Frequency of Scores in the NHL 2017-2018 Regular Season

“How many goals are usually scored in a hockey game?”

I had this question the other day and wanted to find out. A quick google search gave me this list of all game results from the 2017-2018 season. I wanted to visualize this data so decided to use R to generate a heat map of score frequencies.

Eventually, I ditched using R because I couldn’t for the life of me get the graphs to look pretty. Meanwhile, a copy and paste of data into Google Sheets and a couple minutes of clicking gave me the output I wanted. Friendly reminder to all to use the appropriate tool for the task.

Here’s what I found:

This answers the original question–most hockey games will end around the neighborhood of a 2-1, 3-2, or 4-3 score. I posted this on Reddit and an interesting question was asked a few times. What would this graph look like if I adjusted scores in overtime and shootout wins? In the NHL, if a team ends in the 3rd period with a tied score, they go into a 3v3 5-minute sudden-death overtime period. If no goal is scored during that overtime, the teams go into a shootout. Ultimately, one team will win and will be award the extra point onto their score.

This could be inflating the frequency of “N to N-1” scores.

I found the easiest way to adjust for overtime and shootout wins was to simply take all games that ended with an OT or SO and subtract one point from the winning team–essentially turning the chart into the scores at the end of the third period of regulation. Here is that adjusted chart:

Now this is interesting. Updated observations: Most hockey games fall around the 3ish to 7ish total goals scored and there is a higher frequency of games ending in ties and games ending in 2-goal leads than there is of games ending in 1-goal leads. Notice that cells in the diagonal for 1-goal leads are lower in frequency than their neighbors to the right and to the bottom. e.g. a 1-0 score happened 15 times, but a 2-0 score happened 33 times and a 1-1 score happened 59 times. This continues until the sample sizes drop.

Why would this be? The simplest explanation would probably be the strategy of trailing teams pulling their goalie in the final moments of the third period.

In the NHL, the season is structured in the following way. All teams compete over the course of 82 games, each, and acquire points for each game win/loss/overtime or shootout. These accumulated points determine playoff seeding at the end of the season. The league awards 2 points for each win, 1 point for each overtime or shootout loss, and 0 points for each loss that doesn’t go into overtime. That means that a regulation loss is a loss, no matter what the score differential was by the end of the game.

In addition to the season structure, NHL rules allow for the goalie to be replaced with an extra skater at any point during play. Thus, it has become very common in the NHL for a team that is trailing by 1 in the final moments of the third period to replace their goalie with another skater in desperation. This makes sense. If our team is trailing by a goal, and it doesn’t matter in terms of playoff seeding points if we lose by another goal, it is worth the risk for us to do what we can to tie the game and send the game into overtime to maybe squeeze 1 point out of this game to affect our overall playoff standings.

Putting it all together, the NHL season structure + the rules for pulling a goalie could be contributing factors to inflation of frequencies of tied games (pulling the goalie worked) and games that ended in a 2 goal lead (pulling the goalie backfired and the other team scored on an empty net).

How Important is Height in Hockey?

During my last recreational league hockey season, my captain had me play center. My favorite part (aside from face-offs) was the increased defensive responsibilities. I think it would be a fun idea to switch to defense for a season. However, I’m a bit concerned that at 5’7″ (67 inches) tall, I would be seen as too small to effectively play defense. I decided to check NHL stats and throw something together in R. Data includes all players currently in the NHL as of June 20, 2018.

Based on my findings, it looks like there is a lot of variation across each position. Sure, the trend seems to be that players are taller the further back in the rink they are, but there is a lot of overlap in distributions of heights for each position.

  • Median heights across all players is only about 3-5 inches taller than average males
  • Roughly speaking, centers and wings are around the same height
  • Heights for defensemen closely resemble the spread of heights for forwards, but shifted up about an inch
  • Goalie is the one position where someone of my height playing the position would be a large outlier

After seeing the data, I don’t think that hockey has too much specialization based on height. Yeah, I’m not the tallest person, but especially for a rec league, I shouldn’t be discouraged from playing any position. I’ll sign myself up to play D next season.

Who are the Sharks’s Playmakers?

Similar to the last post, here is a visualization made with R of the players’ assists awarded over the last 5 seasons.  Graph only includes players with at least 5 full NHL seasons of data and is not adjusted for games missed due to injuries.

