Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance looks at the Canucks’ play versus the Blue Jackets, and whether the shot totals were indicative of lackadaisical defensive play.

During Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Canucks took a 2-0 lead into the second period. No goals were scored either way in the rather entertaining and free-flowing “high-event” middle frame, and the third period started with the Canucks comfortably in the lead. Columbus then proceeded to pepper Cory Schneider with 22 shots, which set off a wave of hand-wringing among Canucks fans and Vancouver sports media about the team’s lackadaisical defensive effort.

So what happened? Was it that Sami Salo had left the game with an injury, and the Canucks defense struggled mightily to replace him? Was it a matter of Alain Vigneault reigning his team in, and enforcing his oft-criticized defensive shell? Were the Canucks skaters intent on embarrassing Cory Schneider, in an odd attempt to make Canucks fans miss Roberto Luongo?

Unsurprisingly, the answers to the above questions are: no, no and no. What occurred in that third period is actually pretty common, it’s called “score effects” and it’s really nothing to be concerned about. Score Effects impact lopsided hockey games. Generally speaking, the team that is losing will begin to significantly out-shoot and out-chance the team that has the lead. This effect is accentuated further as the game draws nearer and nearer to its completion. This happens to all sorts of teams, even really good ones, and doesn’t tell us much of anything about the quality of a hockey club.

What’s significantly more important is how a team performs when the score is even. It’s in these “clutch moments” that a team’s ability to consistently out-shoot their opponents augers well for their future performance. In general, the team’s that dominate when the score is even are the team’s that perform the best come playoff time.

Rather than confuse people with something “fancy” like fenwick tied (the most accurate forecaster of future performance), I’ve decided to keep it simple. I went through the play-by-play sheets from every game this season, and counted up every shot and goal for and against. I then sorted the shots by game situation, so as to give us all a better idea of when the Canucks get out-shot and when they control the game and take it to their opponents. (Note: numbers do not include last night’s game against Nashville.)

Situation -2 (or more) -1 Tied + 1 + 2 (or more)
Shots For 85 151 276 100 170
Shots Against 65 98 229 106 214
Shots For % .566 .606 .547 .485 .442

What these numbers tell us, is that the Canucks out-shoot their opponents when it matters. When the score is tied, the Canucks tend to control the flow of game, and when they’re down they out-shoot their opponents somewhat more significantly. When they’re up by two goals (or more), however, they get out-shot significantly. This isn’t revelatory if you pay attention to hockey analytics — in fact, this is a pattern that every team exhibits.

Here’s the rub. Though the Canucks were outshot 2-1 in Tuesday’s third period, they were only out-chanced by one at even strength (not counting the Kesler goal, which, was functionally a power-play goal). Not that it stopped anyone from commenting on the third period shot totals, but even when being out-shot, the Canucks successfully limited the impact of score-effects and kept the Blue Jackets to the outside.

The good teams control the game when it really matters, and the Canucks are a good team who have done just that so far this season.

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6 comments

  1. taokenji
    December 2, 2011

    why did harrison write drance numbers this week? is harrison getting into advanced stats now too? WHAT’S HAPPENING?!?!?!

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    • Harrison Mooney
      December 2, 2011

      Um. Whoops.

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  2. Tom
    December 2, 2011

    Comments on a typo are becoming a trademark of PITB posts.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      December 2, 2011

      Pretty much a trademark of every blog. We’re without copy editors and we produce stuff a lot faster than most other mediums. Typos come with the territory.

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      • Nee
        December 2, 2011

        And least it’s usually friendly, with some joking. I’ve seen other blogs where the writer gets ripped to shreds. Mooney’s other writing home, for example. The commentors are like piranhas over there.

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  3. Nee
    December 2, 2011

    Nice post. And thanks for keeping it simple…I look at hockey stats articles sometimes and my eyes glaze over. Thanks for making it understandable for the rest of us : )

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