Friday, May 1, 2009

Breaking down the defense


Earlier in the week, the NHL announced the three finalists for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league's top defensive forward. They are Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Philadelphia's Mike Richards and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler.

A numbers look at some of their credentials:

Datsyuk: Second in the league in takeaways with 89; third in plus/minus with a +34; ninth in faceoff-win percentage at 56.0%; 76 hits; 33 blocked shots; one shorthanded goal.

Richards: Third in the league with 83 takeaways; had 147 hits and tied Chris Drury for most blocked shots by forwards with 90; won the third-most faceoffs in the league but only at a clip of 49.0%; +22 which put him 28th in the league; league-high seven shorthanded goals including his third career 3-on-5 goal (an NHL record.)

Kesler: Eighth in the league with 74 takeaways; seventh among forwards with 70 blocked shots; 72 hits; 54.0% faceoff percentage; two shorthanded goals; only a +8.

Pretty good numbers and tough to argue against any of their selections, if you ask me. In an earlier post, I'd picked Richards to win it, and looking at these numbers, nothing is changing my mind.

A glance at some of the local (to this blog) talent:

Sidney Crosby: 80 hits, 42 blocks, 51.3% faceoffs, 56 takeaways, +3, no shorthanded goals
Jordan Staal: 156 hits, 55 blocked shots, 47.0% faceoffs, 45 takeaways, 1 shorthanded goal, +5
Mikko Koivu: 45 hits, 36 blocks, 52.7% faceoffs, 63 takeaways, 4 shorthanded goals, +2

Solid numbers for each, and each of the above three has an advantage over someone else in that list. But really, none compare to the three finalists. Numbers rarely tell the whole story and they probably don't this time, but they seem to be sufficient evidence that the league did a fair job picking the three candidates.

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