BOSTON — Hockey analytics, or advanced stats, are becoming a bigger part of the NHL.
Fans, players, teams and the media are using these stats — all of which aren’t found in a regular box score — for a more in-depth look at puck-possession and other aspects of the game.
Over the summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers became the latest teams to invest in analytics when they hired well-known people in the advanced stats community.
Anyone who follows these analytics knows that the data say good things about the Boston Bruins, who last year ranked as the fourth-best puck-possession team (at 5-on-5 even strength) with a 53.85 corsi-for percentage. The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings led all teams with a 56.03 corsi-for percentage.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien said Tuesday that Boston keeps track of advanced stats, but it’s not the only factor when grading players or looking at the team’s performance.
“I think it’s good. But at the same time, it’s important not to go overboard with it,” Julien said. “We have it, we have people who take those stats. A lot of it is for coaches and it gives you an idea for individuals, the puck possession time, and an idea for the team. I think it’s an important tool for us.
“Sometimes you have an opinion and you look at the stats and it gives you an image of whether you’re right or you’re wrong, so there’s something to be said about it. Everything I’ve said in the past from video to these kinds of stats, let’s not ruin it by overdoing it. I think guys have to go out there and play. If you have (players) think too much, you’re taking away their speed, you’re taking away their creativity. I think sometimes as coaches, the more information you have, the better it is. As players, the less information you have, the better it is.”
Many of the Bruins’ players had strong advanced stats last season, but no player was more impressive than center Patrice Bergeron. The 29-year-old is a dominant puck possession forward and led all players with a 60.97 corsi-for percentage last season. His corsi-relative of 9.46 means that the Bruins averaged 9.46 percent more shots than their opponent whenever Bergeron was on the ice.
This graphic from Sportsnet shows how Bergeron compares to other elite centers.
The following charts are courtesy of War on Ice. You’ll notice the top chart has a lot of blue-colored dots, which shows that the Bruins allow much fewer shots when Bergeron is on the ice compared to when he’s sitting on the bench.Advanced stats should be part of the equation, not the entire equation. They allow teams to better understand a player’s performance, but there are other factors that can’t be measured with math, such as toughness, leadership and the ability to handle high-pressure situations. With that said, it’s easier to make better lineup/roster decisions when you have more quality information, and analytics provide teams with a lot of data that wasn’t being used a decade ago.
Bruins fans should be encouraged that their team uses these stats because it’s important to look for every edge that can be gained on opponents.
Click here for a good advanced stats guide from Broad Street Hockey
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