  • Note: Mikkel Boedker was traded this morning to the Ottawa Senators.
  • There weren’t any particularly notable exclusions from this list. Closest might be Kevin Labanc, who had a season high 29 assists last season, but only 2 full seasons of data to pull from.
  • I mentioned Patrick Marleau in the last post. If he were included in this post, he’d fall around where Mikkel Boedker or Logan Couture are listed: He has a median assists count of 23 with a 5-season high of 38 in 2014-2015.
  • John Tavares has a 5-season median of 42 assists with a high of 48 assists in 2014-205. If John Tavares were inserted into this graph, he’d fall right between Burns and Pavelski. Not bad!

Who are the Sharks’s Goal-Scorers?

There has been some off-season talk about the San Jose Sharks making a push to trade for John Tavares of the New York Islanders. Tavares has been a strong goal-scorer for the Islanders, having been in the top 3 on his team for goals scored every season since being drafted in 2009.

I wanted to better understand how goal scoring was distributed among the Sharks to make it easier to imagine Tavares being added to the line-up. I threw this visualization together using R to help out.

Data includes goals scored per San Jose Sharks player since the 2013-2014 NHL season. I only included current SJ Sharks players with at least 5 full NHL seasons of data. Data is not adjusted for games played, so games missed due to injuries are reflected in the graph. I think this is fair because a skilled goal scorer is useless if he isn’t also durable. Can’t put points on the board if you aren’t playing.

Thoughts:

  • Based on John Tavares’s last five seasons, the median for his goals scored would be 33 and his best was 38 in 2014-2015. If included on this graph, he’d be the 2nd strongest goal scorer, right after Pavelski.
  • Patrick Marleau was (sadly) traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the 2017-2018 season. If he was never traded, he’d appear on this chart between Pavelski and Couture with a median goals scored of 27 and a season-high of 33 goals in 2013-2014.
  • Of the recent Sharks additions excluded from this list, the only skaters with decent goal counts for a single season are Timo Meier (21 goals in 2017), Chris Tierney (17 goals in 2017), Joonas Donskoi (14 goals in 2017), and Kevin Labanc (11 goals in 2017).  However, none of these are particularly impressive and these players will likely end up charted near the middle around Hertl or Boedker.
  • As expected, defensemen occupy the bottom of the list. The clear exception here, of course, is Brent Burns. Seeing him occupy the 3rd highest slot despite being a defenseman is impressive.
  • Admittedly, I didn’t realize Joe Pavelski’s production was that much higher than the rest of the team.
  • Washington Capitals’s Alexander Ovechkin’s 5-year running goal median is 50. Wow. The Sharks need one of those.

Gym Stuff 2017 (Squat)

Last of the 2017 gym posts. Previous posts: deadlift, overhead press, and bench press.

This one is weird. I hate this lift.

My squat has never felt comfortable. I’m constantly fighting to improve my form but issues keep popping up like Whac-A-Mole: squat not deep enough, knees buckling inward, lower back strain, etc.

In my first two years of squatting, I was reluctant to increase weight due to form concerns. By 2016, I came to a decision that has lead to great progress: even if form wasn’t perfect, increase the weight if form was acceptable. My squat still feels awful, but its got nearly 100 more pounds on it now than it did before.

I technically hit my 2016 goal at the end of 2016 when I was motivated to reach 225 lbs (two 45 lbs plates on each side). However an injury while deadlifting at the end of 2016 caused me to halt progress. I’ve only recently started working back up, again (most recently hitting 225 lbs × 5 reps at sub 150 lbs body weight).

Thoughts:

  • Now that i’m regularly doing reps of ~200 lbs, its ridiculous to think that there was ever a time where the most I could do was 60-80 lbs.
  • I don’t know how interested I even am in pushing this lift much higher than where it is. I like the idea of having a strong squat for functional strength and hockey…but I do not like the idea of having to buy larger pants.

Gym Stuff 2017 (Bench Press)

Post 3 of 4. Previous posts: deadlift and overhead press.

The bench press might be my favorite compound lift. It was the first compound lift I started training.

Progress has been slow, but I managed to hit my 2016 goal last week (165 lbs × 5 reps at sub 150 lbs body weight).

