Monday, February 11, 2013

"Shoot the Puck!" Or...Don't? An NHL Analysis

As a young hockey player growing up, I was always instructed to “shoot the puck!” So, I did. But I didn’t always score. Was there a chance I’d score? Sure, there was. But one thing I always noticed but, apparently, coaches never did was it wasn’t always about how much you shot, but when you shot. Or how. Or where.

Case in point: Sunday’s Detroit Red Wings vs. Los Angeles Kings game. The LA Kings fired 47 shots at Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard. He stopped 45 of them. The Red Wings, on the other hand, only shot the puck 31 times. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 28 of them. That’s a Kings loss. So, how much does a large number of shots really matter? Now, some people might say that a little luck was involved with the win – posts were hit, the Wings’ winning goal barely snuck over the line, etc. But the bottom line is this: the team that shoots the most doesn’t always win. In fact, when you look at the numbers, there’s a really no correlation between the number of shots taken and number of wins.

When I started this analysis, I wasn’t even looking at NHL team totals. I had wanted to see which of my favorite players were shooting the puck most effectively. Then it turned into a team analysis, and that’s where it got interesting. I expected the teams with the higher win totals to have the higher number of shots. With almost every team having played at least 10 games (except a couple teams who had a game cancelled due to the latest winter storm), I looked at the teams with 6-9 wins and found that wasn’t always the case. Of the 14 teams with 6 or more wins (as of Sunday, February 10), half had fewer than 316 shots. 316 is an important number (again, as of 2/10) because that is the average number per team of total shots taken in the NHL. With that, of the teams that are above .500, only 7 teams take more than the league average of shots.

 I wanted to take this a step further and look at how those 7 teams are doing so well, yet not shooting the puck a lot. So, let’s head on over to the shooting percentage category. The shooting percentage is the rate at which shots turn into goals. Theoretically, the higher the shooting percentage, the better off your team will be. The 3 teams with the highest shooting percentage all have shot totals below the league average. They also have at least 6 wins, and as many as 9. These 3 teams also rank 1, 3, and 4 in goals scored.

 The teams with the fewest wins, 3-5, show an interesting story as well. Logically, half those teams have above league average shot totals. However, looking at shooting percentage, we see where these teams are faltering. Of the teams with 3 wins – lowest in the league – all of them are shooting below 9%, which is also below the league average shooting percentage of 9.31%. If we add in the teams with 4 wins, for a total of eight teams, only one is shooting above the 9.31% mark. And if we add in the remaining eight teams with 5 wins - sixteen teams with 5 or fewer wins - we find that only three teams are shooting above 9.31%. This is, predictably, a very different outcome from the teams that are above .500, who have only four of fourteen teams shooting below the 9.31% average.

Shooting percentage is important because it is indicative of a team’s ability to get quality chances on net. Sure, you’re going to have a lucky bounce or a puck that will get through every player on the ice en route to the goal, but most times goals are scored on quality chances. Teams who fire the puck at will, from every conceivable distance or angle, are not going to be the teams that succeed long-term.

If we look at the teams with the most wins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Anaheim Ducks, all of them have shooting percentages above the 75th percentile. In fact, they are 3, 5, and 4 in shooting percentage, respectively. So these teams are picking their spots and finding success doing so. Not putting their head down and winding up for a shot, but methodically looking for an open man, an extra pass, a better opportunity. Peppering a goalie can be effective, but these teams are showing that picking your spot may be more important.

This is not to say that this is the norm among the top teams. As stated earlier, only half of above-.500 teams are below league-average shot totals. However, this is saying that, especially at the lower levels of hockey where we want players to improve, telling players to “shoot the puck!” at every opportunity isn’t the only way to do it. Nor is it necessarily the best way.

*All statistics taken from Yahoo! Sports on 2/10/13.

