Gumper Knows Best - (Rejean O'Brien)

Member since April 30, 2012

Montreal

Habs fan since: 1970
Favorite current player: Emelin
All-time favorite player: Guy

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Recent Comments

  • Comment on Rookie Tokarski wins praise in Habs 3-2 overtime win (Video) (2014-05-23 06:52:19)
    Toker is playing real good
  • Comment on ‘Momentum can change quick,’ Habs coach Therrien says (2014-05-21 08:41:46)
    i agreed with you
  • Comment on Rangers, Habs meet in playoffs for first time since 1996 (2014-05-21 08:06:37)
    its a good article On the night I first began to question advanced statistics in hockey, the stats man who sits a few seats down from me in the press box began regurgitating the game in numbers. Mikhail Grabovski, he said, was the best Leaf that night. According to the numbers, Jay McClement was the worst. About an hour earlier, when a colleague asked for advice on who to pick as his three stars for the next day’s newspaper, we both bypassed Grabovski, neither of us liking his rather singular game that night, and talked about the value of McClement, who had been particularly strong both defensively and killing penalties. When I asked the stats man about the discrepancy between what we’d seen and what the numbers showed, he answered: “Sample size.” That always seems to be the answer when the numbers don’t match what a discerning eye can see. In Game 1 of last year’s playoff series between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins, Toronto was badly outplayed. Only one Leafs player seemed capable of competing at that level — James van Riemsdyk. So, curious after the game, I asked my stats friend who had the best numbers for Toronto. It so happened van Riemsdyk had them, but his numbers were just a percentage point better than Phil Kessel, who I thought had a dreadful game. Again, I asked: “How can the numbers be reliable, when two players can have such varying games and end with similar statistics?” “Sample size,” I was told. So I began to wonder: If what I’m seeing tells me one thing and the statistics tell me another, and the answer for the discrepancy is seemingly sample size, then at what point do you start to question how much individual analytics matter in hockey? And how many samples belie what the game really is? Statistics matter and, in many ways, define baseball, a sport that is somewhat stationary in nature: Pitcher versus batter. A set offence versus a set defence. A team game of individual accomplishment. The apparently new stats, which aren’t that new, are also historically relevant in baseball. The all-time leaders in WAR — wins above replacement — are Babe Ruth and Cy Young. The all-time leaders in OPS, the batting stat du jour, are Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. You see those names, you can’t argue back. The sport is built for and by statistics. Hockey is not so easily determined. And, in a way, the stance to match it with other sports has polarized the game, divided old and new, divided zealot and traditionalist. It’s not like there isn’t something to be learned from the new statistics, especially in a team way: It’s just they are in no way game-defining in the manner the analytics community believes them to be. “Is hockey hard?” Brendan Shanahan, the president of the Leafs once said, not talking stats. “I don’t know, you tell me. We need to have the strength and power of a football player, the stamina of a marathon runner, and the concentration of a brain surgeon. But we need to put all this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while five other guys use clubs to try and kill us. Oh yeah, did I mention that this whole time we’re standing on blades 1/8th of an inch thick? “Is ice hockey hard? I don’t know, you tell me.” Hockey is hard to statistically quantify. It doesn’t stop every seven seconds the way football does. It isn’t a pitch at a time, or a possession at a time, with offence and defence defined, the way basketball is. The average player may play 17 minutes a game — in 23 spurts of 45 seconds each — and have the puck on his stick no more than 40 seconds in total. That means for 16 minutes and 20 seconds, they are playing without possession of the puck. If you can’t play without the puck in the NHL, for the most part, you can’t play or won’t play. So how, numerically, do you measure a player when 95% or more of his 45-second spurts is spent without the puck? So much of hockey is random battles, loose pucks, ebb and flow, offence turning to defence and defence turning to offence often within seconds of each other. Go back to Game 6 of last June’s Stanley Cup final and see how a championship was won. The Bruins and Blackhawks are tied with just more than a minute to play. Boston wins the faceoff. Possession. The puck goes back to another Bruin. More possession. Then Andrew Ference tosses the puck up the boards to no one. Turnover. The puck went from Niklas Hjalmarsson to Dave Bolland to another Hawk, was rimmed around behind the net, and ended up at the Chicago point. A slap shot through traffic was deflected, causing Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to go one way, the puck