Calgary FlamesScience/Statistics

Yet another reason Mark Giordano deserves the Norris

We’ll all soon find out if Mark Giordano will win the award he has rightfully earned due to his stellar regular season. Heading into the event tonight, he’s the odds on favourite to win the award, and many voters have already stated that they’ve penned in Giordano as the Norris Trophy winner on their ballots.

Early in the season, the race for the Norris was between Giordano and Morgan Rielly. But as the season progressed, Giordano drew further away from the crowd, and was ultimately joined by Brent Burns and Victor Hedman as the finalists.

Gio for the Norris

There are many instances throughout the Flames’ season that highlights why Giordano deserves the Norris Trophy. Game in and game out, the 35-year-old captain would be one of the hardest workers on the ice. His defensive game was stellar, and his offence was so good, it made for a career year.

Related: Visualising Mark Giordano’s elite scoring as a 35 year old

Without a doubt, the stars have aligned for Giordano to win the Norris. However, to make his case even stronger, there was one instance that caught my eye while tuning into games. It involved Giordano turning on the jets and putting himself in a position that allowed the Flames to score.

It was during the Flames’ comeback overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres. The Flames tied the game late, and midway through overtime, Johnny Gaudreau scored the game winner. He was able to score because of Giordano.

The reason why this play stood out is simple: Giordano probably had no business being a part of the play, yet he made himself absolutely a part of the play with a gargantuan skating effort.

The Setup

To showcase just how insane Giordano’s skating was, I’ll be using some good ol’ math to figure out Giordano’s motion.

To set it all up, let’s define some quick parameters for the rink. Luckily, in the entirety of the play, Giordano skates from left to right, which makes it easy to define his motion across the rink. For simplicity’s sake, the far left boards have the value of 0 and the far right boards will have a value of 200 (units in feet).

Since the play is predominantly left-to-right with little up-down motion, we’ll conservatively assume there is no vertical components in the motion (this makes the velocity we’ll calculate smaller than it actually is).

Let Giordano’s position across the rink be denoted by x. At any give time, a player’s position will be between 0 and 200 (this deviates from NHL play by play notation, where x is 0 at the centreline).

0<x<200\ \textup{ft.}

Using video editing software, Giordano’s position on the ice can be roughly estimated with timestamps. To determine how fast he actually skates, we have to determine his velocity, which is the derivative of position with respect to time.

The equation for velocity is:


Essentially, if you have x_{initial} and x_{final} and the associated times between those two positions, you can determine velocity.

That’s all the math we will need. We can go beyond and take the derivative of velocity to figure out Giordano’s acceleration too, but we’ll leave acceleration out of this post.

Giordano sets up Gaudreau in Buffalo

Back to the play at hand. With 2:56 remaining in overtime, the Flames had just killed off a Matthew Tkachuk penalty. Bill Peters started the trio of Giordano, Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan in their own zone. The Flames won the draw and turned their possession into a scoring chance. At 2:41, the Sabres gained the puck off the resulting rebound, and skated it into the Flames’ zone.

Giordano masterfully defended against Rasmus Ristolainen and prevented the Sabres from getting a shot off. As the two defencemen collided behind the goal line, Giordano was fighting for position from his knees; 2:30 remained in overtime.

At the bottom left of the image, you can see the timestamp of the video clip (00:00:55:18), which is how I will be determining time inputs.

The clip is in 60 frames per second, so the sub-second values need to be converted to a percentage of a second. As an example, if the timestamp indicates 00:00:55:30, that’s equivalent to 55.50 seconds, since 30 frames out of 60 would be at exactly the halfway mark through that second.

In the next frame of interest, Giordano is on his feet behind his own goal line. This will be the frame used for initial position and time.

The distance between the end boards and the goal line is 11 feet. We can estimate with certainty that Giordano is closer to the end boards than he is to the goal line. Therefore, a conservative estimate would be that he’s halfway between the end boards and goal line. This puts Giordano closer to the goal line than he actually is and reduces his total distance travelled.

x_{initial}=5.5\ \textup{ft.} and t_{initial}=55.60\ \textup{s}

Less that one second later, Giordano is seen already taking his first strides to accelerate and get into the play. He’s still behind his own goal line at this point.

Giordano crosses the offensive blue line at full speed less than five seconds later, giving the Flames a clear two-on-one.

Gaudreau passes the puck to Giordano, who skates towards the net. Here you can see that Giordano has the puck just in front of Carter Hutton, right before he passes the puck back to Gaudreau for the wide open net to shoot at. At this point Giordano has already decelerated, but this frame will be used as his final position.

Giordano’s left foot looks to be in-line with the top of the crease, which is six feet away from the goal line.

x_{final}=183.0\ \textup{ft.} and t_{final}=64.45\ \textup{s}

Now, we can finally calculate Giordano’s velocity.

v=\dfrac{dx}{dt}=\dfrac{x_{final}-x_{initial}}{t_{final}-t_{initial}}=\dfrac{(183.0-5.5)\ \textup{ft.}}{(64.45-55.60)\ \textup{s}}=\dfrac{177.5\ \textup{ft.}}{8.85\ \textup{s}}=20.06\ \dfrac{ \textup{ft.}}{\textup{s}}

At 20.06 ft/s, that’s equivalent to 13.7 miles per hour or 22.0 kilometers per hour.

Remember, this involves a couple position-based assumptions that lead to a smaller calculated value than reality. We shortened his total distance by ignoring vertical position as well as estimated his positions conservatively.

Faster than a speeding marathoner

For a comparison of Giordano’s speed, running a marathon at 22.0 kilometers per hour would be enough set the world record. The current record holder Eliud Kipchoge ran a full 42.195 km in 2:01:39, which equates to a pace of 20.8 kilometers per hour.

Much respect for both Giordano and Kipchoge. One skated at a marathon-record pace in full hockey gear after logging 25 minutes of ice-time starting from his knees and ultimately made a game-winning pass on the other end of the ice with defenders on his tail, the other holds the world record for running the fastest marathon!

So there you have it, we used derivatives from high school calculus to break down one isolated instance of many that shows how impressive Giordano really was this past season. Who said math wouldn’t come in handy?

Just give Giordano the Norris already.

And what better way to support our Captain than with a custom Giordano for Norris shirt! Get yours here!

Watch the full clip of overtime between the Flames and Sabres here. (courtesy of /u/Galaxy91122 on Reddit).

Featured photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images.

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