This post can also be found at my MBA's official blog, the SDSU SportsMBA Blog.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Red Wings Three-Week Check-Up

Well, kids, here we are.  Three weeks (that's it!?!) into the 2012-2013 NHL season.  There have already been a number of highlight moments.  5 point nights from Thomas Vanek.  An incredible, acrobatic save-of-the-year-candidate save from Kari Lehtonen.  The return of a healthy Sidney Crosby, and the Houdini act, and not in a good way, of Alex Ovechkin.

Through the first three weeks, the NHL's Central Division has proven that it will be a dogfight until the very end.  There are a lot - and I mean A LOT - of good teams in the Western Conference.  At this point, it seems very unlikely that 4 teams from the Central will make the playoffs.  Given that there are 5 teams in the division, and given that Columbus is a perennial dumpster fire, that means that one of Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and St. Louis may finish the year on the outside looking in.

The Red Wings have taken the "hard road" to third in the division.  Now, that may seem like an outlandish statement, given that the midpoint in a division shouldn't be hard to get to, but remember that this is not your ordinary lot of 5 teams. Consider this: With tonight's win over the St. Louis Blues, the Wings marked their first set of back-to-back wins this season.  Going Win-Loss-Win-Loss... is no way to succeed in the NHL.  If the Wings are to power through to the playoffs, strings of wins will have to become the norm.  Especially with the way St. Louis and Chicago have played up to this point.

The Wings' season - as per usual (man, I hate that phrase) - has been littered with injuries.  I know what you're thinking. "Already?" Well, yes, already. We're only three weeks in, and the Wings have lost two defenseman, one who was a critical cog and one who was trying to play a critical role - and a few forwards.  The losses of Ian White and Carlo Colaiaccovo on the back end have made a weak defense even more porous.  Luckily, though, we got to see what we have in youngster Brian Lashoff - and I like what I saw.  Forward Darren Helm has had a nagging back injury, and Todd Bertuzzi had mononucleosis a cold the plague a sore back something that kept him out a few games. Even backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (The Monster) tweaked his groin IN THE FIRST FREAKING GAME! The injury bug never ends with this team, I swear.

I guess there are two ways to look at this season.  Glass half-full version: If the injuries are going to hit, let them hit now so we're healthy in the playoffs.  Glass half-empty version: With the abbreviated season, there may not be enough time to let the injuries hit and still make the playoffs.  I'm just hoping that everything can get straightened out in time to put a decent run together and continue the club's unparalleled playoff run.

There are a lot of aspects of this team that need to improve.  The Power Play is pretty much non-existent with the exception of 5-on-3s or the magical time when we can actually get into the attacking zone without issue.  The Penalty Kill has been putrid, atrocious, embarrassing, terrible.  Basically any negative description you can think of, that's what it's been.  The defense needs to come together and eliminate the mistakes that inevitably lead to at least one breakaway against per game.  And the forwards need to shoot more.

I have a lot of hope for this Wings team.  They are, obviously, not as good as past iterations, but I think they have the pieces to be a dangerous team if they can jell. I just don't know how long that will take, and if we have enough time to do so.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Welcome Back!

Welcome back! It's been a while. The last time we met, we hadn't yet elected a President. We hadn't yet seen the (sad) departure of Nick Lidstrom, otherwise known as The Perfect Human. We hadn't yet turned the page over to 2013.

You thought I was talking about the National Hockey League, didn't you? NO! Of course not. I'm talking about you. My loyal, scarce reader.

 Now, for a bit of an update. I'm at a new stage in my life. I'm living in San Diego, CA attending San Diego State University studying towards a Sports Management MBA. It's exciting, that's for sure. It's warm, it's sunny, and it's not cold and snowing. Major plus.

School is going to take up a lot of my time, but I'm finally back able to write about my first love - the Detroit Red Wings. So, I'll be updating this as much as I can - at least once a week, mainly on Fridays (day off of school! woooo). I'll also throw some tidbits here and there about random stuff going on in my life or whatever. Just trying to get back in the writing swing of things.

So to those of you who actually read what I write (I know who you are! All 3 of you!), start checking back in. If you have any questions or suggestions for topics for my blog, feel free to shoot them my way at

See you soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Opening Night

Firsts. They all mean something special. First steps. First words. First kisses. First cars.

