Hockey fans with a hankering for statistical analysis should already have Battle of Alberta among their regular reading material, but today’s look at the tightly-bunched Western Conference playoff push is especially insightful, using a variety of different analytical angles to try and determine who’s likely to make it and who won’t:
A mere 2 games separating 7th from 14th in the WC is also pretty interesting. It’s incredibly hard—impossible, really—to mentally assemble all the various factors that might contribute to any one of those teams getting ahead of the pack or falling out of it. So I thought I would put together a very rudimentary, not-rigourous look at what the Statzis call “arrows”...
Read on for some juicy number crunching from the Great White North…
Master hockey stats guru Alan Ryder digs into the question of how much of a difference, in practical terms, Mats Sundin could make to the Vancouver Canucks as he joins them in mid-season.
The statistics say Mats Sundin should transform the Vancouver Canucks into a Stanley Cup contender. This is a notably better team than last season’s squad, on schedule for 95 points and with reason to believe that pace can accelerate into the playoffs.
Read on for Ryder’s take which attempts to balance the various factors of the game appropriately to arrive at a net result. Remember that the Canucks are already playing better than last year’s squad which failed to make the playoffs.
Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings is starting to pull away from the field in the latest NHL Penalty Plus/Minus update, pushing his total this week to +27. Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and Brown’s teammate Patrick O’Sullivan trail at +19. If you’re looking to back up that “Iginla for the Lady Byng” argument, you could point out that despite drawing 26 fouls from opposing players, Iginla has only taken 7 penalties himself, keeping his cool while taking shots from opponents. That sure sounds like “the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”, which are the criteria for the annual award.
For the complete listing, consult the Google Spreadsheet herein…
As we close the books on 2008, the latest NHL Penalty Plus/Minus update shows a familiar face leading the way…
Dustin Brown (+23): Last season’s Penalty Plus/Minus leader (+43 in 2007-8) is separating himself from the pack, having drawn 33 calls and taken only 10 himself, generating a net of 23 power plays for the Los Angeles Kings so far. In back-to-back games against the Phoenix Coyotes last week, Brown created two PP chances in each contest.
For all the numbers, and a look at other players atop the leader board, the complete update appears within…
This week’s update of the NHL Penalty Plus/Minus numbers brings us new leadership at both ends of the scale; L.A’s Dustin Brown (+20) has pulled ahead of Calgary captain Jarome Iginla at +18 and the Kings’ Patrick O’Sullivan (+17), while San Jose defenseman Rob Blake has sunk below three competitors to hold down the bottom with a -16. (Ed: data correction made shortly after this was initially posted)
But let’s take a further view to find out how Santa Claus will treat some of your favorite NHL players later this week…
In the New York Times Slap Shot blog, Jeff Z. Klein surveys the state of statistical analysis of the NHL, and finds a variety of interesting topics being investigated:
...now the raw numbers for hockey are readily available in all kinds of categories, and that has led to the emergence of a new generation of figure filberts (not our phrase; that comes from The Hockey News, circa 1985). Happily, their work is out there for all to see, thanks to blogs and other instruments of the Internet.
Klein provides a nice tour around the hockey world to see what people are digging into, and kindly notes my attempt to crown a “Least Valuable Player” recently (and yes, I’ll be coming back around on that question later in the season).
It’s time to get our collective geek on, and figure out which NHL teams are truly great, and which are ripe for a fall. The tool I like to use for this is called PythagenPuck, outlined in a Win Probabilities piece over at HockeyAnalytics.com (PDF). The basic idea with PythagenPuck is that a team’s Goals For and Goals Against provides a more consistent and accurate picture of their quality over the course of an 82-game season, similar to the Pythagorean Expectations invented by Bill James for baseball analysis. Early in the year, a few lucky bounces here or there can make a team look stronger or weaker in the standings than they truly are, and PythagenPuck helps identify those outliers.
I’ve provided a similar predictive look at the league in prior years, and have been pretty satisfied with the results. There are always teams which genuinely turn around their play (either for good or bad) during the course of an NHL season, but with the majority of teams, this Goals For/Goals Against analysis does a good job of identifying the high-flying frauds and the potential contenders waiting just outside the spotlight.
So here are the numbers for each team, with sage commentary included:
Hockey stats guru Alan Ryder writes in today’s Globe & Mail about the differences in various penalty-killing situations (3-on-5 vs. 4-on-5), in a discussion which builds on the piece Gabe Desjardins posted a couple weeks ago:
Conventional statistics do a disservice to our understanding of penalty killing and power plays. Somehow the NHL considers it sufficient to inform us that about 81.7% of penalties are successfully killed. Of course we are also provided with the ever-so-important home and road splits of this data (81.9% and 81.5% respectively).
Ryder also makes a good case for the NHL making more information readily available, if only to save dweebs like us hours and hours of “quality time” with our spreadsheets!
This week’s update of the NHL Penalty Plus/Minus numbers show Calgary captain Jarome Iginla continuing his strong play of late, as he’s caught L.A.‘s Patrick O’Sullivan for the league lead at +17, a fair step ahead of four players who are all tied at +14. When it comes to leaving their teammates shorthanded, defensemen Mike Commodore of Columbus and Shane O’Brien from Vancouver hold down the bottom at -15, a notch below Nashville’s Shea Weber and San Jose’s Rob Blake at -13.
Take a look inside for the complete spreadsheet…
Following up on the story in this morning’s Rocky Mountain News about the impact of faceoff performance on team success in the NHL, I wanted to take a look at how teams are faring so far this season, but one level deeper than one usually sees.
The table below outlines team performance on the dot broken down by Power Play, Even Strength, and Shorthanded duty, with the leaders and laggards in each sub-category color coded. As you’ll see, across the league at large, teams on the power play enjoy a 54.5% winning percentage, which is especially important in light of this season’s rule change that forces most power plays to start off in the offensive zone. Winning that initial faceoff allows a team to get to work right away, rather than spend 10-20 seconds chasing down the puck and circling up to attack.