Progress made, work to do

7 March 2024

No playoffs, but positives for the Dragons from 2023/24

After the Dragons wrapped up the regular season with an OT win over Vityaz, Luke Lockhart was asked to sum up the campaign in three words. Quite a big question for a guy who just completed his 68th game of a demanding year. Luke came up with “disappointing”, “promising” and “fun”.

The disappointment was clear: once again, we missed out on the playoffs. That was the target ahead of the season, and it would be wrong to try to paint our final result as a success.

However, “promising” was also entirely justified. The stats show clear progress. 2023/24 produced our best points tally since 2020. Finishing ninth in the Western Conference represents the best placing in the league standings since we made the playoffs in our debut season.

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As a club, we also doubled down on our resilient identity. This team never knew when it was beaten, as evidenced by frequent fightbacks throughout the season. This translated into results as well: in 2023/24, 16 of our games went to overtime, and we won 10 of them (six in OT itself, four in shoot-outs). Previously, we never managed more than six victories when playing more than 60 minutes.

Individually, we saw players generate better numbers. The most striking improvement came from Devin Brosseau, whose second season in the Dragons lair saw him mature into our leading scorer. His 23 goals set a club record, improving Brandon Yip’s 21. Our 28-year-old Canadian had to work hard for that success: according to the smart puck xG rating, a 15-goal haul would have been par for him based on the chances he got.

Those smart stats picked out some other figures that went unnoticed at the time. Spencer Foo clocked in as the second-fastest man in the league, hitting a top speed of 39.6km/h, second only to Salavat Yulaev’s Alexei Pustozyorov (39.7km/h). The hardest shot, meanwhile, came from Cliff Pu who hit 165.5 km/h before his move to Admiral.

Ryan Merkley, a newcomer on defense, also made a big contribution in his rookie year. As well as leading our D-core in scoring (29 (3+26) points), he also picked up the attention of the smart puck boffins. Skating 26,521m with the puck, he enjoyed more time in possession than anyone else on the team. And his 1,355 passes also led the Dragons. Ryan is still only 23, and it would be great to see the former Sharks man back with us next season.

Bits and bobs

We started this review with Luke’s thoughts right after his 68th appearance of the season. Lockhart was one of just 15 KHL players who featured in all of his team’s 68 games. That’s a real Iron Man run, especially considering how often we played back-to-back this season. According to the smart puck stats, Luke was also our most successful player at taking the puck from the opposition. On 400 separate occasions, he won possession for our guys.

He wasn’t alone in facing a big workload. Our goalies, Matt Jurusik, Jeremy Smith, and Alexander Lazushin, combined for a total of 2,400 saves. That was more than any other team in the KHL, although there wasn’t much in it. Admiral stopped 2,396 pucks, but shared the labor among four netminders. Of the three, Jeremy Smith had the best xG– rating: according to the stats, he stopped 6.63 goals more than he should have. Compare that with the highly-rated Daniil Isayev of Lokomotiv, generally felt to have had a good season, but running at -1.11 by the same metric.

And, to finish on a high, we need only look at the final days of the regular season. Our thrilling win over SKA attracted a record attendance for a KRS home game (although, of course, we have to admit that circumstances meant this one was played in Petersburg and most of the 20,000+ fans wanted to cheer for the other side!). After that thrilling home win on the road, the Dragons returned home to take the verdict in the final game of the campaign. That’s another club first, and one that hopefully points to a strong start in 2024/25.

One response to “Progress made, work to do”

  1. михаил says:

    вы все молодцы и отличные ребята и спортивные бойцы!!!

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