To every individual, the meaning of firsts is different. For the players in the NHL, the first game could mean anything. The first game overseas. First game back in a homeland in so many years. First shot to make an impression in the NHL.

Tonight, the Detroit Red Wings will embark on their 2011-2012 journey. It will be the first of 82 games. There are quite a few firsts for this team, despite its very veteran status. The first game behind the Hockeytown benches for both Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters. First game in red and white for new Wings Fabian Brunnstrom and Ian White. The first game of the (possibly) last season for one of the best defensemen of all-time. First year no members of the Grind Line will suit up. First year without the Wizard of Os(good). As stupid as it is, the first game with numbers on the front of the helmets. The first game after a disappointing end to last season.

The thing about firsts is they make you forget the lasts. The last shift some of the players had was probably not one to remember. The last time they left the ice they headed home for the summer...empty-handed. The last time they left the ice, the coach they will face tomorrow was on their side. The last time they left the ice, they had three members of the Red Wings family not walking this earth today.

With firsts comes new life. New opportunity. New hope. New goals. A fresh start, a new chance to get to the top. Clean standings and stat charts. Some, like defenseman Jakub Kindl, are seizing the opportunity they created for themselves through hard work and rising to the occasion when called upon. Others, like defenseman Jonathan Ericcson, are looking to take the opportunity to validate their play. Yet others, like defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, are taking one more, possibly last, opportunity to lift Lord Stanley's Cup.

As the curtains lift on the new NHL season, teams will look to make the best of their opportunity. They will do so with speed, tenacity, and finesse. Players will look to improve upon individual stats, while not losing track of the ultimate goal.

Tonight, the Red Wings will take to the ice in search of their 21st straight playoff appearance and their 12th straight 100-point year. Doing so will be no small feat, considering the improvement of the teams in the Central division. They start the year off against the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena.

Waiting for them will be 20,000 fans - some who may be attending their first Opening Night, or their first game, for that matter. Also waiting for them will be high expectations, pressure, and a clean sheet of Joe Louis Arena ice.

All that's left now are a few more firsts. Puck drop. Save. Goal, and assist. Win. They will be the first of many this year. I can't wait. Game on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

EuroTrip Adventure Recap - Picture Post

Ok, so apparently I didn't take any pictures in Cologne, Brussels, Munich, or the Alpine Center. But here's what I've got from the various cities:




For reference, that's a person at the bottom (sorry it's a bit blurry)


EuroTrip Adventure Recap - Continued

Day 12 - Lucerne

After waiting for Mad Mike for about 15 minutes because he overslept, we headed to Heidelberg Castle. Inside, there is the largest wine barrel in the world. It took a couple flights of stairs to get on top of it. Very cool.
We then headed to the Black Forest and the Rheinfalls. On the way, though, we hit a traffic jam. We ended up sitting at a dead stop for over 2 hours. We later found out a truck had gotten in a major accident. So we ended up missing both the Rheinfalls and the Black Forest. After arriving in Lucerne, Shannon and I got dinner at a riverside pub. Lucerne was simply beautiful. Everywhere you looked was like a postcard. We ended the night with the Roadhouse bar, around the corner from the hotel. Kathi made a rare late-night appearance, which made it even better.

