Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Habs: Better Numbers Vs. Toronto than Vs. Winnipeg

Statistical anomaly or validation of stats system?

The goal of Boucher Scouting is to break the game down into specific events. Traditional hockey statistics track what occurs at the end of each play (goal, shot). My goal is to track the events that produce each play's result.  This means tracking every successful or unsuccessful pass, every won or lost puck-battle, every missed pass, etc.


The Montreal Canadiens lost their first game of the season by a score of 2-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They won their second game by a score of 5-1 over  the Winnipeg Jets. At first glance, the logical conclusion is that the Habs played better during the second game.  Then why is the team's average grade and risk/reward rating against Toronto higher than it is against Winnipeg?

Let's look at the numbers.

The Canadiens average grade against the Leafs was 68. This is 4 percentage points higher than last season's team average, and 2 points higher than the team average versus the Jets. Monteal's overall risk/reward against the Leafs (1.35) is also higher than the rating versus the Jets (1.00).

The shot totals can help us explain. Montreal outshot the Leafs 32-18, but were outshot by the Jets 31-22. The grades are closer because the calculation for a player's (or team's) average grade takes into account traditional plus/minus and point totals.

The larger gap in the overall risk/reward ratings exists because the calculation for risk/reward does not take into account point totals, or traditional plus/minus. Risk/reward is a measurement of a player's ability to make successful plays on the ice. It is a measurement of the events leading up to a scoring chance for or against. It focuses on the recipe; not the result.

The Canadiens managed 27 even-strength shots against the Leafs. The resulting offensive-zone even-strength risk/reward was 0.45. The Habs only managed 18 even-strength shots versus the Jets. Producing an ES o-zone risk/reward of 0.20.

The Leafs threw only 14 even-strength shots at Carey Price. Montreal had an even-strength defensive-zone risk/reward rating of 0.75. The Jets however, managed 24 even-strength shots Sunday evening, resulting in an ES D-zone risk/reward for the Canadiens of 0.46.

Montreal managed a higher neutral-zone even-strength risk/reward against the Jets than Leafs. Breaking down the Habs goals can help explain these numbers. All 4 even-strength goals by the Habs were scored off the rush. three of those four were the results of strong neutral-zone plays where Montreal either intercepted a pass, won a puck-race, or simply beat a Jets' player 1on1 (deak) through the neutral-zone.

Montreal managed 5 powerplay shots against the Leafs, and produced a 1.78 risk/reward rating. They also gave up a short-handed goal. They managed 4 powerplay shots on goal against the Jets. The result was 1 powerplay goal and a 1.88 risk/reward rating.

The Habs gave up 6 short-handed shots against while playing the Leafs; producing a 1.19 risk/reward rating. And gave up 7 shots while short handed versus the Jets, for a 1.00 risk/reward rating.

Please keep in mind that this is a relatively new system I've invented. It is also completely unique. It still needs validation, and will very likely require more tweaking. That said, the only way to test it is to compare it against traditional statistics. Traditional Individual statistics are simply unable to validate the system. Nothing exists that can tell us how an unsuccessful pass or lost puck-battle by one player in one specific zone can change the course of a hockey game. The only way to test is to establish a bigger picture; team to team, rather than individual to individual. We can do this by combining my results (individual event stats) to create team averages. This now becomes a team stat that can be compared to traditional team statistics like shot and goal totals.

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