After game two, commenter Passive Voice wondered about the individual match-ups and how the scoring chances totals were playing out. The results showed that it wasn't Dave Bolland's line that was doing the job against Joe Thornton's line (or any line for that matter), it was Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Troy Brouwer that were getting the chances against Thornton's line. I liked the concept very much and I hope that if the scoring chance project moves forward that this methodology is incorporated somehow. After the jump I look at the head-to-head chances totals in the first two games, the last two games and the whole series.
For an outstanding look at head-to-head Corsi and an analysis from the Chicago perspective, check out VerStig's post at Second City Hockey.
Note: Each matrix is compiled from San Jose's perspective.
Games 1 & 2 were in the original post and I said then:
The biggest advantage in the series is by Pavelski on Bolland, but that's also the smallest sample of time amongst any match up. Next up is Sharp's advantage on Thornton and then Thornton's advantage on Bolland. Looking at the data this way, it shows that Dave Bolland is...getting drilled. It also shows that Pavelski is faring rather well against Toews and Sharp, in addition to drilling Bolland. Chicago's only real advantage has been Sharp against Thornton.
So how did things change when Chicago went home? Todd McClellan decided to change his lines around and iced Joe Thornton with Copper & Blue-favorite Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi, and used Thornton on the ice as often as possible with the other lines. Joel Quenneville kept matching Bolland to Thornton's new line. McClellan paired Thornton's prior linemates, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, with Manny Malhotra. Bolland countered with Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Troy Brouwer. McClellan's leftovers, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Torrey Mitchell ended up seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien regularly. The results are below, and I've switched the lines around to reflect the ice time in these two games:
There is much more red here as compared to the first two games. Bolland won his battles against all of the Sharks except Thornton and Couture, which again shows that the narrative wasn't quite accurate, it was completely wrong. Whereas Thornton was on the short end against the Sharp line in the first two games, the newly-formed Sharks first line was much better against them. The new first line was just fine, but the rest of the team...
The goats here are the rest of the Sharks top nine forwards. Malhotra was beaten by everyone - his line looks like Bolland in the first two. Chicago's first and third lines really dominated San Jose's second and third lines in these two. By the raw scoring chances, Thornton and Couture look like San Jose's best forwards in these two games.
The totals for the four games combined are below, with the Sharks grouped by ice time:
Thornton was -2 for the series total, and only came out ahead against the Bolland line. "Wait a second," you might say, "Thornton was a negative for the series, but beat Bolland? Pierre told me that David Bolland was winning the battle against Joseph Thornton and that he had Thornton off of his game." Well sure. Note the 'L' on the matrix. Toews winning his battles and Couture winning his. Note how far Malhotra's performance dropped off when McClellan swirled the lines.
Below is the head-to-head ice time totals with each Shark' most common opponents shaded in gray.:
I wonder how much McClellan will regret blending the lines in the way that he did. I also wonder what the Sharks top two lines would have done had McClellan simply switched Heatley and Couture.
Divide the chances by the even strength time on ice and multiply by 15 and we get the the chances/15 head-to-head ratios:
Thornton beat Bolland to the tune of 1.9 chances per 15 minutes of ice time. Unfortunately, we don't have scoring chances data for San Jose from the regular season, but we have Edmonton chances, and Bolland's -1.9 chances/15 against Thornton is the same rate that Jason Strudwick posted against the league this season.
To look at this a bit differently, we can compare Thornton's performance against Bolland to his regular season scoring rates with a bit of extrapolation. We know a few things about scoring chances from the work that's been done on the Oilers by Dennis King over the last two years. One of the things that Dennis' numbers have shown is that the scoring chance to goal ratio falls somewhere between the very high fives and the very low eights, averaging somewhere around 7/1 (more data needed). During the regular season, Thornton played 1214 minutes at even strength. He ended the season at +18 in even strength scoring. Using the +1.9/15 ratio, we can determine that over 1214 minutes, Thornton would have been +153 in chances against Bolland. If we assume that Thornton would have created a goal at a 7/1 ratio, Thornton would have been +21 against Bolland for the year, three goals better than his regular season, and this from the perennial "playoff choker"!
So, let's use this to put an end to the silly notion that Bolland was doing something special against Thornton besides running cover for the other lines. Let's move on to the interesting parts of this series, like Jonathan Toews' outstanding performance against the Sharks' first and third lines, but Pavelski was able to play him to a draw. Was Bolland the best matchup for Thornton, or was it Sharp? Or Toews? Like Marian Hossa winning the battles against everyone (except Logan Couture) but the puck not going in for him. Speaking of, what about Logan Couture's performance - is this rolling hot dice or is this a breakout? Is it strange that the chances point towards Pavelski and Couture being the best two Sharks forwards for the entire series? When I reviewed the chances totals I noted that it was a shame that this one was a sweep, because the play was much closer than that. It's also a shame that the media, and bloggers for that matter, jumped on the Bolland narrative so early.