Preseason jitters

NHL preseason: the stuff of legendary performances by players who will soon be waived for cap space, quixotic line combinations involving guys who don’t even show up when you google them, and coverage so comprehensive it borders on claustrophobic. Want all 20 TSN analysts to tweet line combinations at you, and then analyze those combinations, and then do pre- and post- game coverage about something that is by its very definition meaningless? Lucky for you, we have two solid weeks of that!

You’ve also got trolling sportscasters telling fans of all teams that the way these guys are playing today means even the remotest thing about the season. Caveat: I’ve watched about fifteen minutes of preseason hockey total, mostly because I already think the regular season, let alone the preseason, is too long. But I check in. I read about Spezza’s twitchy groin, and how a defence that includes Michael Sdao barely held up against the Icelandic team from D2. I’m human. And I worry.

So, with that set-up, let me ask you: are you concerned at all about this?

Craig Anderson G OTT 3 3 0 2 0 65 9 3.42 56 .862 0 0 1 0 158:23
Robin Lehner G OTT 3 3 2 1 0 84 8 3.00 76 .905 0 0 0 0 160:00

Small sample size, weird defense, they played the Islanders in two separate games simultaneously, yadda yadda. I get it. It doesn’t mean anything. But on the surface of things? Holy hell have these two guys looked brutal.

Someone smarter than me should do an analysis of how accurate preseason is as an indicator of how players will perform when the season starts. We can all remember the big exceptions, like Brandon Bochenski lighting it up and then disappearing immediately. But what’s the norm, obscured from the naked eye by its perpetuity? What does the data say? It strikes me as odd to discount on the basis of the exception. It’s like looking at Alexandre Daigle and concluding that first overall picks are worthless.

All I’m really prepared for is conjecture at a glance. Looking at the Time On Ice leaders for goalies in the preseason, you do see a few things that are totally expected.

Cam Ward: plays a ton of minutes, totally stinks. Verifiable starters like Carey Price and Kari Lehtonen putting up league average numbers. Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask being absolutely dominant.

Go down the list and it plays out pretty much as expected. In other words, everyone who you would expect to suck pretty much sucks, and everyone you’d expect to play well is playing well. Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner may be outliers here. We better hope they are.

Because this is a team who allowed a lot of shots against last year, and will now have a second pairing of Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch. Without at least league average goaltending, you could see this team struggle out of the gate, and even with the benefit of a full season ahead of them, we know how hard it is to play catch-up in this league.

Having said all of that: play ball already.

3 thoughts on “Preseason jitters

  1. Ummmm yeah, consider me jittery as well, hehe. I think Anderson and Lehner had one loss each that could be discounted as unlucky, but the rest of their losses weren’t necessarily not on them. That being said, it is preseason, and thank God none of these games counted. I’m a little worried about Cowen and Wiercioch on the second pairing too–mostly because I don’t see Cowen as being the defensive stalwart he’s so often touted as–but I guess nobody’s real value will be shown until we hit the season proper. Can’t wait for the season to start either.

  2. Pingback: Senators News: September 30th | eyeonthesens

  3. I’d say save for one game where he was playing behind the Elmira Jackals Lehner looked nothing short of outstanding. Andy’s looked pretty shaky but it wouldn’t be the first time he’s started a season slow. Remember how Ottawa got blown out a couple of games early on a couple years back and were supposed to come in dead last in the league and then made the playoffs? Vets are hard to judge n preseason. To me they tend to play like a bunch of guys who’ve earned $5MM plus salaries trying to not get hurt. I completely agree that the preseason is at least a week too long (three back to back games too? wtf was that?). I’m all for guys having a chance to play real opponents and not just practice to warm up but when you get some of these Toronto and Montreal contests where mouth breathing 18 year olds are taking runs at each other to get noticed you just want to get to wishing you could skip forward to the real games.

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