FQG: Cumulative Hits in the Conference Final

May-15-2017 21-24-14 phaneuf hits guentzal

Throughout the playoffs (quarterfinals, semifinals), I have analyzed whether a team’s hits for and against were indicative of their success. Studying a team’s Corsi for percentage per game and expected goals for per game alongside their cumulative hits can help us spot high-level trends.

We’re seeking to determine the accuracy of the narrative that many hockey traditionalists love – that a team must increase their hitting to succeed in their quest for the Stanley Cup. This has been studied in recent seasons, including 2014-15 season, 2015 playoffs, and 2016 playoffs, yet no decisive correlation was found between a team’s increased hitting and success. So far in the first two rounds of the playoffs, this seems to hold true.

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How Indicative are hits in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Semifinals

After the conclusion of the 2017 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, I looked at whether a team’s hits for and against were indicative on their play. By looking at a team’s Corsi for percentage per game and expected goals for per game, against their cumulative hits as their first round progressed, it could be observed whether a team’s production dropped due to being outhit.

As it was explained in the first part of this series, many hockey traditionalists point to an increased number of hits as a necessity to compete for the Stanley Cup. There is a preconceived notion by some hockey minds that a team will become worn out if they are consistently outhit in the playoffs and subsequently will not be able maintain their production. However, in the 2014-15 season, 2015 playoffs, and 2016 playoffs, no decisive correlation was found between success and hits.

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How Indicative are hits in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Quarter-finals

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs progress, the intensity rises. This often leads to more physical play, thus an increase of hits. Hockey traditionalists, including players and coaches, have often pointed to increased hits as a part of playoff hockey. Some teams have altered their strategy to embody a more physical style, simply because it is the playoffs.

The impact of hitting has been explored before during the 2014-15 season, the 2015 playoffs (both by Garret Hohl), and the 2016 playoffs (by @yolo_pinyato). However, none found a decisive correlating success to hits.

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Grit vs. Skill: Tanner Glass vs. Pavel Buchnevich

After losing 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on March 4, the Rangers recalled Tanner Glass from the their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack. Rather than attribute the loss to the Rangers playing poorly––since the Canadiens outshot the Rangers 35-27, won 63% of faceoffs, and had Carey Price in net––much of the blame for the loss was placed on the Rangers lack of “grit” and “toughness.” According to the Rangers, the difference makers in that game were Dwight King, Andrew Shaw, and Steve Ott.

Since recalling Tanner Glass, he has played in six games, and has recorded a goal and an assist. Many view having a tough player like Glass in the lineup as a deterrent. In his first game back with the Rangers against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Glass put his toughness on display early by fighting Luke Witkowski. Later that period, Gabriel Dumont of the Lightning boarded Rangers’ defenseman Steven Kampfer––something that Glass’s presence should have deterred, right?

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