Like most players, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson doesn’t pay attention to advanced statistics. To be fair, most if not all players dispose of the fancy stats which can create detailed or deceptive portraits of players for fans and management. The stats certainly don’t enter into Johnson’s orbit.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked Johnson about his stats and the image of the defenseman they create.
“I don’t even know what they mean,” Johnson dismissed. The slight scoff was a refreshing reaction to the blunt instruments used to by detractors outside organizations to diminish his play.
According to Corsica Hockey, Johnson’s Corsi rating is below 44 percent and a few points below team average. For the Johnson-like uninitiated, Corsi rating is the summation of shot-attempts-for versus shot attempts against. Corsi is the gateway drug into PDO, charts, graphs and full-on addiction to relying on those stats to judge players.
Teams use advanced statistics to inform them and complete the picture.
Unfortunately for Johnson, the more superficial stats don’t tell the story of his dominant penalty killing role Saturday in Montreal, when he held the fort beside goalie Casey DeSmith in a five-on-three. Or Tuesday, when defense partner Juuso Riikola had a rough second period including an ill-advised pinch and Johnson was the lone defender to get back.
Tuesday, specifically, as Johnson covered for Riikola the opponents got shots and scoring chances. Those count against Johnson, but his work to limit the damage is why the Penguins signed him to a five-year deal on July 1, and why his Corsi rating is well below 50 percent. To harp on that would be to miss the complete picture.
As Johnson was at a loss how to answer the advanced stat question, in full disclosure, Pittsburgh Hockey Now let him know it was OK to dismiss them. Or bash them.
“I can tell you after the game if I played well or not, I don’t need to look at advanced stats,” said Johnson. “Just because someone gets a shot on net, I can shoot one from the other end of the rink. Or its a Grade A chance, that’s a huge difference.”
The Penguins communicate scoring chance stats to their players. Last week, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each referenced those numbers, which are of critical importance.
The Penguins as a team are underwater with scoring chances, so Johnson’s numbers reflect that. When he is on the ice, the Penguins have 46 percent of the chances, and 46 percent of the high danger chances, which is just below the overall team numbers. And given that Johnson’s shifts begin far more often with defensive zone faceoffs (58 percent) than offensive zone draws, his role further reflects his stats.
“To answer your question, no I don’t look at them. I don’t even know what they mean to be honest with you.”
This season, Johnson has thus far been beaten a few times, just like every other Penguins defenseman. He’s also played a stout physical game and worked to keep shots and scoring chances from becoming high danger chances. Through five games, he has 21 hits, 13 blocked shots, and just one giveaway.
Last season, all full-time Penguins defensemen had more than 40 giveaways but only Jamie Oleksiak had over 150 hits (174 combined in Pittsburgh and Dallas). Johnson is on pace for nearly 250 hits and just over 200 blocked shots.
It’s been a long time since a Penguins defense posted those kinds of numbers. Unfortunately, Corsi stats reward the shooter, not the shot blocker. So when Johnson blocks a big shot, realize that’s his “Corsi rating” going down.
Before the Penguins embark on a 12-day road trip and team building events, Patric Hornqvist said yesterday, “We’re struggling.”
And the Penguins are. As their struggles abate, if Johnson’s numbers don’t improve with the team or singularly fall, then they are cause for concern. The real picture shows Johnson is defending well and making life difficult for opponents.
Those aren’t stats, but they are things which help win hockey games.
Here’s Johnson’s Full Answer: