Hockey Analytics Posts

Green Shots & Red Shots: How Steve Valiquette is discovering which plays are most likely to score

“Get pucks on net and things will happen” is a phrase many hockey coaches have shouted at players since the game was invented. Former NHL Goalie Steve Valiquette, is currently working on an ambitious project to challenge that theory and show that certain types of plays are more likely to score than others.

Valiquette (@Vallys_View), an analyst for the MSG Network joined Rick Ralph on the Rona Roundtable on TSN 1290 Winnipeg on Thursday and explained that the goal of the project is to show that save percentage, along with goals against average is a team stat, rather than a stat belonging to the individual goalie.

What makes one shot more likely to go in than others? Valiquette continued:

“It’s really about giving the goaltender about half of a second of clean sight before the release vs. not having half a second of clean sight before a release. If you give a goalie half a second, there’s a very little chance of scoring, about three percent chance.”

To beat a goalie now you have to move the puck across the middle of the ice. Thirty percent of the goals that have been scored this year are (off of) passes that go across the middle of the ice.

What I’ve done is I’ve created a line that separates the ice in two equal parts. That line runs from the middle of the net all the way down the length of the ice to the other goal.”

Valiquette refers to that line described above as the “Royal Road” he listed different types of criteria that can lead to a goal.

The Royal Road shown in thick red down the middle of the ice

The Royal Road shown in thick red down the middle of the ice

Operating on the basis that not all shots are equal, he has categorized shots as green or red. Green shots go in the net 76% of the time, red shots make up the other 24% of goals.

Different types of green shots are as follows:

  • Passes across the “Royal Road”
  • Players carrying the puck across the “Royal Road”
  • One timers on the same side of the “Royal Road” (either side, left or right)
  • Screens
  • Deflections
  • Broken plays

The 37-year old summarized:

“Those sequences are all qualified by the fact the goalie has less than half of a second of sight before the puck releases from the shooters stick.”

The following types of shots are when a goalie has more than half a second of clean sight of the puck. They are categorized as red shots. They are:

  • Wrap arounds
  • A player walking from the corner jamming the puck to the net
  • Net crashes
  • A player coming off the rush, where a goalie sees the puck and there’s no screen,

“The real hook, is that teams, including (the Winnipeg) Jets are taking about three times as many red shots, or bad shots, than green shots.”

While this was all very interesting, Valiquette offered a few hints that could explain reasons for the Winnipeg Jets success this season.

“Paul Maurice has done an incredible job at coaching this hockey club, they are giving up fewer green shots, probably fewer than just about anybody in the league, comparatively speaking to anybody from last season.”

In a simpler form: according to Valiquettes criteria, the Winnipeg Jets are giving up fewer high-percentage scoring chances than last season and dating back to last season they are the most improved team in the NHL at this metric.

This could explain part of the variance between Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage this season (.914) compared to his career average of (.906).

It was certainly one of the more interesting interviews I’ve heard about a new analytical approach to measure the strength of goaltenders and am definitely looking forward to hearing more of the results.

For more insight into the project, check out the full interview at TSN1290.ca

Paul Maurice on the Winnipeg Jets use of analytics

Analytics are currently a hot topic in the hockey community. Back in March Rick Ralph asked Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice on the types of metrics the team uses.

Maurice on analytics:

 “We have fairly detailed analytics on synergies; people playing together, who they play against, and minutes played. (This is) so we have an idea of what our group is facing as a line, or as a defense pairing. (Some things we look at are) what they’re generating in terms of shots from different parts of the ice and what they give up in terms of shots. You can tell who a line is playing against and what that line is getting for and against through the course of a game.

(Of) all the analytics that you look at, the best thing I’ve always found is you just go through the game. You look at it shift by shift, who you’re playing against, chances for, chances against. You keep a log of all your information and build a database that way on what’s happening over the course of a game. Some of it is in game, (but) a lot of it, the stuff that I trust the most is stuff that we’ll do in between games.”

Maurice continued

“Some of the stuff just can’t be used as fact. You can say that someone is giving up more shots, but at the end of the day they aren’t giving up any goals so there is a value to what they’re doing.

(For example) I would know Mark Scheifele. We would rate the quality of his chances, the quality of shots, where the shots are coming from. I would know that he was at the high end of both ranges. When he was on the ice there was far more things happening in the offensive zone and far less happening in the defensive zone. I would know that by the stats. But you wouldn’t need to look at the stats to know that. I think at the end of the day, there hasn’t been too many times where a stat was right on and was the opposite of what we would think.”

While the Jets do use some advanced metrics, Coach Maurice says they are only part of the decision making process.

 “It’s a piece of a decision. I would say that 90-95% of what you see is what the stats are telling you anyway. Yeah I knew that already just from watching the game. Then there’s some aberrations, you’ll see some synergies where these two guys are supposed to be really good together or they look like they’re playing great together, but the other team seems to be shooting the puck at your goaltender alot more than you’re shooting it at theirs when they’re on the ice together.”

