Tuesday, February 09, 2010

PP Problems?

How Much Will Bergeron Be Missed?

It appears that we can add Marc-Andre Bergeron to the list of walking wounded on this Canadiens team.

With the cannon shot from the point being withdrawn from the lineup, thoughts naturally veer to doom and gloom scenarios for the PP. When I saw Arpon Basu's tweet earlier today literally tying this injury announcement to a forecast of PP demise, something didn't compute. I decided to have a closer look.

Bergeron's contribution

Before getting to the impact that the loss of MAB will have to the lineup, I thought it first important to recognise what the guy did for the team in its hour of need.

Perhaps it's hard to remember now, but October was a horrible month for the Habs. So horrible in fact, that it has been a cloud over the whole season since, in the standings, in the GF column, in the GA column, in the goalie stats – everywhere. Back then the PP was not a bright light on a middling team, it was just another dysfunctional element with no upside in sight. That was, however, until MAB started to turn things around.

Marc-Andre had a couple of goals in game 2 and then went quiet for a bit. But when he re-awoke, he ignited the PP and Andrei Kostitsyn with it. From the Phoenix game in Novemeber to the end of December, MAB was a machine, and he can probably take credit for at least a 5-point share of what the team gathered over that month and a half. Furthermore, he made taking penalties against this small team a bad thing – something that was and always will be critical to success.

Goals created

As I have done a few times in the past, when I start looking to offensive generation in the past, I look to the record that the collaborators at LIW have gathered this season. Goals created tells us not only how many times MAB got an assist or a goal, but how important we all thought that assist or goal was. And, since Goals Created is a proportion of Goals, we can also easily derive what portion of the offense MAB (and all other players) were directly responsible for creating.

When it came time to look at Bergeron's importance over time, it seemed to me that there were a few clear junctures this season where things changed. First, of course, is the addition of Bergeron to the lineup. Second, the point where he was removed from the lineup. And to split the time in two: the date Markov returned.

Looking at it this way, there are two chunks: Pre-Markov and Post-Markov. It's interesting how things break down.

Marc-Andre Bergeron 6.21 3.96 23%
Tomas Plekanec 9.54 3.54 21%
Mike Cammalleri 13.46 2.38 14%
Roman Hamrlik 3.29 1.50 9%
Andrei Kostitsyn 7.29 1.17 7%

Andrei Markov 6.63 4.25 18%
Scott Gomez 8.75 3.54 15%
Tomas Plekanec 9.38 3.50 15%
Marc-Andre Bergeron 3.21 2.54 11%
Glen Metropolit 2.29 2.29 10%

There are a few things to note here:

– First, MAB was fabricating nearly a quarter of PP goals before Markov came back. With Plekanec, the two were near 50% of the output. Since #79 is back, the point of attack has changed

– Since Markov has returned, the PP is better (as seen by Plekanec's identical absolute production as 21% then 15%). As such, a loss like MAB's 11% can be more easily absorbed

– Since Markov has come back the attack is more evenly spread. I would suggest this is because Markov thinks more on the fly, whereas the PP success before relied on a shot from #47

All of this shows that MAB will be missed, but perhaps not as much as he would have been had Markov recovered from his Achilles injury at the speed of a normal human. As it stands, it is entirely conceivable that the PP sans MAB will just slot in Spacek or Hamrlik (previous impact) and keep going at a similar rate.

The past 17 games

Even that split doesn't really tell us exactly what to expect. However, there is another interesting split that I found in the data. As important as MAB has been, in terms of GC, he has not really made a massive contribution to a PP goal, or any goal since Game #43 (17 games ago).

From this, I suggest that the Canadiens have adapted their play following a brief Bergeron/Markov honeymoon (an unsustainable 11/24 on the PP).

It will be of some comfort to everyone to know that Bergeron's 17 game stretch with about 1.2 GC was not exactly one of trouble for the PP. During that time, different players again picked up the slack (and the supply from Gomez, Pleks and Markov. The PP since Game #43 has performed nicely at a 13/54 pace – or just under 25%.

So, will Bergeron be missed?

Of course, he'll be missed a bit. However, if the stats above show one thing, its' that the Canadiens PP has diversified since Bergie had to jump start it in October. I think the PP will be fine.

What's more, MAB's decline over the past 17 games or so has meant that the team has been carrying a 4th line winger who isn't adapting well, and not even putting out in his specialist trade. Overall, the trade off in losing MAB at this time might mean more effect from the 4th line proper at ES and a welcome rest for Bergeron in preparation for the playoff drive when an extra weapon in the arsenal will be most welcome.

Conclude what you want from the numbers. After taking a look, my forecast for the PP is far less gloomy than those before me.

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