Nikolay Goldobin is on a tear right now. He has nine points in his last nine games and broke out of his goal-scoring slump with fantastic finishes on goals against the Rangers and Jets.
It’s a streak that we should have seen coming.
Early in the season, Goldobin simply couldn’t put up points. It wasn’t just that he couldn’t personally score — after three points in his first two games, he went 10 games without a point. That drought partially coincided with Pettersson’s absence from the lineup with a concussion and ended the game that he returned, when Goldobin got a secondary assist on a Pettersson goal.
It’s been easy, then, for Goldobin’s detractors to suggest that Pettersson is primarily responsible for any success that Goldobin has garnered. You might think that Goldobin has been a passenger on the Pettersson train.
When you look at the microstats, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Microstats, for those that haven’t been introduced to the concept before, are the statistics on small events that happen within a game. The idea is that by looking at the small events, we can better explain the big events. There is a danger in microstats, however, as it’s important to figure out which ones really matter or you risk missing the forest for the trees.
These microstats need to be tracked manually, as they’re not recorded by the NHL and we do not yet have player tracking in hockey as is available in other sports like basketball and soccer.
The microstats typically tracked include zone entries, zone exits, and passes — specifically, passes that lead to a shot on goal. This last microstat is of particular interest when it comes to evaluating playmakers. If a player constantly creates chances for his teammates and those teammates fail to put the puck in the net, then the playmaker doesn’t get the assists that he arguably deserves.
For some Canucks fans, this was a significant complaint about Goldobin — he wasn’t finishing off the chances created for him by Pettersson — but it’s a complaint that should have been aimed just as much at Goldobin’s teammates.
Corey Sznajder, who has been one of the main proponents of microstats in the hockey analytics community, tweeted out the results of his tracking of the Canucks’ first 10 games of the season and the results are astounding: Goldobin was a significant driver of the Canucks’ offence.
Canucks 5v5 shot contributions over the first 10 games. Goldobin was setting up a lot of their offense during that period. Excited to get more Petttersson games tracked because he's been lethal at producing chances. Volume should come soon. #Canucks pic.twitter.com/JhEeFi7pP7— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) November 19, 2018
Here's the chart from Sznajder's tweet in case you can't read it:
Keep in mind, this was during the period of Goldobin’s scoring drought. When it came to individual scoring chances per hour, Goldobin was second only behind Pettersson. He led the Canucks in passes that led to shots, as well as primary shot assists — the passes that led directly to shots.
Combining his personal shots per hour and his primary shot assists per hour gets us his Personal Shot Contributions per hour: 28.45, which led the team. According to Darryl Keeping, who is tracking the same statistics for every Canucks game, Goldobin still leads the team in this statistic.
Nikolay Goldobin now has 9 points (2G,7A) in his last 9 GP.— Darryl Keeping (@dkeeping) November 20, 2018
He's leading the #Canucks in:
- Primary Shot Contributions
- Primary shot assists/60 to EP, Brock, Bo, JV18
He makes the teams best players better, he's part of the solution! #TeamGoldy pic.twitter.com/u8eyMvFh47
What this means is that even when Goldobin wasn’t putting up points, he was creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. It’s hard to knock a playmakers inability to produce assists when the players around him aren’t scoring on his passes.
Don’t be alarmed, incidentally, by Pettersson being a little ways down on Sznajder’s chart. He was missing from the lineup for a chunk of those games and, when you look at Contributions per hour, which includes passes that indirectly led to a shot on goal, he’s right behind Goldobin. Given a larger sample, Pettersson should be right up there over the course of the season.
Heading into the season, I suggested that a reasonable expectation for Goldobin would be 35 points over the course of an 82-game season. He’s above that pace currently, on-pace for 46 points, and appears to be trending upward.
As Goldobin’s personal shooting percentage regresses — he’s at 6.8% compared to his shooting percentage heading into the season of 16.8% — we should see more goals from Goldobin to go with his assists.