Day 13 - Mt. Pilatus and Swiss Dinner

We finally got to sleep in for a change. After waking, we went into town and Shannon bought a Swiss Army Knife. We met the rest of the group and headed for my favorite outing of the trip - the ascent to the top of Mt. Pilatus just outside Lucerne. The ascent began with a cableway to the midway point. At this point, there was a ropes course and a dry toboggan run I wish I could have done, but we were tight on time. We then took a high-speed cable to the top. A few in the group were wary of heights, and simply covered their heads with their jackets.
Once at the top, the view was incredible. We climbed the three peaks at the top and saw a man playing an Alphorn. It was the most serene place I've ever been. I could have stayed there all day. We got the most perfect weather we could have asked for . Apparently, they only get about 5 days a year like the one we got. Not a cloud in the sky, relatively warm, perfect. I have some incredible memories to take away from the top of Mt. Pilatus. Climbing a mountain is something I've always wanted to do, and while I didn't exactly CLIMB, it felt just as special. Lucerne is the one place on the tour I'd go back to, and I'd definitely go back to Mt. Pilatus.
We hopped on the cog railway, the steepest such railway in the world, and began our descent. It was a very cool experience to end a great day.
We then headed to our planned Swiss Dinner. We were greeted upon our arrival by a number of children ringing the biggest, loudest cowbells I've ever heard. Our entertainment for the night was 2 accordions, a standing bass, and the children to complete the ensemble with singing or dancing. Among the activities at the dinner were a yodeling competition and a whip-cracking competition. The result of the whipping was...well...self-inflicted whippings. Nearly all of the guys ended up with marks of some sort. Shannon placed 3rd in the female division. I did not place.
After the dinner, we took the bus (which was a party bus at this point) back to the hotel. We tried to congregate in the hotel, but a real stern, saucy manager booted us out and even chided those of us who stayed in and were doing nothing at the time. Buzzkill. We then went to a club called Opera. It was pretty fun, but there was some question as to whether or not it was a gay club. Either way, we enjoyed.

Day 14 - Liechtenstein and Munich

We woke up and started to depart the hotel, and the same saucy manager was there continuing to bitch at us. Kathi came to our rescue and gave the manager a piece of her mind and basically told her to piss off. Awesome. We stopped for lunch in Liechtenstein. Other than being able to say I've been there, there was nothing special about the place. We didn't get to see the cool castle (the one Walt Disney modeled his after). We continued to Munich and immediately headed to the Augustiner Brauhaus for dinner. Dinner was pretty good even though I don't really like German food. We then went to the Hofbrauhaus, a larger, more popular beer hall, and had a few drinks there. I even bought a liter-sized glass mug. So that was cool.
What was NOT cool was getting home from the getting home from Hofbrau. We went with a larger group and headed in the wrong direction, in part because we were in the rain and got a bit disoriented. After walking for a while, still in the rain, I decided to ask for directions and hail a cab. Sure enough, we had been walking in the exact opposite direction that we needed. Our core group got in a cab, and got to the hotel in about 5 minutes. We got back to the hotel and headed right to bed.

Day 15 - Munich, Salzburg, Alpine Center

In the morning, we walked around Munich in search of some beerstienes. After acheiving that goal, we went in search of some good, cheap beer. We found it, but had to walk a long way to get it. It was worth the walk. We got to Salzburg - one of the filming locations for "The Sound of Music". We toured the city in the rain and found a good little Italian place for lunch. We had an epic journey to find Fonzie and the bus in some torrential downpours. Not the best part of the trip.
We bussed to Annaberg and the Alpine Center. Once there, we enjoyed a dinner of turkey and "mozzarella sticks". Since it was such an isolated hotel, there was no place to go, so we just chilled in our rooms that night.

Day 16 - Alpine Center

Because our room backed up to a running river, we couldn't tell that it had been raining all night. As such, the planned horseback riding excursion was cancelled that morning. I was somewhat disappointed, but thankful at the same time, as we got to sleep in. We had lunch at a small, nearby cafe that had really good food.
The afternoon included whitewater rafting. It wasn't all that challenging but it was very fun. I took a lot of video from my helmet cam. At the end of the run, our guide decided that one half of those on the raft - my half - did not get wet enough during the excursion. We got dumped in the incredibly cold water. All in good fun, though. We again had dinner and drinks at the hotel that night and went to bed.

Up next on the tour is Italy, but I'm going to put a post of pictures from the last two posts up before I get to Italy and Greece.

EuroTrip Adventure Recap - Continued

OK, so from here on out, I'm going to just do written descriptions, and then will make one entire post dedicated to pictures. Sorry for the shift in philosophy.

