I finally finished data entry for this Minnesota Wild Zone Entry project, so I now have all 81 games of the 2011-12 season that were available through the NHL.com Game Vault. For detailed methodology, check out my recent post with a specific rundown of all the work that went in to collecting the data, including the Mystery Game that disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle of teh interwebs.
Now comes the fun part, which is an arduous and thorough statistical analysis…a-yep that’s what’s fun to us stat heads. Now you know why the ladies are just throwing themselves at us.
I have way too much to cover in just one results post, so I will be choosing a few research questions per week and looking at outcomes based on particular themes. To start, I wanted to look at team-level results. Specifically, the questions for this week are:
1) What were the overall outcomes for the Wild?
1) Do the Wild perform significantly better or worse on the road compared to at home?
2) How do the Wild perform against the other teams in the Western Conference, and specifically the Northwest Division?
The first thing to do when making sense of a dataset is to look at basic descriptive statistics. From the Philadelphia Flyers research done by the boys over at Broadstreet Hockey and my research on the Wild, here’s the 10,000 foot look at what we know:
- A team generates 0.6 Fenwick shots (shots on goal plus missed shots) per controlled entry (carry-in or pass-in).
- A team generates 0.3 shots per controlled entry (dump-in, tip-in, or other).
- The Wild, on average, had a ratio of 46% controlled entries to 54% uncontolled entries.
These are very interesting findings, and it is remarkable to note that for the Wild and Flyers, those numbers are almost identical over the course of a season. However, they are also a bit reductive–to boil them down to simply an average does not tell the whole story. As they say, “The average Canadian citizen has one breast and one testicle.” On the first day of Stats class, they teach you that any look at a distribution of data should include two parameters: mean and variance. That is, where is the average, and how spread out are the data?
The distribution of the Wild’s entry count is pretty normal–they had a handful of games where they got up into the low-seventies, but for the most part, they settled in around 50-65. There are a couple of games down into the 40s and even mid-30s…ouch. The club was more consistent on the number of controlled entries, and you can clearly see a few games where they chucked the puck down the ice upwards of 40 times. The spreadsheets that we have do break down the entries for score effects (close games vs blowouts) but I’ll have to dig into that data another day. The ratio chart is pretty well grouped, but you can see how often they were favoring uncontrolled entries, there are just a few games where they were north of the 50-50 mark. For a club that is trying to shake off their neutral-zone trapping reputation, they are still reliant on regaining possession after a dump-in.
Home Sweet Home
It is generally regarded that the home-ice advantage is less prevalent in hockey than other sports. Still, it’s always a good idea to look at the numbers to see how the data shakes out. How to read the following tables: mean values are presented in each cell, with standard distribution presented below in italics. The ‘Sig?’ column represents whether the home and away performance was significantly different (t-test, p < .05 benchmark.)
The Wild played better in the neutral zone at home than on the road, and while they were able to possess the puck into their offensive zone more at the Xcel Energy Center, the number of dump-ins and the ratio of controlled-to-uncontrolled entries was not significantly different. My first thought is that these numbers reflect the youth of the team–when in front of a friendly crowd, they seem to play more confidently and look to carry or pass the puck into the zone rather than letting it fly. In a future post, I will add in the shots generated data and do some more thorough analysis to see if there is anything more to be learned about the club’s home/road tendencies. I am also interested in an extra bit of data collection where I track dump-in recovery rates in addition to just zone entry tracking.
We Sucked, But At Least We Beat Edmonton
One of the main questions I have wanted to look at for a while has been whether and how the Wild change their strategy or perform differently against different teams. I know I have mentioned a couple times some things I will get to in future posts, but definitively my next one later this week will be to do a power analysis to determine whether we can look at single-season opponent performances–the Wild played the Canucks, Flames, Avalanche, and Oilers six times, other teams in the Western Conference four times, and a couple teams from the Eastern Conference twice. Particularly for division opponents but also conference opponents, is that enough of a sample size to draw conclusions? Even though six games is a pretty small sample, I’ll have to wait and see what the tests say. For now, it is important to interpret the following charts as snapshots of one season. We’ll know in a week if there is more to be learned. **Click on these charts to see full-size versions.
There, did you see it!? The Wild played on their heels against every single team in the National Hockey League…except for one, they of the three consecutive first-overall picks, the
Seattle Edmonton Oilers. They did play a 40-60 controlled game, but they ended the season with a 4-2 record against the Oil. The Wild had an easier time gaining the zone with control vs the Avalanche, against whom they managed to play a 50-50 controlled game on their way to a 3-3 record. Considering the Canucks won the President’s Cup, I think the Wild held their own in the zone entry portion of the game. They managed to almost match the Nucks in number and ratio of entries, but wound up with a 2-3-1 record. From the Pacific Division, the Coyotes and Sharks were interesting opponents, as each heavily favored a dump-and-chase game vs Minnesota. Although they only played twice, the Jets proved to be a very even opponent for the Wild, though both games went to Winnipeg.
So what have we learned? The only significance tests I ran for this post have revealed that the Wild are better able to gain entry with control while at home, but their uncontrolled entries and ratio of entries are the same. Breaking down performance versus specific opponents is interesting to look at, but more tests are needed before I can say anything definitive.
I am *always* interested to hear how others interpret the results, so please let me know your thoughts! I would be very happy for any comments left on this page, but you can always reach me through e-mail, hashtaghockey [at] gee mail [dot] com, or through Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey. Thanks for reading!