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[Wild About Numbers]: Evaluating The Minnesota Wild At The All-Star Break (PART 1)

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With the brief cease in action for the NHL, this seems like a good time to assess how the Wild's season has gone so far from a statistical point of view.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

So, let's get right to it and look at some Team-level numbers to see how the Wild have trended this season.

Firstly, I'm gonna show their rolling Score Adjusted Fenwick in 5-game intervals. This stat is the best indicator of 5v5 team play. People use the word "possession" when talking about Fenwick or Corsi, but what it really means is to (usually) dominate shots and scoring chances and thus win more games. Teams who excel by this metric (particularly in the last 25-odd games of the season) are usually pretty good bets to go deep in the playoffs.


-Wild Score Adjusted Fenwick%, 5-game moving average:

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As you can see, the Wild had an incredible start. After years of being one of the worst teams in the league by underlying metrics, they were suddenly spending the opening months of the season as one of the top-3 teams in Score Adjusted Fenwick%. Unfortunately, thanks to terrible goaltending (more on that later), they couldn't turn this 5v5 dominance into standings points and they began to tail-off in December.

Maybe it was Mike Yeo changing things up out of sheer panic because of how many goals the goalies were shipping, maybe it was just fatigue from trying to maintain an ultra fast, aggressive style of play but by the middle of January this was a very, very different team.

With things really desperate as the losses piled up, they began to find their game again, suffering some agonising losses to teams such as the Blackhawks and Predators while dominating play. Recently things have been much better, but it seems like it's much too little, much too late.

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Some people might be a bit skeptical about the connection between Score Adjusted Fenwick and scoring chances. We certainly heard a lot of defences of the goalies earlier in the year centred around the idea that the Wild give up a lot of chances in prime scoring areas despite their great shot metrics.

War-On-Ice.com tracks scoring chances (kind of) and the graph below shows the Wild's scoring chance differential, 5-game moving average this season. It should give some idea of how much the Wild have controlled play at different stages of the year.


-Wild 5v5 score-adjusted scoring chance differential:

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It's pretty clear that the Wild have been dominating scoring chances for the most part. The major dips they experienced at times pretty much coincide with dips in their Score Adjusted Fenwick. This team really shouldn't have lost as many games as it has this season.

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The #1 reason the Wild probably won't make the playoffs this season is because they had the worst goaltending in the league (until they traded for Devan Dubnyk last week). Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom were quite simply awful. Backstrom has the worst Adjusted Sv% of any goalie in the league with 750+ minutes played at 5v5 and only Backstrom and Mike Smith were worse than Kuemper's 89.82%.

PDO is a stat that combines a team's Shooting% and Save%. It's been shown that those combined percentages tend to regress towards 100.0. This stat is useful for finding major statistical outliers who are riding abnormally high or low shooting luck or goaltending.


-Here is the Wild's 5-game moving average PDO at 5v5:

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Somewhat incredibly, they've managed to be south of 100.0 for most of the season almost entirely because of their goaltending. The goalies have been consistently bad and any time the team Sh% dropped-off, the bad results began piling up. At this stage of the season they have the 4th lowest PDO in the NHL, with a 97.4 marker.

Overall between 2007/08 and 2014/15, the highest total PDO is Boston's 101.1 and the lowest is the New York Islanders' 98.6. That gives you an idea of how bad the Wild's PDO is this year, that it falls well below even the worst average marker over the last few years.

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Another thing that has contributed to the downfall of the 2014/15 Minnesota Wild is the stuttering powerplay. It's currently ranked 25th in the league, with a 15.7% success rate. It's been much better in recent weeks, thus leading to the surge up the rankings but it was stuck in the bottom two for the first half of the year.


-Wild's Goals/60 on the power play this season, 5-game moving average:

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Look at that flat line at zero for the first few games. The power play didn't really get going until late December before fading away again in January. If the Wild are gonna have any chance of making the playoffs, it needs to keep producing at the rate it has in the last couple of games.

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The penalty kill has kind of been the inverse of the power play for the Wild this year. It started very strong before gradually declining. It's now ranked 10th in the league with an 83.1% success rate.


-The Wild's Goals Against/60 on the penalty kill this season, 5-game moving average:

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You can see that the penalty kill has gone through ups and downs all season without any real extremes, until the last few games where it's started shipping goals at a high rate. Once again, the Wild need to get this in check if they want to have any chance at making the playoffs.

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Thanks to War-On Ice and NHL.com for all the data.