If you’ve trudged through any of my scribbles over the last seven years then you may have inadvertently discovered who my favorite Capitals player is – The Silky Swede, The Baby-faced assassin, Slick Nick, Saint Nick, Nicklas Backstrom. But hopefully you haven’t realized this, and here’s why.
Quality analysts from all walks of life are constantly aware of the potential affects of internal or personal bias and how it can taint otherwise sound analysis. Letting personal bias affect your assessments is simply a fatal flaw. Social media and the webispehere is littered with so-called “analysis” that is rooted in personal bias. Finding numbers to support your bias is completely backwards. But it’s a common mistake, and can be a constant challenge for even the best analysts.
So when I come to a piece that includes or relates to Nicklas Backstrom, I need to remind myself of my personal bias. I’m hyper-aware when writing about Mr. Backstrom, because my bias says he can do no wrong.
So when I saw the Swedish surgeon botch a pass last night that led to the Penguins first goal, my immediate reaction was “that can’t be.” Saint Nick doesn’t botch passes. Then I took a minute to check my internal bias, watch a dozen more replays, and concluded that yes, yes he does. Because It can happen to the best of them.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) April 30, 2021
Anyways, the play eventually led me to thinking about takeaways and turnovers, and how each of the Capitals players are doing in that department, so far this season. Here’s a bias-free glance at the numbers:
AVERAGE TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL PER GAME
The following graph simply plots the difference between the average takeaways per game and the average giveaways per game (TkA/60 – GvA/60) for each Capitals player. (Click to enlarge).
Nic Dowd and Connor Sheary currently lead the team, stealing 1.76 and 1.44 more pucks than they giveaway each game, respectively. That’s pretty impressive, and somewhat of a surprise to me.
My faith in the universe is restored by seeing that Nicklas Backstrom is number three on the team, taking .58 more pucks per game than he turns over. But I actually think the number should be higher, and that there might be an error in the data. Just kidding. (bias).
Another surprise is Dmitry Orlov, who has the 4th best turnover ratio on the team. Orlov gets a ton of heat when he makes one of those cataclysmic turnovers, but in all reality, he’s one of the best on the team when it comes to turnover differentials. And when you consider where the other Capitals defensmen land on this list, he’s been incredible this season.
The concerns obviously come at the bottom of the chart. Anthony Mantha has given away an average of 2.28 pucks more per game than he’s taken. The bottom pairing of Nick Jensen and Zdeno Chara, who have been having a great season (but not last night) are also at the bottom of the list. Brenden Dillon, Justin Schultz and Alex Ovechkin have also turned the puck over more than they’ve stolen, and by a significant margin.
Here are the actual total differentials for each player (takeaways minus giveaways):
So yes, Nicklas Backstrom will occasionally turn the puck over, and on even rarer occasions (think Haley’s Comet), one of his turnovers will lead to a goal for the opposing team. It happens.
The Capitals and Penguins are currently tied in points at the top of the East Division, with a huge rematch set for Saturday. I think Backstrom scores a goal and has two assists, for three points, the same points total he recorded on Thursday night.
By Jon Sorensen