Thoughts:

  • I think I graduated up a shirt size around the end of 2014.
  • All of 2015 looks like it was a huge waste of time. I wasn’t consistently on the same program or training schedule so that whole year just looks like it was “maintenance”. Next couple years weren’t awful. Slow but steady.

Gym Stuff 2017 (Deadlift)

Picking up where this post left off…

The deadlift is tied with the squat for my least favorite lift. It’s the lift that I’ve been training for the least amount of time and also train with the least frequency.

These days, I deadlift no more than two sets a week (as per my Greyskull LP program). I am interested in continuing to make progress on this lift but probably won’t increase frequency until I’m ready to move on from Greyskull.

Similar to my overhead press, I just hit my strength goal, today. (255 lbs × 5 reps at sub 150 lbs body-weight)

Thoughts after visualizing my progress:

  • 2016 didn’t look terrible, but I can see the point at the end of the year where I injured myself deadlifting and it affected my psychologically well into 2017.

    re-enactment of my deadlift form on the day I hurt myself
  • Looks like I was really close to hitting this goal a year earlier. What helped the most between last year and this year was having a gym partner comment on my form (helping me learn to keep my back neutral)
  • 2017 by itself looks crazy. Thanks Greyskull.

Gym Stuff 2017 (Overhead Press)

Last year, I set some weightlifting goals for myself for four compound exercises: bench press, overhead press, deadlift, and squat. These days, I’m hovering right around the goal weights that I set. I thought it would be fun to break down how things are going for each lift, starting with the overhead press. This also gives me a dumb excuse to play with R more.

First, some quick background. I started casually training summer of 2013. I was weak. Between then and the end of the year, I slowly got my lifts up, but I still had a long way to go before I would even be comfortable with telling anyone my numbers.

The period between 2014 and 2016 could best be described as me having “F***arounditis”. I continued to go to the gym in the mornings but would very regularly skip days due to not waking up early enough. If I did make it, I only gave myself 20-30 minutes to get any work in. I’d have spurts of motivation from reading things on /r/fitness or /r/gainit, but never any real consistency. I did make improvements, but it was messy.

At the start of 2016, I signed up for a new gym after a move. This was the start of more consistent training and was the period where I’ve made the most progress. My consistency wasn’t perfect, but it was the best year so far. It was then that I set some strength goals, something I really should have done on my very first day. The goals motivated my consistency and it was the consistency that brought progress.

For goals, I settled on the intermediate column in this website’s list of strength standards. For example as a 150 lbs male, a one rep max of 122 lbs for overhead press would put me into the intermediate column, which is defined as being above the median strength for lifters of my same weight. Not awful and no longer “below average” so that’s good enough for me.

It took me much longer than it should have, but I hit this today (105 lbs × 7 reps at sub 150 lbs body-weight).

Here’s how my progress looked for this lift (from the last couple of years of data). Note that I use an estimated 1 rep max (using Lander’s formula) which uses a weight × reps × some coefficient formula to estimate a 1 rep max.

Some thoughts/observations from this:

  • I’m definitely embarrassed about the lack of consistency before 2016.
  • The increases in the start of 2016 are largely thanks to me half-following a 5×5 lifting program. I say half-following because I was not increasing the weight as regularly as I really should have. For this, I partly blame the gym for not having 2.5 lbs weights for increases (smallest plate they had were 5 lbs plates and full 10 lbs jumps are hard).
  • I started following the Greyskull LP program in the summer of 2017 and I HIGHLY recommend it. One problem with other programs is how discouraging it is to fail a set. Failure means that you must drop the weight and it’ll be weeks until you work back up and get a chance to set a new personal record. Greyskull fixes this by having the final set be an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set. To illustrate, if I fail a lift at 150, I must drop the weight to 135. However, if the last time I was at 135, the best I could do was 5 reps on the last set, I can now strive for 6+ reps to beat my old record. This is a GREAT design addition.
  • Top three tips I wish I could have told myself when I started
    1. Consistency above everything else. Don’t skip sessions and give yourself plenty of time to finish everything.
    2. Pick the right program and follow it as best as you can. Greyskull > 5×5.
    3. (Related to #2) If the program says to increase the weight, do it. I had many sessions where I sat at the same weight for several sessions in a row. This was a mistake because failure is part of the design of each program and the overloading is necessary.

In future posts, I’ll share the graphs of my other three lifts.