Do the players ever look at the stat sheet? Rick asked Blake Wheeler was asked if he used statistics to help his game.

 “Not really, it’s a feel. You know when you’re going good, when the team’s going good or when you’re not.”

But Wheeler says that video is a tool that he uses to help his game

 “It helps to see it; they say the big eye don’t lie. But as players you know when you’re on your game or not on your game. It’s pretty cut and dry, there’s not a lot of grey area there.”

Rick Ralph discusses the analytics used by the Winnipeg Jets

The Rona Roundtable hosted by Rick Ralph airs weekdays from 11am-1pm on TSN 1290 Winnipeg.

Bob McKenzie on how NHL teams use analytics

Bob McKenzie on how NHL teams use analytics

TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie joined Macko and Cauz on TSN 1050 earlier today and discussed the hot topic of hockey analytics.

on the Analytics Debate

“The thing that makes me laugh a little bit about the whole analytics debate, in the media the old school media vs. the new school if that’s what you want to call it. People are still debating Corsi. I mean, the analytics in the National Hockey League team by team for the most part are so beyond Corsi that it’s not even a talking point. Corsi’s just a basic metric that some people use, some people don’t.

The stuff that teams are doing, I don’t want to say it’s more sophisticated because it is shrouded in mystery. But there’s no question that it’s more sophisticated because they link things more to video and break things down more analytically that way. I kind of chuckle because this whole argument over Corsi, Fenwick and PDO and all these things. Most of the teams that I’m aware of are years past the whole Corsi debate.”

On the use of video:

“There are continual upgrades on the software and the programming that (allow you to) break down a game in video. (For example) the game’s over, (TSN 1050 Host) Macko has played a game and (TSN 1050 Host) Cauz has played a game and I’m the coach and I say, I want every one of Macko’s shifts from that game, or I want every one of Macko’s shifts where he tried to get the puck out from the hash marks to the blue line. They can have that in a matter of moments.

A lot of coaches will say I’m not into the analytics. Well they are and they aren’t. What happens with a lot of teams is they take the video and they break it down to every single thing that happens as an event in a game. And they can identify positive and negative events for every player on the ice. They come up with their own (metrics) and detailed breakdowns for each individual player for every little thing he contributed positively or negatively over the course of the game. And at the end of the game within hours or the next morning the coach can come back in and his video guy will say here’s the break down for everything.

Where you need some analytics on a broader base is what’s happening in the games you can’t see where you don’t have intricate video breakdowns for. That’s for everything else that happens in the National Hockey League. That’s where teams will come up with other metrics to do other broader based stuff where the management is more involved than say the coaches. When you talk about analytics, everyone talks about it like it’s one sweeping stroke, for a Coach it’s much much different than for General Manager.”

Interview with Bob McKenzie – July 23, 2014

Macko and Cauz hosted by Bob Mackowycz &  Matt Cauz airs weekdays on TSN 1050 at 9am ET.

above photo courtesy of @Pengellyink

Goalie Analytics with Coach Steve McKichan

Goalie Analytics with Coach Steve McKichan

Steve McKichan a former Goaltending Coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs is currently the President and CEO of Future Pro Goalie School and has been “turning goalies into future pros for over 20 years”. He joined Rick Ralph on the Rona Roundtable on TSN 1290 Winnipeg on July 17th and provided this insight on goalie analytics.

“…the best puck handling goalies maintain puck possession. The one thing we tracked with the Maple Leafs was every time a goalie touched the puck in a puck handling environment we maintained a percentage of how often their team kept possession of the puck. This is because of the earth shattering secret; if your team has possession of the puck the other team can’t score.

You have two guys with .930 save percentages and one guy that actually has an 85% puckhandling percentage. (That goalie) will win more games because his team always has the puck opposed to the alternative”

On goaltending analytics aside from save percentage:

“I’ve got a couple key metrics that I use. One is save percentage of a goaltender when the team is shorthanded, because that’s where games are won and lost. I would also look at the save percentage of a goalie in the bounce back game after he was pulled. The other metric that I use is rebound control efficiency calculation, where the types of rebounds a goalie is leaving are quantified.

An analysis is done and a number given, like a goals against average where rebound control efficiency is generated for every game which allows you to see the difference between two goalies on how they manage their rebounds.”

While with the Maple Leafs, McKichon realized that shootouts are something that NHL Head Coaches should pay more attention to:

“We were struggling so bad with shootouts in Toronto (with the Maple Leafs), I said (to Head Coach Paul Maurice) let me do a presentation on how to score goals and how we can be better at that, and he said “ah don’t worry about it”. We ended up missing the playoffs by three or four points. The shootouts could  have been a factor, but (Paul Maurice) is probably one of best coaches in the NHL and just loves to let the guys play and use their natural innate abilities.”

Rona Roundtable – Interview with Steve McKichan – July 17, 2014

Listen to the Rona Roundtable with Rick Ralph weekdays from 11am-1pm CT on TSN Radio 1290, your home of the Winnipeg Jets.