Friday, December 30, 2011

First Semester Grades for Harvard Hockey

With the second semester of hockey almost here, now's a good time to review how things went in the first half of the season. Harvard is 4-3-3 overall and stands 3-3-2 in the ECAC, good for a tie for 4th place with four other teams.

Team Offense: Harvard is a top-10 team in offense so far this season, averaging 3.50 goals per game. That's good for first in the ECAC (Union averages 3.35 GPG for second) and 2nd in Boston (behind BC's 3.53 GPG). Harvard's played less games than everyone, but it's still good company to be in. Digging deeper, of Harvard's 35 goals, 17 have come on the power play. While the Crimson have done a good job drawing penalties at even strength (5.3 power plays per game) the scoring has not come at evens. In conference, these numbers look slightly less impressive. Harvard averages 3 goals per game in ECAC play, 5th in the league. Of their 24 goals, 14 have come on the power play. Harvard draws 5.375 power plays per game, but only 10 even strength goals in 8 games played is a little worrying. Grade: B+

Team Defense: Defensively, Harvard is a bottom-10 team, certainly not what anyone predicted for them this season. They've given up 34 goals this season, or 3.4 goals against per game, 51st in the nation and last in the ECAC. Opposing teams have scored 11 goals on the penalty kill, meaning Harvard has given up 23 goals per game at even strength. Harvard is thus at a -.50 goal differential per game at even strength, giving up 5 more goals than they've scored at evens. The in conference numbers are (slightly) less troubling. Harvard has given up 24 goals in 8 league games, good for the 8th best scoring defense in the league - tied with cellar dwelling RPI but ahead of Dartmouth, Brown, and Princeton. Of those 24 goals, 10 have come down a man, meaning Harvard has given up 14 goals at evens in the ECAC. They are again being outscored by half a goal per game at even strength looking at only conference play. That number needs to become a positive and quickly if Harvard wants to remain in the hunt for a bye. Grade: B-

Special Teams: The power play is the best in the nation (17/53, 32.1%) ahead of Yale at 28%, though Yale has a slightly better conference power play at 33.3% to Harvard's 32.6%. Yale, though, only has 8 power play goals and only 24 attempts, compared to Harvard's 14 PPGs on 43 attempts. As highlighted in the offense section, Harvard's power play accounts for over half their goals in league play (and just about half overall). Harvard might have more difficulty in the second half- some teams began adjusting to Harvard's main play after giving up a few goals within a game to start keeping Harvard off the board. Now having seen the PP once and having video of it, teams might start taking away Harvard's looks. On the opposite side of the coin, Harvard fans can only hope that the long break meant the penalty kill got a new look. It's worst in the nation (24 for 35, 68.6%) and worst in the conference (21 for 31, 67.7%). On the bright side, despite giving up 14.5 PIM per game, Harvard only gives up 3.5 power plays per game. If Harvard can cut down on the majors and misconducts inflating the first number, they have a better shot at minimizing the dangers of their penalty kill. Grade: A- for the PP, gentleman's C- for the PK

Some Quick Thoughts:
Harvard's road does not get much easier any time soon. Two games await with Union and Yale, they still have road games at Cornell and Colgate ahead, as well as a road game at Quinnipiac, where Harvard has had little success historically. Non-conference, they still have (a slightly weaker now) BU and the Beanpot (BU and then BC/NU) after this North Dakota swing.
Part of Harvard's success on the power play has been that Patrick McNally has been a big time player on the blue line from the start of the season. Playing well above expectations for a freshman, McNally gives the Crimson two offensive threats on the point, forcing opposing boxes to spread wider, giving more room to players like Killorn to be a threat down low.
Another part of Harvard's success on the power play is that the second unit looks completely different from Harvard's first unit. The 2nd PP line likes to dump and chase, hit the defenders to cause turnovers, and then work the puck down low. Two of Harvard's PP goals have come from Eric Kroshus doing exactly that, than skating out of the corner to score.
In ECAC play, it's a giant jumble in the middle. Cornell and Colgate pace the league, and RPI is definitively bringing up the rear, but 3rd and 11th are separated by just 3 points. There's still a lot of games left in the league, so expect a lot more volatility in the standings.

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