As many of you know, I’m a numbers nerd. A stat geek. A hopeless analytics addict. If I had a nickname, it would be “Metric” Miklasz. And at times all of this data is just a little boring, even for me.
There’s truth and value in the process that determines – pardon the expression – “underlying factors” that identify the inherent strengths and weaknesses of a team or player.
Ya, but it’s also a good idea to just watch games and enjoy the fun when your favorite team is winning. That’s when you can look at only one set of numbers – Wins, Losses – and smile a bit.
If the Blues win a late-night game out yonder in the Western territories, then just go to bed happy instead of studying the metrics on “expected” goals or win probability.
Go ahead. Relax. Have a cold beer or perhaps a soothing mug of hot chocolate. Don’t fret about those damn expected goals. It’s beneficial to your mental health to appreciate the actual goals and the actual wins.
As we’ve seen around these parts in recent times – Cardinals and Blues – winning is hard. Really hard. And losing is exhausting and maddening for fans.
So when the Blues collect two points during a competition – even if they’re outplayed – we don’t have to get all grumpy and pedantic and pick apart the results. When the Blues defeat a superior opponent, that’s a commendable outcome and should be toasted.
There is artistry in hockey – but a successful night doesn’t have to qualify as a work of art to be examined at every angle by snotty critics. And we don’t have to scold others who look at the win and see something special.
And yes, believe it or not, this sincere lecture is coming from certified donkeywonk, Metrics Miklasz. I’m the guy who sets records for WAR. That stands for “Words Above Replacement.”
I’m feeling rebellious. I admit it: I like seeing how the Blues are frustrating the hockey analysts. The real analysts. And especially the fake analysts. Every time the Blues win a game, these people turn into diaper babies.
The Blues are a noteworthy 13-6-1 since Drew Bannister replaced Craig Berube as coach. This is an upturn. It’s encouraging. After drifting into mediocrity, the Blues have moved into a wild-card playoff spot with 34 games left on the schedule. And now it’s up to the fellas to gather enough points to stay there. I offer no predictions.
Somewhat related question: Who doesn’t love an underdog? I’ll tell you who loves underdogs: investors that are riding with the Blues on the profit train. Team Banny is a hot 15-5 against the spread since the coaching change. Before that, the Blues were 12-16 ATS.
Underdog runs are charming and kind of inspirational.
So, yeah, let’s rejoice for a few minutes instead of sweating over the laptop keyboard while getting distressed over GARx and RAPM and XGF%.
Eff off, Fenwick.
Time to go, PDO.
The Blues have won five in a row. I don’t know about you, but I’m good with that. I don’t need to get permission from Evolving Hockey to applaud the Blues’ current trend.
I don’t care that the Blues’ four successes came by thinly sliced one-goal margins. And all four were by an identical 4-3 score, which is crazy. In their last three dubyas, the Blues ventured into overtime to claim the full two points.
And so what? That’s what makes this team so appealing. The underdog Blues are winning tight, suspenseful games. They’re working extra hard to claim the available prize in overtime sessions. Seven of their last nine wins were plucked by a single goal. When the game is on the line, the Blues are wired.
The Blues do not recognize their own limitations; they’re just playing through them. Rising above them. And they’re making money for those of us who have been alert enough to wager on them in recent weeks. If a cold spell is coming, well, that’s how it goes. But when you win a sports bet, you don’t have to give back the money if the Blues had a bad Corsi For Percentage, OK?
Under the direction of Coach Bannister, the Blues are 5-5-1 when the other side scores the first goal in a game. That’s a pleasant improvement on the previous pattern.
Since the coaching switchover The Note is 4-2 when trailing after one period. Their .667 winning percentage in this scenario is second best in the league, to Edmonton, since Bannister took the helm on Dec. 14.
The Blues have been in arrears eight times through two periods – and fought back to salvage three victories. Their .375 winning percentage under Bannister when down (but not out) after two periods is tied for third in the league behind Edmonton and Colorado.
These comebacks are captivating – mostly because none of this was happening before. And there’s a lot more to the St. Louis resurgence than puck luck and timely saves by their goaltenders.
+ Since GM Doug Armstromg brought in Bannister, the Blues’ best forwards are performing at a level we hoped to see. The notables are Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn, Pavel Buchnevich, Jordan Kyrou, and Brandon Saad. And Jake Neighbours has continued to score goals; he’s up to 15 on the season.
+ In addition to his four goals and five assists since the coaching decision, Parayko leads NHL defensemen with 60 blocked shots since Dec. 14. Last season Parayko was a minus 10 in the takeaway/giveaway ratio; this season he’s a +18. And during the Blues’ 13-6-1, Parayko has filched more takeaways (29) by an NHL defensemen. Parayko has eight goals in 48 games this season – his most since banking 10 goals in 64 games in 2019-2020.
+ The Blues have a power-play success rate of 25.4 percent in their last 20 games. A pathetic, futile, bewildering area has turned into a strength. That’s an example of coaching impact.
+ Young defenseman Scott Perunovich – given an expanded opportunity in the aftermath of the coaching shakeup – has keyed the improved power play. His influence has grown. Consider: Perunovich had eight assists in his first 36 regular-season games for the Blues – but has more than that, 10 assists, in his last 14 games. Hopefully the injured Perunovich will return after the All-Star break. He’s really made a difference.
+ During this 16-5-1 stretch goaltenders Jordan Binnington and Joel Hofer have combined for an overall .907 save percentage that ranks seventh among the 30 NHL teams. Their even-strength save rate (.914) ranks eighth.
+ The Blues are doing a firmer job of preventing goals. The goaltenders are receiving more dependable support. Among other items the Blues have reduced their giveaway rate since Armstrong made his move. This has led to improvement in an essential part of the game. The Blues have allowed 2.62 even-strength goals per 60 minutes since the coaching change. That ranks 10th in the league. Before Bannister came in, the team ranked 24th with a yield of 3.3 even-strength goals per 60 minutes.
The Blues host visiting Columbus tonight at Enterprise Center before shutting down at the All-Star break. Boys, don’t mess up another swell chance to gain two points, boys.
The Blues have won some games that they probably deserved to lose. But they’ve also lost games they probably deserved to win. And yes, I agree, there are some underlying factors (sorry!) that warn of trouble up ahead. I’m usually near the front of the line in pointing it out. But not right now. The timing is all wrong.
There’s a time for leaning in on the analytics, and there’s a time for leaning back to savor success. If the Blues crash, we’ll deal with it. The metrics will be there for all to study, and we can do the Chicken Little routine. But just remember this: when your favorite team wins, no apologies are necessary.
Thanks for reading …
A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb
All stats used in my hockey columns over the years have been sourced from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, and Money Puck unless otherwise noted.