sorensen on the defensive side. Belgrave’s got some speed and made a few nifty moves on some Wolves defenders while waiting for the offense to get onto the floor. If the Rock are going to be without Jesse Gamble this season, Belgrave looks like he might be a pretty decent replacement.

Scorers: for New England, Kyle Buchanan (3), O’Connor (2), and singles by Oakes, Chaykowsky, Bomberry, Coyle, and Watkinson. For Toronto: Hellyer (3), Hickey (3), Jones (2), Lintner (2), Reinholdt (2), and Caputo (who still doesn’t have his name on his jersey) had one.

Other game notes:

  • The Rock’s game summary featured this description of Reid Reinholdt’s goal in the fourth: “Reinholdt scored on a backhand shovel shot that would have made Rock legend Colin Doyle proud.” I didn’t think about it at the time but they’re right – I can totally see Colin Doyle taking that shot.
  • Props to Black Wolves rookie Nick Chaykowsky, who stood his ground as the 6’4″ Brodie Merrill was coming up the floor in transition. Merrill hit Chaykowsky square in the chest but it was Merrill that bounced back – Chaykowsky didn’t move.
  • Dan Lintner scored a goal in the fourth quarter that looked like what I’ll call a “crease-diving alley oop”, which may or may not be a thing. It was on the net furthest from me so I didn’t have a great view, but someone passed him the ball and he dove across the crease and scored. But the timing was such that it looked like he received the pass while already in the air sideways. This would have to be a set play and the odds of it working are almost zero so I’m sure I just got the timing wrong or something. Nice goal though.
  • The Black Wolves were wearing orange jerseys (without names, grrrrrr) with black numbers on the back (see above). Had to remind myself that they weren’t the Bandits.
  • No diet pop at the TRAC! Not all of us are athletes who need Gatorade ya know! Though the bottle of water I ended up having was healthier than the Coke Zero I wanted, so thanks, I guess.