another. The puck hit the goal post and bounced down in the crease. And from behind the net came Bolland, away from the play, knocking the puck into an empty net for the Cup winner. Offence determines scoring in almost every sport: In hockey, a defensive error — some quantifiable, some not — a breakdown, leads to more scoring than offensive creation does. There are more random or scrambly goals than just Bolland’s title winner. In a different way, though, it was not unlike the key goal Ryan McDonagh scored in Montreal on Monday night. McDonagh took a slap shot in the direction of Canadiens netminder Dustin Tokarski. It didn’t seem like a scoring chance. But the puck hit Josh Gorges in the pants, deflected off him, hit the goal post and then deflected into the net. These are game- and series-changing plays: They can’t be defined by any statistic. There is a mistake and a bounce and a battle and a deflection and another bounce and a goal. And in the words of Jim Hughson: “That’s hockey.” The Maple Leafs were among the worst Corsi and Fenwick teams (the best known of the advanced statistics) in the NHL this season. When they collapsed, the stats mavens were almost gleeful. They knew it was coming. They called it. The Leafs were their convenient poster-boy for the changing way to interpret hockey. And an easy target. The mavens weren’t quite so accurate in their analysis of the Colorado Avalanche who, like the Leafs, gave up too many shots against and didn’t have the puck enough. But all Colorado did was win and finish ahead of Chicago and St. Louis. Not all shots on goal matter. Not all possession is meaningful puck possession. Not all faceoffs won will result in possession. Not all faceoffs lost end up with bad results. The Los Angeles Kings, even before Marian Gaborik, were among the best possession teams in the NHL and yet among the most challenged to score goals. At one point in the season, they scored 16 goals in a 10-game period and followed that up by scoring three goals over six games: That’s 19 goals in almost 20% of the season. At that time, the team that had the puck the most scored the least. Even now, after his difficult playoff run, there are statistical breakdowns that will tell you Sidney Crosby had a strong playoffs with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He did not. He scored once. He had the puck, but created little offence for himself or those he played with. His Corsi numbers led the NHL: But the best offensive player in the game has scored one goal in his past 17 playoff games. The statistics indicate Crosby had a fine playoffs. Crosby, himself, would disagree with the numbers. The stats people will tell you the game must adjust to the statistics but, really, the stats need to adjust to the game. The game hasn’t changed all that much, other than speed and length of shift. The voices of analytics haven’t invented a new game, only a new way to look at it. There is a place for what they do — just not a defining one. The game, through these eyes, is too free-flow, too incidental and accidental, too promiscuous to be naturally or easily analyzed with math. Steve Simmons has covered the NHL for more than 30 years and has coached various levels of hockey for more than 20 of those years. WHAT THE STATS DON’T TELL YOU Why hockey doesn’t lend itself to statistical analysis the way other sports do: There is no statistic to accurately quantify neutral-zone play. There is no statistic that tell you which wingers gets the puck off the boards and out of their zone and which wingers do not. There is no statistic that defines vision and creativity: That is pure subjectivity. There is no statistic that measures play without the puck, a most important factor in most games. There is no statistic, outside of individual team stats, that measures scoring chances which, again, is a subjective stat. There is no statistic that separates a good dump-in from a bad dump-in. There is a difference, just as there is for a good line change and a bad one. There is no statistic that indicates individual ability to win loose puck battles, especially in close games or the last minutes of periods or late in shifts.
  • Comment on Habs have to be better for next game, Subban says after 7-2 drubbing by Rangers (Video) (2014-05-21 07:03:30)
    MONTREAL — It had all changed, all of it in the wake of the injury to Carey Price that has sidelined the Canadiens’ world-class, gold-medal-winning, franchise goaltender for the remainder of the Eastern finals. Suddenly, it was dramatically different. Suddenly, and for the first time since the first pucks were dropped in training camps across the continent back in September, the Rangers were overwhelming favorites to come out of the East. Yes, that’s right: the Rangers. Except it was not different at all for these Blueshirts, who seem entirely nonplussed by all the commotion and whose tunnel vision was and is 20-20 just as it has been through this entire tournament. It had not changed for the Rangers, who head home for Thursday’s Game 3 at the Garden with a 2-0 lead in this series following Monday night’s 3-1 Game 2 victory, in which Henrik Lundqvist’s brilliance proved a calm port in the frenzied