NHL Playoffs Statistical Preview

The stats love the Kings.

The stats love the Kings.

(Note: From time to time, I’ll take a break from proposing new sports ideas. This is one of those times.)

While the hockey stats revolution is still about a decade or so behind baseball, there are still some pretty telling stats in our toolbox today. My favorites are Corsi, Fenwick, and PDO.

Here’s a description of each from the awesome Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com:

  • Fenwick = Shots + Missed Shots
  • FF% = Fenwick For% = Fenwick For / (Fenwick For + Fenwick Against)
  • Corsi = Shot Attempts = Shots + Missed Shots + Blocked Shots
  • CF% = Corsi For% = Corsi For / (Corsi For + Corsi Against)
  • PDO = Shooting Percentage + Save Percentage while on the ice

There’s obviously a lot of overlap, but we’ll just ignore that for now. The main takeaway is that possession and shots are extremely important.

I compiled the FF%, CF%, and PDO on all 30 NHL teams from the 2013-14 regular season and standardized them into a z-score. For Fenwick and Corsi, a higher z-score is good. For PDO, a lower z-score is good.

I averaged these figures up in the “Total” column ((FF + CF – PDO) /3) and sorted them by that metric. To compared them to the actual regular season results, I also added the regular season standings points and goal differential.

Team FF% FFZ CF% CFZ PDO PDOZ Total Points Goal Dif
Los Angeles 56.1 1.83 56.8 2.01 1000 0.00 1.28 100 32
New Jersey 53.6 1.07 54.4 1.29 985 -1.33 1.23 88 -11
Chicago 55.4 1.62 55.5 1.62 999 -0.09 1.11 107 47
San Jose 54.6 1.38 53.7 1.09 998 -0.18 0.88 111 49
Florida 50.8 0.23 51 0.28 980 -1.77 0.76 66 -72
NY Rangers 52.6 0.77 52.4 0.70 997 -0.27 0.58 96 25
St. Louis 53.7 1.10 53.1 0.91 1007 0.62 0.46 111 57
Vancouver 51.6 0.47 51.3 0.37 995 -0.44 0.43 83 -27
Ottawa 51 0.29 52.4 0.70 997 -0.27 0.42 88 -29
NY Islanders 49.1 -0.28 49.4 -0.19 984 -1.42 0.32 79 -42
Detroit 51.5 0.44 51.5 0.43 1000 0.00 0.29 93 -8
Winnipeg 50.5 0.14 50.1 0.02 994 -0.53 0.23 84 -10
Carolina 49.6 -0.13 50.3 0.08 994 -0.53 0.16 83 -23
Nashville 49.4 -0.19 48.5 -0.46 989 -0.97 0.11 88 -26
Dallas 50.9 0.26 50.5 0.14 1002 0.18 0.07 91 7
Tampa Bay 51.3 0.38 51 0.28 1007 0.62 0.02 101 25
Boston 53.4 1.01 53.9 1.15 1025 2.21 -0.02 117 84
Phoenix 50 -0.01 50.5 0.14 1003 0.27 -0.05 89 -15
Philadelphia 49.2 -0.25 50 -0.01 1003 0.27 -0.18 94 1
Pittsburgh 49.2 -0.25 48.7 -0.40 1001 0.09 -0.24 109 42
Calgary 47.7 -0.70 46.3 -1.11 988 -1.06 -0.25 77 -32
Columbus 49.8 -0.07 49.9 -0.04 1008 0.71 -0.27 93 15
Minnesota 48.8 -0.37 48.6 -0.43 1010 0.89 -0.56 98 1
Washington 47.1 -0.88 47.7 -0.69 1002 0.18 -0.58 90 -5
Montreal 47.9 -0.64 46.7 -0.99 1005 0.44 -0.69 100 11
Anaheim 50.1 0.02 49.8 -0.07 1024 2.13 -0.72 116 57
Edmonton 44.1 -1.78 44.3 -1.70 990 -0.89 -0.87 67 -67
Buffalo 42.8 -2.17 43 -2.09 982 -1.59 -0.89 52 -91
Colorado 46.7 -1.00 47 -0.90 1018 1.59 -1.17 112 30
Toronto 42.3 -2.32 42.9 -2.12 1013 1.15 -1.86 84 -25

 
It’s not hard to see why Toronto and their notoriously anti-analytics front office fell off the rails, but how did Colorado manage to achieve a No. 1 seed in the West? (Answer: Unsustainably over-achieving goaltending from Semyon Varlamov.)

