A far too early look at RPI's chance creation metrics
What four games have told us about how the team will shake out this year
Bear with me on this one - we’re going to take a somewhat in-depth look into how RPI has started the season in terms of shot metrics. Who’s taking the most? Who’s taking the most quality ones? Who’s helping facilitate it all? And why does any of it matter?
Corsi: The Shot Quantity Metric
The term Corsi gets thrown around quite a bit, but it really is just a basic way of measuring who is “driving play” on ice. Players with high Corsi numbers usually aren’t getting outshot in their defensive zone each shift - they are typically the ones moving the puck into the offensive zone and helping to create chances.
Corsi does treat all shots equally, whether they are a blocked shot from the point or a one-on-one with the goalie, so it needs to be taken in context (usually with some sort of quality metric – see below for that). But generally, Corsi is seen as a better predictor of future success for a player than just their raw points total. If they are consistently outshooting the other team while on the ice, they’re probably going to score more often.
Here’s where everyone stands through four games:
Scoring Chances: The Shot Quality Metric
In a perfect world, we would have the luxury of using a fancy expected goal model to give information on who is taking the “high-quality” shots. The college game just hasn’t gotten there yet (at least not publicly). So instead, we can take a look at each shot taken during a game and if it falls under certain criteria (distance to the net, whether it was a rebound, etc.) we can classify it as a “scoring chance.” We’re using Natural Stat Trick’s definition of a scoring chance.
Here’s who has created the most chances over the first four games at even strength:
Scoring Chance Differential: Who is Helping Facilitate?
We can take scoring chance data one step further by keeping track of who is on ice for all these scoring chances. This helps highlight the players who might not be taking the final shot, but who help set it the chance up. It also shows which players are giving up scoring chances to the other team.
Players with a positive number were on the ice for more scoring chances for, and vice versa:
So What Does this Tell Us About The Team?
Let’s first look at the players who sit at the top of all three lists: the players who are driving play, creating scoring chances, and not giving many chances up to the opposition. And it’s no surprise that the line of Mahshie-Lee-Heidemann all grade-out well. Not only have they already lit up the scoresheet, but their underlying numbers suggest that it’s far from a fluke. Between Heidemann’s elite puck possession, Mahshie’s shot, and Lee’s passing ability, the three have really come together to create a formidable top-line.
The Brackett-Muzzatti-Evans line is another one that has clicked right from the start. Don’t expect Smith to break it up anytime soon. And keep an eye on Evans - he’s taking plenty of shots from dangerous areas, just hasn’t finished one yet. His first collegiate goal doesn’t seem to be too far away though.
Three guys who will need to take steps forward in order for the team to have continued success are John Beaton, Brendan Budy, and TJ Walsh. All three are dynamic players, capable of creating chances and scoring. But their issue so far has been that they’ve struggled defensively, especially in the Mercyhurst series. Too often they got stuck in the defensive zone, giving up chance after chance. I don’t doubt that all three can piece things together, but it may take some time and tinkering with lines.
In terms of the blueliners, Lauri Sertti has been the standout of the year for me. He has been a consistent play-driver across all four games, and has really taken the reins as the top defenseman on the team, playing key minutes in all situations.
The Nick Strom-Mason Klee pairing worked well in the Mercyhurst series - both were strong defensively and I really like their potential as a “lockdown pair” to be deployed for those tough defensive draws against other teams’ top lines.
The last two guys I’ll bring up are Ardanaz and Smolinski: both in that fun-to-watch, puck-moving defenseman role. Their upside is pretty apparent, but I think they lacked just a little bit of consistency this past weekend. Give them a bit more time and experience at the college level though, and I think you’re left with two high-end offensive weapons on the blueline.
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