Friday, November 24, 2017

Allen vs Idaho Game Preview, A Look at Allen's Last 10 Games & Could the ECHL Playoff Teams Already be Decided?

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they continue their three game set with the Idaho Steelheads. Allen had a big 3-1 win on Wednesday and will have to have an even better performance tonight in game two to get another victory.

- Where could that improved performance come from? The two most likely areas are shots on goal and on the power play. In the game on Wednesday the Americans were out shot 32-20 including 17-4 in the third period. Idaho is #2 in the league in shots taken per game (38.38) compared to Allen who is ranked #11 (33.41). Idaho is also ranked #2 in shots allowed per game (27.63) while Allen is ranked #22 allowing 35.47 shots per game. If Allen expects to win tonight they need to close the gap between the shots they take and the shots they allow.

- The Americans have been hit or miss on the power play lately. They only had two opportunities on Wednesday and did not convert. Expect more power plays in the game tonight as both teams rank near the top of the ECHL in minor penalties. Idaho is #2 with 108 minor penalties this season while Allen is ranked #4 with 100 minor penalties. If you look at the Americans power play over the last five games it looks great statistically going 7-22 for a 31.8% conversion rate. However, the seven goals came in two games (one was a 4-8 against Idaho) and Allen was scoreless on the power play in the other three games.

- Another stat that might impact the game is Allen's penalty kill. Overall the Americans penalty kill is ranked #7 in the ECHL at 86.8% but on the road it is ranked #23 at 77.8%.

- The bottom line is special teams did not play a big role in the Allen win against Idaho on Wednesday, the law of averages says special teams will play a bigger role in the game tonight.

- I know for a fact the team is really banged up right now and several players are game time decisions. If a player or two can't go tonight Martinson will have to bring in a reinforcement. My guess is if it wasn't for the fact the team is shorthanded, there would be several players sitting out. After the games in Idaho tonight and Saturday the Americans will have a very light schedule where they only play two games in two weeks. Those two games are at home games against Rapid City on December 1st and 2nd. The Americans will gut out the two games in Idaho and then will have some time to rest up.     

- The referee scheduled for the game tonight is Andy Howard (#2) and the linesmen will be Scott DeBaugh (#67) and Ryan Nevins (#86).


- The Americans have certainly been playing better hockey recently so I decided to look at the last 10 games and see what could be gleaned from the data. The most important data point is Allen's record which is 6-3-0-1 over the last 10 games. If you look at their last seven games the record is 5-1-0-1.

- Allen has been very good defensively over the last 10 games allowing only 28 goals. The 28 goals include two losses where the Americans gave up six goals and five goals. In the other eight games Allen allowed a total of 17 goals or 2.13 per game. In the last 10 games Allen has allowed one goal three times, two goals twice, three goals three times and then the five and six goal games. Obviously good goaltending has helped but the Americans have played really good defensively over the last 10 games.

- The last 10 games have not been so good offensively as the Americans have managed just 29 goals for an average per game of 2.9. This is a team that historically under coach Martinson has averaged close to four goals per game and last season averaged 4.08 goals per game which was ranked #2 in the ECHL.

- In the last 10 games the Allen power play is 9-46 which is 19.6% and a big improvement when you consider the power play was at 11.9%  at the beginning of November. When you look behind the 19.6%  it tells a different story. Allen scored a power play goal in only four of the last 10 games. That is six games with no power play goals, two games with one power play goal, one game with three power play goals and one game with four power play goals. If you take out the 4-8  against Idaho on November 11 and a 3-5 against Wichita on November 19 the power play is 2-33 (6.1%) in the other eight games. To make matters worse Allen lost both of the games when they scored three and four power play goals.

- To no surprise Allen does well when they score first which they did in five of the last 10 games and they won all five. The Americans have actually scored first in five of their last seven games which is a big reason they are 5-1-0-1 in the last seven games. In the last 10 games Allen didn't score first five times and their record in those five games was 1-3-0-1.

- What conclusions can you draw from the last 10 games? The team is playing good defensive hockey which has allowed them to win games without having the explosive offense they have had in the past. The power play has been good at times but needs to be more consistent. Good starts to games produce good results and the recent success coincides with better starts. The Americans need to find a way to score a few more goals going forward.

- I heard a recent interview with Allen captain Joel Chouinard where he talked about the differences between the team from this season and last season and he made me think what you can take from the last 10 games. This team may not be as skilled as last season so expecting them to average over four goals a game may be unrealistic. As a team Allen scored on 12.9% of their shots last season, so far this season the shooting percentage is 9.9%. A three percent reduction in shooting percentage over the course of a season would be close to 70 goals. What is different this season is the team is tougher to play against  and is better on the defensive end of the rink. It may not be come easy but this team will claw, scrap and fight their way to the playoffs and then anything can happen.


- I have talked about this in the past after reading numerous articles about the history in the NHL where data proves somewhere between 75% - 80% of playoff teams are already decided by Thanksgiving. Here is one of the more informative stories about this subject from the Hockey News several years ago:

It is strange to think with a little more than 20% of the ECHL season complete you can predict who will be in the playoffs with close to 80% accuracy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so here are my predictions based on what I have read.

North Division - This is the toughest division to predict because only six points separate first and last place. I am going with Wheeling, Reading, Adirondack and Brampton. Manchester and Worcester miss the playoffs.

South Division  - This one is easy and you can take it to the bank based on history. Florida, South Carolina, Greenville and Atlanta are in. Orlando, Jacksonville and Norfolk can already make tee times and plan vacations.

Central Division - Toledo, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Fort Wayne make the playoffs. Kalamazoo, Quad City and Indy stay home.

Mountain Division - Wichita, Colorado, Idaho and Allen are in while Tulsa, Utah and Rapid City miss the playoffs.

This is all done in fun and I will definitely revisit this at the end of the season and hold myself accountable. And if your favorite team is in the don't make the playoff group remember even with 80% accuracy I have three or four teams wrong.     


DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans have been getting outstanding goaltending this season but how does it compare to last season? In what may be the oddest of odd statistics when I looked up the goalie stats so far this season the goalies as a group have a GAA of 2.76 and and save percentage of .920. I decide to look up last season and as a group the goalies had a GAA of, you guessed it, 2.76 and a save percentage of .920. 

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