For the sake of comparing these stats to regular season results, here’s how Total looks plotted against goal differential:

playoff data 2

(Sorry some of those are cut off. The far left is Toronto, and the far right are Los Angeles and New Jersey.)

The correlation is only .1845, which suggests that these metrics should probably only be used as a guideline in telling us what teams may have over- and under-achieved this season relative to their actual performance.

First round match-ups

Ok, so how do these teams’ stats compare for the first round match-ups?

Home Ice Total Road Ice Total Difference
Colorado -1.171 Minnesota -0.512 -0.66
St. Louis 0.106 Chicago 0.905 -0.80
Anaheim -0.575 Dallas 0.289 -0.86
San Jose 0.926 Los Angeles 1.233 -0.31
Boston 0.101 Detroit 0.356 -0.25
Tampa Bay 0.018 Montreal -0.377 0.40
Pittsburgh -0.200 Columbus -0.483 0.28
NY Rangers 0.753 Philadelphia -0.244 1.00

 
In the West, every matchup’s lower seed has a higher total, which suggests that upsets could be rampant. Most notably, Minnesota and Dallas have a considerable edge over the two No. 1 seeds. And whoever emerges from the San Jose vs. Los Angeles showdown (two of the three highest Totals in the playoffs) should be a serious contender to make the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the East, it’s a bit more chalk, but again, a No. 1 seed (Boston) has a lower total than its opponent (Detroit).

Does this mean all the No. 1 seeds are going down? No, probably not. But it does indicate they’re very susceptible to being upset—not just in the first round, but in every round of the playoffs.

Vegas odds

Finally, let’s take a look at how these Total figures for each team compare to Vegas. My (extremely unscientific and non-statistically sound) formula for a stat I call “BetFigure” is:

BetFigure = [(Total Differential + 2.5) * 0.2] / Vegas Win Percentage

From my (again, unscientific) experience, anything over 1.50 is generally a profitable bet.

Team Line Win Pct Total Opponent Total Total Diff BetFigure
Detroit 235 29.9% 0.356 Boston 0.101 0.25 1.85
Dallas 165 37.7% 0.289 Anaheim -0.575 0.86 1.78
Columbus 210 32.3% -0.483 Pittsburgh -0.200 -0.28 1.37
Minnesota 115 46.5% -0.512 Colorado -1.171 0.66 1.36
Chicago -105 51.2% 0.905 St. Louis 0.106 0.80 1.29
Los Angeles 125 44.4% 1.233 San Jose 0.926 0.31 1.26
NY Rangers -150 60.0% 0.753 Philadelphia -0.244 1.00 1.17
Tampa Bay -117 53.9% 0.018 Montreal -0.377 0.40 1.07
Montreal -103 50.7% -0.377 Tampa Bay 0.018 -0.40 0.83
Pittsburgh -250 71.4% -0.200 Columbus -0.483 0.28 0.78
San Jose -145 59.2% 0.926 Los Angeles 1.233 -0.31 0.74
Philadelphia 130 43.5% -0.244 NY Rangers 0.753 -1.00 0.69
Colorado -135 57.4% -1.171 Minnesota -0.512 -0.66 0.64
St. Louis -115 53.5% 0.106 Chicago 0.905 -0.80 0.64
Boston -280 73.7% 0.101 Detroit 0.356 -0.25 0.61
Anaheim -190 65.5% -0.575 Dallas 0.289 -0.86 0.50

 
So there you have it, Detroit and Dallas. Take it to the bank. Guaranteed*

*Maybe

 

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One thought on “NHL Playoffs Statistical Preview

  1. I love this!! I am a huge fan of analytics and can’t wait to see how this plays out. Though following your format, I came up with LA Kings and NY Rangers in the Cup with the Kings winning. Either way, my team finished dead last and I don’t have a dog in the fight, so I am along for the ride and looking forward to some great hockey.

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