There was a hellacious debate that erupted in the comments section here a while ago, relating to outshooting the opposition and whether the stats inclined amongst us should be so dogged in our preference for teams that can outshoot the opposition. A lot of interesting points were raised and I’m going to highlight some of them here. Just skip down to the bottom of the blockquotes if you want to read the content I’ve generated instead of this rehash of points:
Interestingly, in the 25 games the Oil outshot the bad guys they posted a record of just 11-13-1 (.440), whereas in the 56 games the Oil got outshot, they were far better at 30-21-5 (.536). In one game (a loss)the shots were even.
Of course those W-L records are are corrupted by shootout results which have nothing to do with who outplayed whom in the game, but it’s still pretty safe to conclude that the relationship between shots on goal and results is pretty darn poor w.r.t. the Oilers. I would expect the relationship between Corsi numbers and results to be similarly poor.
Some teams benefit from superior goaltending most of the time. Other teams benefit from taking higher-percentage shots than other teams. Individual games are of course frequently decided by bounces (god damn that Owen Nolan anyways!), but overall one would think that consistently outshooting the other guys would lead to good results. Except … this season there were 5 teams with 100 points, and 3 of them allowed more shots than they took. In the case of Montreal and Pittsburgh, the differential was more than -200 shots. Yet those two teams were 1-2 in the east in both the standings and in goal differential. In their case I would suggest there is a very good statistical argument that there isn’t much of a (positive) relationship between shots and performance.
I think the real problem here is that Bruce is actually daring to disagree with the Conventional Wisdom of the Oilogosphere(TM), and even willing to try to prove his point with the same vaunted stats used in these here parts — first shot differential, next Corsi numbers — and even fully prepared to admit he might be wrong. Such fucking audacity.
No team that won a series had a negative even strength goal differential.
Only 1 of the 15 series’ was won by a team that didn’t carry the ES GD. That was Detroit over San Jose, where the even strength goals were even at 9 to 9., despite Det outshooting the Sharks at evens 148 to 114.
14 of 15 series’ went to the team that outshot it’s opposition at even strength. The lone exception was the Dallas/Vancouver series.
The most lopsided series in terms of ES shots was the Wings versus Flames, where Detroit outshot Calgary 150 to 60 over five games. They also outscored them +9/-2.
Just those same numbers for the Oilers in 2006 slipper:
Edmonton vs. Detroit
S: 101 to 167
G: 10 to 9
Edmonton vs San Jose*
S: 78 to 105
G: 10 to 8
Win: Edm *game 3 stats are not available on NHL.com (although Edmonton outshot the sharks in that game 58 to 34 total – each team had 2 EV goals)
Edmonton vs Anaheim
S: 92 to 117
G: 8 to 9
Edmonton vs. Carolina
S: 124 to 97
G: 9 to 8
All 4 of Edm’s series, the loser outshot the winner at EV and even outscored in the final. Small sample size I know, but just one of those anomolies that I thought I had observed before I checked the numbers.
Over the decades of my advancing senility I have watched about a million games where the more opportunistic team with the better goaltending won, regardless of shots. This lifelong observation underscores my ongoing distrust of shots and attempted shots as the most reliable indicator of results, and at least in the small examples I have researched to date, I have found lots of examples to buttress those reservations.
…I know this is a small sample size, and it is biased in that it involves just one team, the Oilers. The results are surprisingly similar to their performance in the 2006 playoffs, when they were most successful when the bad guys carried the flow of play. During both stretches the Oilers were largely unsuccessful when they themselves carried the play. Not to be overlooked is the likelihood is that the team that is trailing the game will be pressing while the leaders will be content to sit back and strike on the counter attack, but their success in defending and even building on the lead will not be reflected in Corsi numbers.
I watched almost all of those games both in ’06 and down the stretch this season, and I don’t think the numbers are lying; there were lots of games where the winner soaked up a lot of pressure in their own zone, got outshot and out-Corsied, but made the most of their chances and more often than not were deserving of the victory. That’s not the formula for the Detroits, Anaheims and Ottawas of the league, but it seems to be for the Oilers and I would guess for a few other teams as well. I’ll keep looking, and I will keep posting my results.
…The point that a bunch of us are making is that the ever higher shooting percentage required to win when you’re getting bombed in shots becomes less and less likely to be sustained.
Sustainability, in my mind, is what it all comes down to. The teams that are good year after year after year…it strikes me that they’re the teams that outshoot the opposition by a lot. In any event, this is a topic that would probably benefit from some real review.
I was browsing the NHL’s website the other day and noticed that they’re recently added a ton of data, including team results when outshooting and when outshot, going back to 1987-88. To start with the absolute big picture stuff, here’s a chart of the results for the outshooting and outshot teams since 1987-88; the NHL being the NHL, their data for 1998-99 doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense (a lot of their data for that season is screwed up in other stuff I’ve seen) and, accordingly, has been excluded.
You’ll appreciate that the key number is the number at the bottom of that chart: teams that outshoot their opposition in a given game have earned an average of 1.122 pts/g since 1987-88; teams that get outshot by their opposition have earned an average of 0.952 pts/g since 1987-88. Compare this year’s 1.15/1.07 outshoot/outshot split with the split for home road teams, which was 1.18/1.04. In last year’s NHL, you’d be about as successful picking games if you knew before hand which team was at home as you would be if you knew which team was going to outshoot the other.
Something that I found very interesting: the changes introduced by the NHL in 1998-99 in terms of adding loser points have largely benefitted the teams that get outshot. In the seasons before the loser point was introduced, outshooting teams averaged 1.108 pts/g; in the seasons since they’ve averaged 1.139 pts/g. For teams that get outshot, they averaged 0.892 pts/g prior to the introduction of the loser point and 1.011 points since. The net result has been an increase of 0.031 pts/g for teams that outshoot – nothing, really and 0.120 pts/g for teams that get outshot; an extra point every ten games in which they get outshot. All of the evidence suggests to me that the big beneficiaries of the rule changes made by the NHL with respect to OTL have been designed to make the league look more competitive than it actually is; you would have to be pretty un-cynical to think otherwise, I think.
I’ve put together a similar chart that covers from 2000-01 to the present date for the playoffs; data before that isn’t available on NHL.com. Again, there’s an edge for teams that outshoot their opposition, although the edge is smaller.
My suspicion is that teams that get habitually outshot but who make it to the playoffs have generally got something that allows them to get around that, whether it’s a star goaltender or guys who can finish on a single shot. I also wonder about the sample size, which is small.
Two caveats about this post. First of all, this is as big picture as it gets. I’m not digging into the nitty gritty about game states here, which I think is incredibly important. Second, I haven’t looked at team specific cases, which will be topic of my next post on this subject. The most that I think can be drawn from this review is that, as a general principle, teams that outshoot their opposition in a given game have a better chance at success. That doesn’t establish that you can’t enjoy success despite getting habitually outshot. The real issue and (I think) the real reason why the Horcoff thread got so heated is that there’s a real question about whether or not you can build a team that gets habitually outshot, while enjoying tremendous success like the Oilers of the final quarter of 2007-08. It’s a question of relevance to persons with a vested interest in the performance of, say for example, the 2008-09 Edmonton Oilers.