What We Learned: How Jean-Gabriel Pageau became playoff scoring hero

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

Through 13 games in this postseason, Jean-Gabriel Pageau has eight goals. In 82 games in the regular season, he had just 12.

So one naturally has to wonder: What’s different?

The problem is this is always one of those things that’s a little difficult to figure out, and usually it’s a number of factors coming together all at once to make a guy look really good.

Let’s start with the acknowledgement that Pageau is not this good. Teams that make the playoffs, and in particular those that make deep runs, tend to have elite players at multiple positions and it’s not unfair to say Pageau is not an elite player. He is, however, scoring at an elite level: His eight goals in this postseason ties him for second in the league with Jakob Silfverberg (also not elite) and Ryan Getzlaf (probably elite), and one behind Jake Guentzel (plays with a top-three player).

But what’s really amazing is that Pageau has done all of this either at 5-on-5 (six of his eight) or with the goalie pulled (the other two). Nothing on the power play, nothing shorthanded. Pretty amazing.

So let’s dispense with the easy stuff: His linemates have changed. He’s spent more or less this entire postseason playing with Mark Stone, and the other guy on their line has either been Mike Hoffman or Bobby Ryan. In the regular season, his most common linemate by far was Tom Pyatt. You can see the difference the extra offensive talent should make for him. When you’re used primarily in a secondary or even shutdown role, as he clearly was if he spent hundreds and hundreds of minutes with Pyatt, then that’s going to limit your scoring. That much is self-evident.

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And to that end, we can very quickly sketch out the difference that kind of change makes in terms of Pageau’s ability to generate not only goals, but shot attempts of all kinds. And the crazy thing is you can do this will all strengths because Pageau played a whopping 40 minutes of power play time in the regular season. Despite all the scoring, it’s still less than eight in the playoffs.

In general, he’s shooting the puck a little more often than he did in the regular season (which, again, you’d expect playing with players of this quality) and more importantly getting into higher-danger areas with greater frequency.

That’s a pretty big uptick in the number of attempts he’s getting from scoring areas, but you also have to say he’s benefiting from a 200-plus percent increase in his shooting percentage also. Let’s put it this way: the number of goals he “should be” scoring is actually down 17 percent, even despite the increase in his scoring chances. But I’m not willing to say that he’s just getting lucky, necessarily. Watch pretty much any of his goals in this postseason. All but one are from between and below the faceoff dots, which is to say they’re the result of high-quality looks.

Other positives include an increase in his rate of attempts, as well as an increase in the percentage of his shots he’s getting past defenders and actually onto the net. (His percentage of attempts that go unblocked overall is down a bit, though.)

But it’s probably important to drill down a bit on shots specifically, and how far from the net they’re coming. Thanks to the Super Shots Search function on Hockey Stats, we can quickly break down the number of shots on goal he’s gotten in both the regular season and postseason, sorted by distance from the net.

As you can see, he’s getting a lot of shooting success from those middle distances, and specifically a little out from the crease area. But what’s important to consider is how many of those shots are coming from closer to the goal in general; while there hasn’t been any huge change in the number of shots he’s getting from less than 20 feet overall, he’s significantly cutting down the percentage of them he’s taking from 30-plus feet out. That, too, I can see as being a function of better linemates who can get the puck closer to the net.

(Also: We have to acknowledge sample size plays a pretty big role here; there’s a big difference between judging a guy on 35 shots versus 170.)

It should also be mentioned here, though, that Pageau has gotten the same benefit as the rest of the Senators: Playing what is now three teams with weakened or simply weak D corps overall. The Bruins’ defensive unit was a M*A*S*H* unit, Alain Vigneault had nowhere to hide his awful defenders, and the Penguins are only slightly less banged-up on the blue line than the Bruins were. That’s going to make a difference, for sure.

Pageau is still being used in a more defensive role than other forwards (he starts far more shifts in his own zone than at the attacking end of the ice) but less so than in the regular season, and despite an increase in his share of Ottawa’s total ice time, the competition he’s facing is basically exactly as good as it was before.

All of which is to say it seems to me Pageau, like any forward with an increased scoring output, is benefiting from a number of positive factors: He’s getting more ice time with better teammates, and as a result putting more of his attempts on goal. That doesn’t explain his 23-plus percent shooting success, and even if you’re the most “there’s no such thing as luck” fan out there, you know that number has to come down. But you also have to say he was a bit unlucky to only shoot 8 percent from inside 20 feet all season, so one suspects his actual quality from good shooting areas is somewhere in between.

