Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday.
When Chicago Blackhawks’ defensive ace Dave Bolland referred to the Sedins with the hackneyed “Sisters” moniker this week, he set off a new wave of feeble trash-talk between the Vancouver and the original six club, who are something of a perpetual thorn in the Canucks side.
It was the latest chapter in an increasingly heated rivalry, not just between the two teams, but on an individual level between the Sedin brothers and Dave Bolland as well.
Every protagonist must have a foil, and the Sedins’ foil is undoubtedly Bolland. He’s the Rommel to their Patton, the Prince Joffrey to their Rob Stark. If you listen to Blackhawks fans (which, for the record, I don’t recommend doing), they’ll tell you a tale of how Dave Bolland “has the Sedins’ number” and how the twins “just can’t figure him out.”
Many in the media will probably tell you the same thing.
Now I suppose there is some superficial merit to this take. After all, the Sedins were crushing the Blackhawks with nine combined points in the first three games of their first round series last April. When Bolland came back, however, the series turned pretty dramatically. Bolland had a statement game in game 4, putting up four points and absolutely dominating the twins.
And, after Bolland returned to the Blackhawks lineup, Henrik Sedin managed only one point and was -7 through the final four games of the series…
There was also the iconic “Daniel freaking out at Bolland” moment in game three of the series in 2010. It was a moment of frustration and annoyance and, according to many observers and yarn spinners, it was a window into the team’s utter lack of discipline.
The Sedin “freakout” taught us a subjective lesson about why this Canucks core could never succeed. In some ways it was like the Marchand punch, before the Marchand punch was the Marchand punch.
I’m always skeptical when it comes to conventional wisdom, and this is another one of those fairy tales that always struck me as less than wholly true. It seemed to me in April that the Blackhawks and the Canucks were more evenly matched than their one and eight seeds would indicate. In fact, by the numbers that matter, the Blackhawks were among the best teams in the Western Conference last season. So did Bolland personally turn the series around, or did he have a big game at an opportune moment as the series turned for other reasons?
Now, when it comes to this matchup’s “history,” we’re not talking about a particularly large sample of games. Interestingly, Bolland didn’t start the 2008-09 series or the 2009-10 series matched up against the twins. In 2008-09, Joel Quenneville originally trusted Sami Pahlsson with the bulk of minutes against the Sedins at even-strength, and to start the 2009-10, series Coach Q deployed the Toews line against the twins in game one. In both cases, he adjusted mid-series and the adjustment was effective.
Dave Bolland only became an NHL regular in 2008-09, and I’ve only looked at games in which Bolland (or his line) were the Sedins’ primary matchup.
We’re talking about 13 playoff games (4 games in 2008-09, 5 games in 2009-10, and 4 games in 2010-11), and 10 regular season games (including the 2 games in November this season). This means we’re dealing with under 120 minutes of even-strength playoff ice-time in which the Sedins have been matched up with Bolland and roughly sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time in the regular season.
To get an accurate idea of their head-to-head ice-time I used timeonice.com’s head-to-head ice-time script, which is indispensable.
To start with, I looked at results. I calculated the Sedins’ production rate (points per 60 minutes) during the regular season (since 2008), and then I calculated their rate of production (Pts/60) when they’re on the ice at even-strength against Dave Bolland.
Looks like the Sedins don’t have much of an issue scoring on a team with Dave Bolland in the regular season:
|Regular Season:||EV P/60 Overall||EV P/60 H2H v. Bolland|
Those numbers are pretty eye-opening. Far from being “a Sedin stopper,” in their ten regular season meetings, the Sedins have managed to burn Bolland at almost double their usual even-strength scoring rate.
But Bolland’s reputation wasn’t built in the regular season, it was forged in the playoffs. So how did the Sedins fare against Bolland in the last three postseason series against Chicago?
|Postseason:||EV P/60 Overall||EV P/60 H2H v. Bolland|
Note: Because the playoffs give us a smaller sample, I used the last five years worth of data to come up with the Sedins EV P/60 Overall Number.
Against Dave Bolland, the Sedins have combined to score at a marginally lower-rate than they have otherwise in the playoffs. Of course, the whole story is that Henrik scores slightly more while Daniel scores significantly less.
The net result is flattering to Bolland. Seeing as the Sedins are two of the best offensive players in the world, the fact that he can slow them down is impressive. It also makes life a lot easier for his teammates, and we know how valuable an “enabling” third line center can be.
But make no mistake, based on the results, that’s what Bolland is doing: slowing the Sedins down, a far cry from the “total domination” some would have you believe he’s brought down on the twins the past three years.
Now, results are one thing, but what’s more interesting to me is whether or not Dave Bolland can control events when he’s on the ice against the Sedins. I went through about thirty play-by-play sheets at NHL.com to compile the data I used in the next section, and got a hand along the way from Cam Charron. Here’s the distribution of shots on goal (including goals) when the Sedins are matched-up against Bolland in the regular season:
|Regular Season SOG%||2008-09||2009-10||2010-11||2011-12||Overall|
|The Sedin Line||42.9%||66.6%||60%||83.3%||57.9%|
It’s funny that Dave Bolland chose this season to mock the twins, seeing how in about eleven minutes of head-to-head even-strength ice-time this season, Bolland and his line-mates have managed two shots on goal, while the Sedins have put up a shot-on-goal per minute (and have put two pucks past Crawford) in that time.
But is the postseason a different story? Does Bolland lift his game in the playoffs, while the Sedins wilt under pressure? Nope:
|The Sedin Line||57.1%||62.5%||52.8%||57%|
Pretty similar, eh? I’d point out that the 2010 series featured a number of Chicago blowouts, and I suspect the Sedin’s 62.5% number is unduly influenced by score effects as a result.
While he may not control events, the Sedins never seem to score any dagger goals with Bolland on the ice. I know that Bolland has a sky-high postseason PDO, so I wanted to check out whether or not Bolland has been mostly lucky, or if he is legitimately able to somehow suppress the Sedin’s shot totals on a game-to-game basis? Well…
|Sedin SF/60 (since 08-09)||Daniel||Henrik|
|Regular Season V. Bolland||46.64||41.97|
|Postseason V. Bolland||36.37||36.37|
Ouch. These numbers are probably over-dramatic because of the small sample size we’re looking at, but they still reflect a basic reality: namely that Bolland’s supposed “domination” over the Sedins is as over-rated as the Aerosmith classic, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”
While Bolland remains an elite two-way player, his “Sedin nemesis” title seems to me to be based on perception that has been mostly shaped by a couple of isolated incidents, rather than facts. In the larger picture, the Sedins have had a good deal of success against Dave Bolland, and will likely continue to should their respective team’s meet again this postseason.Tags: Blackhawks, bolland, drance numbers, Sedins, using tables to prove things