storm unleashed by the Habs pretty much from start to finish. Shots: 41-30, Canadiens, including 19 in the third period. Shot attempts: 80-44, including 32 over the final 20 minutes. Priceless. “You could give him that stupid hat every game,” Brian Boyle, with no intention of blaspheming that Broadway fedora, said of Lundqvist. “If you’re talking about things not changing, he’s the first person to look at.” Boyle had pulled off his skates. Blood dotted the pinky toe of his left foot. That’s what you get — well, not you and certainly not I — from getting in front of a shot by P.K. Subban, who recorded an ungodly 18 attempts in 29:40, nine of which hit net, three of which were blocked. “It’s bleeding!” Boyle exclaimed. “That is sick.” Before the game, it was all about Price, injured when Chris Kreider crashed into him at 3:15 of the second period of Game 1. It was all about Price, that is, when it wasn’t about all about Kreider, whom the Canadiens and coach Michel Therrien painted as a menace to the society of goaltenders around the world. Let’s make it clear, to borrow the language used by Lundqvist following the morning skate: There was nothing Kreider, faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, could have done to avoid skidding into Price after he was clipped on the right skate on his sprint to the net by a hopelessly beaten Alexei Emelin. The Montreal fans booed Kreider every time he touched the puck. That included the shift late in the first on which he sent a three-on-two feed across to Rick Nash — goal-scorer Rick Nash, to you — who buried it for a 2-1 lead at 18:58. “I thought it was hilarious,” Kreider told The Post when asked his reaction to the hubbub. “To tell you the truth, it helped me get up for the game. “It lit a fire under my ass that I don’t think is going away anytime soon.” Who was that masked man in the Montreal net? It was 24-year-old Dustin Tokarski, who made his NHL playoff debut accompanied by a pedigree of championships earned in the Memorial Cup, World Junior Tournament and the AHL. He was fine; blameless on the three against. Honestly, it only mattered that Lundqvist was in the net at the other end; Lundqvist, who for so much of the first and third periods did indeed seem like The Lone Ranger. “You have to go out and earn it every game. The first two here, I think we played well for the most part,” The King said. “I had to make a couple of saves here and there, but as a group we played really well. “I don’t really think about what’s in their head [or] what is their approach. I don’t really care. I just try to focus on what I have to do, really.” The Rangers mind their own business and nobody else’s. It has become a hallmark of this team. “That’s not something that just comes, you’ve got to work on it, and we do,” Boyle said. “Our leadership in here sets a great example for us. “We didn’t focus on who was playing in goal for them. We didn’t expect it to be any easier just because of the change. We had a write-up from the coaches before the series of what we needed to do to beat Montreal, and that stayed the same whether Price was in net or not.” The Rangers have won five straight playoff games for the first time in 20 years, since the 1994 parade began with seven straight out of the gate. The Finals are two victories away. “We’ve earned that,” Boyle said. “We’ve worked really hard to get where we are. But now it’s about Thursday and nothing else. It’s about that tunnel vision.” It is about one at a time for the overwhelming favorites to come out of the East and play for the Stanley Cup. The Rangers. Tell me nothing has changed.
  • Comment on Habs have to be better for next game, Subban says after 7-2 drubbing by Rangers (Video) (2014-05-21 06:58:17)
    Oh goodie
  • Comment on Liveblog: Playoff Game 4 – Pacioretty propels Canadiens to Round 2 (2014-04-23 06:17:15)
    Thats a good one
  • Comment on Lightning moves ahead of Habs in standings (2014-04-16 06:35:23)
    Yes thats right
  • Comment on HI/O Show: Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre talks Habs (2014-04-15 08:13:47)
    Same here
  • Comment on Is Doan ready to make a move? (2012-07-30 04:37:00)
    Doan and his agent NEVER said they would definitely visit Montreal. If you read the stories properly the words could, may, and possible were used. He would never say no outright because that would be dumb and then y'all know the anti chambre media storm to follow. The two chances he comes here are slim and none and slim left the building a long time ago. Once Subban gets done, there is almost no money left considering an injury cushion and then if ever the cap ceiling decreases.Yea yea Gomez to Hamilton And for sure Doan would look forward to the first press conference when MP Fatty Coderre would show up and ask him if he still considers quebecois *#&*# frogs. Just a beautiful scene waiting to happen and you know the PQ would jump on the bandwagon to get the flag waivers all riled up for the election. Doan has a big American family to think about
  • Comment on Again, Tim Thomas (2012-07-29 15:48:35)
    And what does that have to do with Gomez no 3 team trade clause or are you just trying to be a smart_ _ _?