At this point, Guy Boucher isn’t going to suddenly demote him to his previous usage, but this looks very much like a guy who deserves a bigger role, not only in these playoffs but in the regular season next year as well. In particular, maybe give him a whirl on the power play, because Ottawa’s is awful. It’s third-last in the playoffs (13.9 percent) after being 23rd in the regular season (17 percent).

It seems to me putting Pageau in a position to succeed offensively might just result in him — and by extension, the whole team — scoring more goals. Generally speaking, Ottawa needs goals. If you have a guy with a hand this hot, use that to your advantage.

Not a difficult concept.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf for-sure feels like one of those guys who, when he retires, everyone will go, “Oh damn that guy ruled.” WE DON’T APPRECIATE YOU ENOUGH RYAN GETZLAF.

Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller is destroying the World Championships right now. What a nice boy.

Boston Bruins: Yeah I’m not super sure about this one, folks.

Buffalo Sabres: Remember when Terry Pegula said he didn’t want to use the Sabres as a money-making venture? Despite the fact that his team is and has been terrible, ticket prices keep going up. Hilarious. A lot of teams, when they’re really bad, have the decency to not-raise ticket prices. Not Terry Pegula, though.

Calgary Flames: If the Oilers are looking to offload Jordan Eberle after a super-unlucky season, most teams should be very interested. Not just the Flames.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jordan Staal is pretty good.

Chicago: Thought this was super-interesting. Not sure I buy it, of course, but it’s interesting.

Colorado Avalanche: A trade like this isn’t going to happen unless the Avalanche are really poorly run, which…

Columbus Blue Jackets: Yeah it has to be taxing lugging your not-good team to 108 points for 82 games.

Dallas Stars: Hmm I’m gonna say, ‘No he’s not.’

Detroit Red Wings: My caption for this cartoon is, “Women be shopping! This guy laughing! He know!”

Edmonton Oilers: “Actually we really love that the Oilers lost to the Ducks and it’s good that it happened.”

Florida Panthers: Haha imagine if the Panthers get Kovalchuk? I would love Jagr to teach him all the secrets of how to use his size to play for forever. C’mon.

Los Angeles Kings: Tyler Toffoli is the Kings’ next big signing. How much does the new GM overpay him? A lot, is my guess.

Minnesota Wild: Yeah I wouldn’t be too interested in re-signing Hanzal. This is why you call players like that a “rental.” Let someone else give him $28 million.

Montreal Canadiens: Oh my god I am screaming.

Nashville Predators: Wow what a coach!

New Jersey Devils: Folks, no they shouldn’t.

New York Islanders: Yeah I can’t imagine why people would be mad a German guy was comparing anyone to Hitler. Great take.

New York Rangers: When Brendan Smith is your “biggest deadline acquisition” maybe that’s the problem.

Ottawa Senators: There’s reaching for a headline pun, and then there’s this.

Philadelphia Flyers: Man, what do you think?

Pittsburgh Penguins: No, “The Trap” wasn’t the Penguins’ problem in Game 1. A thinned-out defense that couldn’t provide any additional offensive punch and the fact that they’d just played a Game 7 was.

San Jose Sharks: Hey, these are probably good signings. But it’s all housekeeping until a decision comes on Thornton and Marleau. I will not be distracted.

St. Louis Blues: I honestly cannot get a read on what the Blues will be like next year, returning a pretty similar team. The performance under Yeo was, to say the least, unsustainable.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts already have a good core blue line group so adding to it a bit would probably make them real scary, real quick.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Good luck with this.

Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning, on what he wants to help his almost completely skill-free team: “I tell our guys we want European skill with North American heart.” Come on, Jim!

Vegas Golden Knights: The benefit of having a good in-arena announcer is very underrated. Really adds to the experience.

Washington Capitals: I would be 1000000 percent shocked if Timothy Jimothy Oshie is back in Washington next season.

Winnipeg Jets: Oh, uh, cool.

Play of the Weekend

The goal was nice, folks. The guy is not, but the goal was.

Gold Star Award

JG Pageau you deserve more than your coach is giving you!!!!!!

Minus of the Weekend

The idea that the Senators are boring is pervasive because they are boring. Hate to say it to Senators fans, but it’s true. It works for them and that’s great, but any time they go up a goal the game turns into Ambien before everyone’s eyes.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Year

User “Kresco” has an idea the Flames should absolutely follow through on but will not. Kresco, this is the rare unironic trade proposal I love! Thank you!

To Flames
Kari Lehtonen (1 year $5.9mill)

To Dallas
Troy Brouwer (3 years $4.5 mill)

Signoff

You’ll have to speak up, I’m wearing a towel.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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