This week's scriptwriting didn't end with Lawson getting to stop 28 shots in front of his family and friends. The guy whose departure gave Lawson an opening, Dwayne Roloson earned an OT shutout in his Lightning debut, giving the Lightning a slim division lead over the defeated Capitals, who were none too happy to hear Roloson had entered their division. I watched the game, it was a classic goalie duel, with Martin St. Louis providing a fantastic OT goal marked by one of those smart "little" plays to get back onside.
(By the way, I neglected to front-page the FanShot(s) about Kevin Poulin's emergency recall yesterday -- Joel Martin replaces him at BPT -- because it came up so much in comments in the main threads, I assumed everyone knew. Thanks to everyone for sharing the news in the right margin, but please remember to check if someone has already posted it there. Breaking news links like that should go in FanShots -- and it helps to title them well and clearly (i.e., not just "look at this."). For a quick guide on when to use FanPosts or FanShots, check the LHH user guide. FanPosts are designed for well-flushed out theories or elaborate questions with backing evidence.)
Speaking of FanPosts, we've had plenty of theories shared around here about differences between the team under Scott Gordon vs. Jack Capuano. I'm not subscribing to any with conviction at this stage, but it is time to look at the numbers again.
* Does not include "goals" credited in the standings for shootout wins/losses
Obviously the Isles are winning more, scoring more, and giving up less under Capuano, though different health rates, goalie performances and luck are always the hidden variables in any short-term comparison like this.
Of some concern is the amount by which they're being outshot under Capuano. Perhaps some of that is score effects from having more games where they held the lead (and thus, their opponent had a higher incentive to put shots on). But a seven-shot gap between them and their opponents per game is a pretty big difference, so it bears watching.
By my reckoning, each coach had two ugly blowouts -- Philadelphia and Carolina for Gordon, Nashville and the Rangers for Capuano.
Another thing you'll notice is the special team units were both clicking at a higher rate under Gordon. Again, like all of this it's blurred by small samples (and Gordon's sample this season will never be more than 17 games). So that, too, could be misleading: The Isles didn't score a PP goal in Gordon's final three games, and that drought continued for Capuano's first nine games, combining for an almost unheard of 12-game drought with the extra man. They've been much better in this 7-1-1 run, putting up nine of the 10 PP goals that have been scored under Capuano.
Also, for context, those special team percentages are based on these raw figures:
|Coach||PP Op||PPG||PP%||PK Op||PK GA||PK%|
Is Capuano getting them to do things Gordon did not? Or is it just as much a factor of health and luck? I submit we don't know either way for sure. Maybe the most important thing is that the players are feeling like things are working better right now (and their record gives them reason to believe).
But on that note, one more tidbit for thought: By my count, the Islanders shooting percentage under Gordon in his 17 games was 7.7% (almost as low as you'll see in this league, aside from New Jersey's historically insane 5.7% right now), while under Capuano it's been 8.8%, which is about in the middle of the league. The improvement has been nice, but would you really credit to the coach? Or, conversely, would you think Gordon was to blame for that 7.7% figure? Last season Gordon's Islanders shot a more reasonable 8.6%.
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We'll know more about DiPietro's status over the next few days, but the Islanders have back-to-backs on the road in Colorado and Chicago this weekend, so if DP isn't ready to go, I'd have to expect we'd see Kevin Poulin's NHL debut soon.