Every night, I tweet out a stream of game charts showing each player’s Corsi differential. Corsi +/- gives a good sense of whether or not a player helps to drive puck possession for their team. In the long run, we know that this understanding of who dominated the puck and generated shot attempts is important. CF% helps us to predict goals for (and therefore wins) in the future.
As a companion to the nightly game charts, I want to dig into thecumulative Corsi totals that players have compiled over the course of the 2015-16 NHL season. This helps add some context to the nightly charts.
For example, Eric Staal has been near break-even for the Rangers in their past couple of games (a slight negative Corsi +/-). While this sounds unremarkable or fine, Staal spent the majority of this season in Carolina posting a very positive differential. This bit of context puts his current performance into perspective (and probably sheds light on the differences between the Rangers and Hurricanes this season).
To keep things manageable, I’ve broken down the 30 teams by division. Here, we’ll look at the Atlantic Division only.
Notes on the charts
- all data is provided by corsica.hockey, an excellent, new-ish stats site. Go there and support creator Emmanuel Perry by making a donation.
- all data is 5v5 and score, zone, and venue adjusted (as always)
- player bars are coloured to represent their total 5v5 TOI this season
- numbers in parentheses are the players CF% (5v5)
What an odd season for the Bruins.
Hijacked by Don Sweeney’s off-season circus and early-season concerns, the team seemed destined for a step-back season. Instead, the team currently sits in a playoff spot and would face the Florida Panthers in the first round if the playoffs started today.
In terms of puck possession, the usual people have done their usual things for Boston. Bergeron plays plenty of minutes for the Bruins and is consistently one of the game’s most dominant puck possessors.
Brad Marchand, once thought of as a passenger, has shown that he has huge stand-alone value as well. His offensive totals have been outstanding this season- 34 goals, 54 points to date – to go with a +200 Corsi differential. He’s a force.
Loui Eriksson has taken a touch of the sting out of the Seguin deal, proving his mettle as a strong complementary piece of the top-six. Pastrnak, Krejci, and and Beleskey have all been plus players at forward as well.
The blue line has been a slightly muddier picture but Chara, Krug, and Kevan Miller (?!) have all posted positive differentials.
On the negative side, Spooner and Hayes have suffered and will need bounce-back seasons to solidify their spots in Boston next year. Rinaldo’s been awful…but you already knew that.
After this season, it’s safe to say that Don Sweeney’s crazy – but maybe crazy as a fox.*
*just kidding, he’s fully crazy – the guy dealt a 3rd round pick for Rinaldo (see, bottom of chart)
Little was expected in Buffalo this year and, as anticipated, the season’s been mostly a wreck.
But not all is lost. Youngster Sam Reinhart survived the negative Corsi differentials in Buffalo, managing a plus Corsi +/- and a very respectable CF%. He was joined by newcomer Evander Kane who is currently fifth in individual CF attempts in the NHL (as per war-on-ice).
Underrated defensemen Mark Pysyk and Cody Franson remained above break-even on the season as well. There are usual puck possession pieces in Buffalo, no question.
However, for the most part, this is a team that continues to chase the puck. Despite Eichel’s excellent potential and current offensive contributions, he’s been a big puck possession negative all year.
And no defensive duo has struggled more that Gorges and Ristolainen. The combination of huge minutes and poor puck play has completely sunk this defense pairing.
Brighter days are ahead for the Sabres…but those days aren’t here yet.
The Red Wings came into the year riding an incredible 24 season-long playoff streak. But, with a new coach behind the bench, aging stars, questions on the blue line, and a battle for the starting goalie position, the year began with an air of uncertainty.
If the playoffs started today, Detroit’s streak would end. But that’s not for a lack of good puck possession work. Veterans like Datsyuk and Richard, along with newcomer Mike Green, have posted major pluses in Corsi differential.
The vets aren’t alone – Tatar, Nyquist, Pulkinnen, and Larkin have all registered positive Corsi differentials as well, offering hope for the future.
But the team’s most misunderstood player is probably defensemen Brendan Smith. Perpetually available in trade, Brendan Smith has been the Red Wings’ best puck possession player overall. So it goes.
Glendening, Quincey, and Dekeyser own Detroit’s worst cumulative Corsi differentials. None of the trio is unbelievably awful but their nightly negative differentials don’t help the Red Wings.
This chart may surprise a little. Despite the great times, strong record, and pending playoffs position for the Panthers, the team hasn’t been strong in terms of puck possession.
The biggest reason they’ve overcome poor puck play? PDO:
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) March 18, 2016
Before your good Panthers vibes are killed, there are positive signs. Brian Campbell remains silky and puck-dominant on the blue line. Forwards Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, and Vincent Trocheck have been Corsi pluses all year long. Ageless hockey hero Jaromir Jagr is a plus as well (no surprise).
