Thursday, July 15, 2010

Taking Out The Garbage

In what has now turned into an ongoing series of ‘how do they score’ pieces, we’ve learned two things:

1. Alex Ovechkin is not a One Trick Pony as many believe.

2. Alex Semin scores with his long-range wrist shot

Now, in what I hope will be an interesting analysis, we’ll take a look at our first line garbage man, Mike Knuble. Everyone knows Knuble has made his living sitting on goalies within 5’ of the opposition’s goal. The traffic he creates by screening the goalie, drawing the attention of defensemen, and just being a pain in the butt likely lead to many more goals than he’ll ever get on the stat sheet for. But on a skill based team like last year’s Caps, there existed the possibility that Mike would get away from his bread and butter. Once again, we take a look back through the video machine at each of Mike’s 29 goals.

As with the two Alexes, I placed each of Knuble’s goals in a category. Because this is Mike Knuble we’re talking about, it’s only right to start out with two main categories, ‘Garbage’ and ‘Skill’, and subdivide those:

Garbage Goals - Rebound Goals, Tip-ins, Goals from a pass into a low position (near the goaltender)

Skill Goals - Goals scored while on an offensive rush, odd-man rush goals, empty net goals

As you probably guessed, Mike is a garbage man, with 19 of his 29 goals coming from within 5’ of the opposing goaltender. Of those 19 goals, 14 came on rebounds from a teammate’s shot, 3 came on re-directions, and another 2 came from a pass to him in a low position. Just as importantly, Mike manages to do all this while avoiding the penalties usually associated with dirty work (only 2 Goaltender Interference penalties).

What you may not have guessed is that while Mike certainly does make his living in the crease, he can still score the occasional skill goal. 6 of his goals were scored while on an offensive rush (with 4 of those coming from a hard shot from the right side) while another 3 came on odd-man breaks (specifically 2-on-1s). Add in the lone empty-net goal (scored from the right side, while on an offensive rush) and it’s clear that this garbage man can hang with the young guns without trying to be one.

The important aspect of Mike’s offensive production comes from doing what others are afraid to do. Mike’s rebound goals aren’t simple ‘scoop up a rebound and tap it in’ goals; they’re hard working, ‘bull over the goalie/defenseman, score at all costs’ goals. That kind of play inspires teammates to do the same. Players like Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley and even Eric Fehr seemed to emulate Knuble's play as the season progressed.

Mike Knuble didn’t have a 20+ goal season until he was 31, and has now had 7 in a row. Had he not been injured early in the season, Mike could have had a career year in just about every offensive category. Given the good luck of a healthy 2010-11, there is nothing to indicate that he’s going to stop picking up the garbage.

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