It’s time for another More Than Meets the Eye, where I turn an analytical gaze on a Thursday night game chosen by Today’s Slapshot readers. Last night’s tilt was the playoff-bound Florida Panthers, against the young and hungry Arizona Coyotes. The Panthers are known for stifling defense, but don’t always create the best scoring chances, and the Coyotes are exactly the opposite.
In this game of unstoppable force meets immovable object, Roberto Luongo and the Panthers came out on top 3-2. While the score makes this game seem close, there’s more here than meets the eye.
The Panthers clearly won the 5-on-5 battle, though obviously the biggest stat here is Scoring Chances For percentage. Scoring chances are what are considered “more dangerous” shots, mostly defined as coming from the “home plate area” (which you’ll see drawn out on the goalie charts). While Arizona did a decent job of keeping shots away from their net, with only 24 shots on goal against total, what they did give up was from very dangerous areas.
And this trend wasn’t just at even strength, either. While Florida did accrue more power play time (6.7 minutes to Arizona’s 4.7), they had 11 scoring chances to the Coyotes’ 4. As a rate, that would be 98.5 scoring chances per 60 minutes to 51.1. That’s…significant. Given that Florida did score on the man advantage, you have to bet that Arizona’s penalty kill will be working on that going forward.
This is what it looks like when all your lines have very defined roles.
On the Panthers’ side, it’s unsurprising to see Reilly Smith leading the way offensively, as his line (which also included Vincent Trocheck and Derek MacKenzie) was on fire last night. Trocheck even scored one of the Panthers’ three goals. Meanwhile, a reunited Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau had very strong showings; they had a lot of success playing together for the Minnesota Gophers.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s main offensive pieces – Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Oliver Ekman-Larsson – were all effectively shut down by the Panthers. While they did a good job of limiting shots against, that’s not exactly where you want your team’s points leaders to end up.
Shane Doan, who is having something of a career renaissance, did add to the score sheet 5-on-5, and really proved why he’s the team’s captain. On the other hand, trade bait Mikael Boedker did himself no favors tonight, as he was invisible offensively, and terrible defensively.
The Coyotes better be buying Louie Domingue a beer. Remember when I said that the Panthers had won the “dangerous shots” battle? This is exactly what it looked like. The large majority of the chances Arizona had were from the outside – shots that are typically easier for goaltenders to track and make saves on.
The Panthers were able to exploit the leaky defense of the Coyotes and get in tight for their chances. While not every chance ends up on net, some are blocked, some go wide, it’s a far more frenetic game for a goaltender. Without Domingue playing an excellent game, this could’ve turned into a total blowout.
When you simplify it, every hockey game has three key areas of influence: 5-on-5 play, special teams play, and goaltending.
Last night, both goaltenders were on point, which means the battle came down to which skaters would be able to own the ice. Both teams scored on the power play, so that was another draw. Which just leaves 5-on-5 action.
The Panthers won the biggest battle of all, and did it in definitive fashion. When pundits talk about a “complete, 60-minute game” this is the kind of performance they’re imagining.
While Arizona has a lot of exciting pieces in Domi, Duclair, and the prospects that haven’t even made it to the NHL yet like Dylan Strome, this particular iteration of the Coyotes isn’t quite ready for the playoffs. On the other hand, the Panthers look like they’re getting comfortable with their style and want to do some major damage in the postseason.