But for the most part, this team has chased the puck. Ekblad’s right on the break-even mark but Mitchell, Gudbranson, and Kulikov have struggled on the blue line. Mackenzie and Huberdeau are negatives on the season (remember, this is 5v5 only).
Overall, this is a team that routinely loses the shot attempts battle. Long-term, that’s not a good plan for a team headed to the playoffs.
Will the PDO wave continue? Possible.
Is Luongo strong enough to weather the extra shots he’ll continue to face? Maybe.
Can Kevin Spacey continue to fuel this team’s unlikely run? Most likely.
The Panthers story has been a fun one and it’s never smart to bet against an Underwood.
What a disappointment.
Out of action since November, Carey Price’s injury sunk the Canadiens who had counted on returning to the playoffs after a good showing last post-season. Head coach Michel Therrien has come under fire, star defenseman P.K. Subban has been criticized, and the team fell well out of the playoff relevance early in cold of the winter months.
But puck possession? Not this team’s problem.
Captain Max Pacioretty leads the team. His Corsi differential is above +150 and he’s in the top-five in iCF in the NHL (as per war-on-ice).
But he’s not alone. Forwards Gallagher, Plekanec, Eller, and Galchenyuk are all plus puck possession players. On defense, Petry, Subban, Barberio, Markov, and Beaulieu are all noted plus players in Corsi +/-.
The Habs have only a few players on the negative, in fact. In a season where so much has seemingly gone wrong, the healthy return of Carey Price will allow the Habs to keep on with the rushing, shot-generating style (top-5 in CF60) that led to last season’s success.
Get well soon, Carey.
The Sens have struggled mightily this season, seemingly hoping with fingers crossed that last year’s magical run to close the season would repeat.
Instead, the team has floundered, dropping out of the playoff race, bungling the trade deadline, and acting like a contender when the team is in need of a look to the future.
What can the Corsi differential tell us?
For starters, Shane Prince deserved a bigger chance in Ottawa. He remains the best Corsi +/- after his departure to NY, and is certain to bloom into top-6 scoring depth for the Isles.
Meanwhile, plugger-turned-sniper Zack Smith continues to ride a hot shooting percentage to a career season. While the goals won’t last, the Corsi attempts just might. Mark Stone is a plus (no surprise) and world-beater Erik Karlsson is extremely close to break-even. That’s remarkable given Karlsson’s TOI this season.
At the other end, there’s tons to fear with the Senators. Ceci is in excess of -250 in Corsi differential. Ryan, Lazar, and Chiasson each have worse than a -150 Corsi +/-. This group has taken an absolute beating.
This off-season will be telling. A coaching change and some personnel moves will be needed to re-align this club. If HCDC returns and the roster comes back in similar shape, there’s no reason to expect improvement from this puck-chasing group.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have found their groove. But the loss of Stralman is absolutely huge – his partnership with Hedman has been perhaps the best puck possession partnership in the NHL this season.
So, what now?
Several Lightning forwards remain above 100 in Corsi differential this season. And only Nesterov and Carle are negative puck possession players – Drouin’s not around and Garrison’s essentially even.
The positive puck play bodes well.
Can the Lightning overcome the loss of the game’s most underrated defenseman? That’s a story fans will watch play out over the next couple of weeks.
In a sense, the Leafs couldn’t have scripted this season any better.
Selling high on the future, the team intended to stockpile draft choices, lose games, and pick high in the draft this summer. With new coach Mike Babcock in town, most hoped the losses would be close ones.
And that’s exactly what has happened.
Poised for another prime selection in the draft, the Leafs have things well in place for future seasons.
But that future may come quickly. Nylander, Soshnikov, Kapanen, Brown, Hyman, and NHL regular Morgan Rielly have all taken steps forward and seem poised to power the team to better results in the near future. In fact, all but Kapanen have played a good stretch of NHL time -and- have posted positive Corsi differentials.
Meanwhile, misunderstood and underappreciated Jake Gardiner continues to lead this team in puck possession. His glaring errors stick out in people’s minds but this is a defenseman the Leafs need to keep around.
At the other end of the chart, the Leafs expertly converted a number of their negative Corsi differential owners into picks. Polak, Spaling, and Matthias moved before the trade deadline, demonstrating upper management’s skill at identifying roster issues and seeking solutions.
Hunwick and Lupul have been the team’s worst puck managers. It’s not difficult to imagine that both will be gone before this team is ready to compete again.
For once in a very long while, the future is very bright in Toronto.