Assessing Connor McMichael And Hendrix Lapierre Via Possession Metrics

Graphic: NHL.com

Coaches and management use a wide array of metrics and assessment tools to evaluate a player and their viability to effectively make an everyday lineup. In this post we will hone in on several of those factors, predominantly advanced analytics associated with possession and zone start percentages for Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre so far this season.

POSSESSION METRICS

Possession metrics are used to evaluate a player or team’s puck possession while on the ice. It measures overall shot attempts made by a player and his teammates against in relation to shot attempts made by opposing players on the ice. In this post we will look at:

[You can read more about possession metrics in our NHL Analytics Glossary. Data used in this post is courtesy of Natural Stat Trick]

Corsi For Percentage (CF%)Corsi For is a possession metric that measures all shot attempts. Your typical shot counter seen on a game broadcast or in standard NHL stats measures shots on goal (shots within the frame of the goal), where as Corsi measures all shot attempts, regardless if they are on goal, blocked, etc.  A player CF% over 50% indicates his team is generating more shot attempts than the opposition when the player is on the ice. [Click to enlarge]

Connor McMichael leads all Capitals skaters in CF% at 67.93%, well above the 50% mark. On the flip side Hendrix Lapierre has the teams worst CF% at 42.06%. In general terms, when Connor McMichael is on the ice Capitals players generate 67.93% of all of the shot attempts while opposing players generate just 32.07% of the shots. In even more general terms, the majority of the play is in the Capitals offensive zone when McMichael is on the ice. When Lapierre is on the ice a majority of the play is in the Capitals defensive zone.

High-Danger Corsi For Percentage (HDCF%) – HDCF% measures shot attempts, just like above, but in the high-danger area – close to the goal. It is a decent indicator of how well a player and his teammates are pushing the play to the front of the oppositions goal. [Click to enlarge]

Once again Connor McMichael leads all Capitals skaters in high-danger shot attempts. When he is on the ice, the Capitals generate 70.83% of all high danger shot attempts, while the opposition generates just 29.17% of the shots. Hendrix Lapierre is much further down the list and less than 50%.

Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%) xGF% is another valuable possession metric that measures the percentage of “expected goals” for a player when he is on the ice. The metric correlates each and every shot attempt and the exact location of each shot with conversion rates based on historical data at that specific shot location. [Click to enlarge]

Once again Connor McMichael leads all Capitals skaters at 67.93%. Hendrix Lapierre is at the bottom with just 42.06%.

Scoring Chances For Percentage (SCF%)scoring chances for percentage is similar to the three aforementioned metrics, but it measures scoring chances in relation to the opposition. Again, anything over 50% indicates that a majority of scoring chances are being made by the Capitals when that player is on the ice. [Click to Enlarge].

Again, Connor McMichael and his linemates are generating more scoring chances when they are on the ice compared to the opposition. Hendrix Lapierre and his linemates are allowing more scoring chances by the opposition than they are generating when he is on the ice.


OFFENSIVE ZONE SHIFT START PERCENTAGES

The aforementioned stats are a good start to take an initial look at how each player is doing when he is one the ice. But like almost any stat, additional factors can be appended to add additional context and further refine initial results. One of those factors for possession metrics is zone starts.

Zone starts basically looks at the percentage of shift starts for a player taken in each of the three zones (defensive, neutral and offensive). If a player is making a majority of their shift starts in the defensive zone, this is an indication that the player and his line is looked to for defensive play. A good example of this is the Dowd line. Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette looks to the so-called 4th line to stop the opposing teams top players as well as provide defense when a shift is starting in the Capitals defensive zone.

However, the percentage of zone starts could also indicate a player is being “protected” from being deployed in the defensive zone, and may see a majority of his starts in the offensive zone. In addition, top scoring players will also start in the offensive zone a majority of time.

This all is to say that zone starts can affect a players possession metrics as discussed above. If a player is starting in the defensive zone a majority of the time, for defensive purposes, he may not get as many chances to generate his own shots when he is on the ice. [Click to enlarge]


As you can see in the table above we have two pretty good examples. Tom Wilson starts 93.55% of his zone starts in the offensive zone. His linemates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin also have very high o-zone starts. This is clearly for offensive purposes. Laviolette wants his scoring lines starting in the offensive zone as much as possible.

However, it’s very likely that Lapierre’s very high offensive zone start percentage is more for protection purposes (protected starts). Only Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette really knows if he “trusts” Lapiere in the defensive zone, but when we look at Lapierre’s greatly reduced minutes in tight games, that’s an indication Laviolette is looking for players he can trust defensively. The same can be said for Daniel Sprong, who is often benched in the third period when the score is close, as his defensive skills are greatly lacking.

Regardless, the percentage of offensive zone starts indicates that there is little affect on the previously discussed possession metrics for McMichael and Lapierre. However, it does indicate that it’s likely Laviolette has more trust in McMichael at both ends of the ice then he does with Lapierre, as McMichael’s offensive zone starts is only 64.71% of the time.

CONCLUSION

There are a wide array of factors that go into assessing a player’s viability for the Capitals everyday lineup. Contract requirements, level of competition, linemates, face-off winning percentages, ability to play other positions, etc., all play a role in the overall decision.

Advanced metrics like possession and zone starts are key factors in the decision. It’s clear that Connor McMichael has a significant edge in this category, so far. Things can change, but right now McMichael has the lead when it comes to possession metrics.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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10 Responses to Assessing Connor McMichael And Hendrix Lapierre Via Possession Metrics

  1. Anonymous says:

    McMichael clearly looks comfortable in the system. Hope he pots one soon. Hendrix is years away but shows promise.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve felt McMichael has the edge. He’s been around the net, generating line push. His goals will come, it’s just a matter of time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great analysis! Thanks for posting. I feel they were pretty even during preseason, but McMichael’s overall game has been on point since the regular season started. It’s looking good for both and I hope they have long tenures with the Capitals.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Thanks Ano! I agree, the bottom line is that we have two pretty good forwards for quite a few years to come.

    • DWGie26 says:

      its great that CMM got an opportunity to play with men in AHL last year. That has clearly benefited him. Also happy to see Lapierre get an opportunity with the Caps, but it is about time to send him down and let him play 20 minutes a game in all situations (maybe not PK). Caps are generally conservative with development being careful not to force youngsters into lineup too early and this will be the case with Lapierre. Don’t worry… he’ll be back. Only 19.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think they both will be good and do expect Protas, Brett and Becks to be not far off…. AA on D will be fine as well

  5. Dan Hornbaker says:

    Great read! Love this site!! Jon, what is the status/option for Hendrix if/when he is sent down. I don’t understand these rules fully…because of his age, he is to young to go to hersey, correct? So he goes back to his junior team…But, if he stays 10 games and his contract kicks in does that change anything with regard to being able to send him to Hershey since he is on his contract? I am guessing not but figured I’d check with you.

    If he goes back to Junior, do you think it is a bit of a waste of a year like many felt it would be for McMichael last year?

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Greetings Dan, and thanks for the kind words. Hendrix would have to return to Juniors (Acadie-Bathurst in QMJHL) as he is not old enough to play for Hershey. A player must be 20 yo if he started his playing in the CHL (agreement between NHL/AHL and the CHL). It’s a tough rule, but aimed at stopping a majority of good CHL players from leaving to play in AHL. Yes, I agree with you, not a lot to gain for him by spending another year in Junior Hockey. The team needs to weigh if they want to burn a year of his entry level contract. If he plays 10 or more games it will mean the first year of his contract goes into effect.

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