The KHL calendar is a relentless thing. Game day follows travel day follows game follows travel. But, occasionally, the schedule offers a moment’s pause. Sometimes that break in the rhythm leaves us wondering what to do with ourselves.
Luckily, there is always plenty to be done. One useful endeavor is to catch up with the stats and see what stories the numbers can tell us. By turns, this can relive our recent games and help us anticipate the challenges to come – a profitable way to pass the time before the puck drops once more.
On Dec. 1 we went to Moscow, where our game against CSKA represented the start of the second half of our season. Since then, we’ve played four times and steadily picked up points along the way. It’s a stark contrast from the start of the season. Our first four games of the 2020/21 season yielded no reward; the first four games of the second half of the campaign brought us six points. If that form continues, there’s every chance that the Dragons can fly up the table and make it into the playoff places.
Currently top of the form table we see Ethan Werek, with 7 (4+3) points. He’s closely followed by Hunter Shinkaruk (2+3) and Luke Lockhart (2+2). However, as we delve deeper into the data, we’ll apply stricter standards: only those first assists, the passes or shots that led directly to the goal, will be counted; second assists, which sometimes make relatively little contribution to the scoring play, don’t quite fit for our purposes here.
The revised numbers for our three top forwards over the last four games come out like this: Werek 4+2, Lockhart and Shinkark both 2+1. Not bad at all.
It’s clear that Ethan is our most potent offensive threat right now: in total he has created 10 scoring chances, had 14 shots on target and – by some margin – has our best Corsi rating of +10. For those unfamiliar with Corsi stats, these numbers total up the number of shots taken against the number of shots allowed when any player is on the ice. As we can see, when Werek is involved, things are far hotter in front of the opposition’s net.
It’s worth noting that Werek was on the ice for 57 minutes in those four games. Shinkaruk spent 67 minutes in the game and, as you’d expect, created even more: 17 shots on target and 12 scoring chances.
Lockhart got yet more game time – 74 minutes. But, as a center, Luke has far more defensive duties than his colleagues on the wings, so comparisons with Ethan and Hunter aren’t entirely valid. When it comes to face offs, our captain is in a class of his own. Of the 62 times he took part in the draw, Luke won a big majority.
Here, again, it’s worth clarifying the details. The stats on winning faceoffs often vary. This is a team game, so it’s perfectly possible for the player on the spot to do everything right and get the puck to a team-mate, who immediately loses possession. So which teams ‘wins’ that one? On other occasions, the scramble in the circle dissolves into a mess with no clear winner. A degree of imprecision is hard to avoid.
But in Luke’s case, however you crunch the numbers, the results are striking. According to InStat, he won 45 draws out of 62 – a ratio of 72.5%. The KHL’s figures are more demanding and awarded Loki 41 wins, but that’s still an impressive 66% success rate. In this facet of the game, as in several others, our captain is doing a great job.
Our defense is stepping up as well. Ryan Sproul leads the way: in four games, he had 100 minutes on the ice and was involved in five goals (1+4). Ruslan Pedan, meanwhile, is focused on stopping the opposition. In 84 minutes of game time, he made seven hits and blocked 14 shots.
Thus, we can only repeat what we said before: if we keep going like this, and if the other Dragons can follow the example of the team’s leaders, we will quickly start seeing big improvement in both individual stats and our results from game to game. Picking up more points can quickly give the standings a far more encouraging look for us.
Then we can say we have made the best use of this short break before we return to action, refreshed, for the upcoming visit of Dinamo Minsk on Sunday.