Day 7- Paris City Tour

After waking up early, we bussed into Paris and went to a perfume museum. In addition to smelling of a smorgasbord of different perfumes, it wasn't really that cool, but we did see a random female tennis player shooting a commercial or something for her new scent.
We bussed around the city with a guide, first stopping briefly at the Eiffel Tower for pictures. We continued on and saw a lot of the major sights. We ended at Notre Dame and had plenty of time to roam around. After lunch at a roadside café, we visited a small, cool bookstore that sold mainly books in English. We then walked back to Notre Dame and toured the inside, even stopping to sign the guest book.
After Notre Dame was the Louvre. We didn't go inside but took pictures outside and explored the gardens. At the end of the gardens, we walked down the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triumphe. It was much cooler in person than anything I had seen before on TV or in books.
We then decided that we had to go to the Eiffel Tower again and go to the top. It did not disappoint. That was a view that I will never forget. We were very lucky that we got a mostly sunny, beautiful day.
After that we took the metro home and got dinner at a local pizzeria. We finished off the night with another trip to the Bloody Mary bar and headed to bed.

Day 8 - Versailles

This was my favorite day in France, and it had nothing to do with the Palace itself.
We had another early morning and bussed to the Palace at Versailles. Upon arrival, we were told to go look at the gardens while our tickets were purchased for the Palace. In my head, I pictured these gardens as small patches of flowers and shrubbery, something that we could easily see in the ~30 minutes we were given. Boy...was I wrong.
I walked through an archway into the "backyard" was like something straight out of a movie. The most expansive garden you could ever imagine. Recall the front yard in Richie Rich and multiply it by 10. That's the garden at Versailles. Massive lakes, labyrinths of hedges, incredible marble was almost too much. You could even rent golf carts to get you around the whole thing...that's how big it was! I really did not want to go in the Palace after seeing that. I hope to one day go back to Versailles and spend an entire day in the gardens. I could get lost in there and would not be mad.
Onto the actual Palace. It was incredible. Gold was used exhaustingly throughout. It was, like Windsor Castle, more than you could ever need. It was hard to imagine living in a place that big. Again, not as cool to me as the outside, but still awesome.
We then bussed back to Paris and planned on going to the Louvre. We ate cafeteria-style and carried on to the museum. Being fairly short on time, we made a point to visit the major things - the Mona Lisa, Aphrodite, etc. - and get out of there. After fighting our way through the crowds to see the Mona Lisa, which is encased making it hard to get a good picture, we headed back to the hotel for a nap.
After the nap, we took the Metro to Montmarte and Sacre Coeur. The view at the top is incredible. People lined the hill and street performers were everywhere. It was a cool, picturesque place. If I lived in Paris, I would go to Montmarte every night. We snacked on bread and cheese and had wine, enjoyed watching some of the street acts, and then went into Sacre Coeur. Mass was being held, in French of course, so we had to be reserved with our tour, but it was an incredible church. Pretty common feeling throughout the trip about the churches.
We took our last glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, took the Metro home, and hit the hay. We'd be travelling in the morning. Overall, I used a lot of French while we were there. And while I didn't remember everything, I knew enough to get by and felt I could have gotten around by myself if I needed to. I think the locals appreciated my efforts, as well.

Day 9 - Brussels and Amsterdam

Guess what? Another early morning. Guess what? Another bus. Stopped in Brussels for lunch and visited the Mannequin Pis. For those who don't know, the Mannequin Pis is a statue of a little boy peeing (water) into a font. Occasionally, locals will dress him up for games, etc. Well on this day, there was some sort of festival. To this day, we don't know what it was for. But there was a band and lots of people and a keg of beer. We received cups of said free beer and contently carried on.
Next on the agenda was to get some authentic Belgian waffles. Boy was it like heaven. I got mine covered in whipped cream and strawberries. That was the best waffle I've ever had, even if it may have been the most fattening. With I could have that every morning.
We went in search of lunch, but ended up stopping at a beer emporium instead. We purchased a few bottles of previously-suggested beers and got some Belgian chocolate. We were short on time, as we had to get back to the bus, so we scrambled and got some pizza and some frites (both of which were awesome) and headed back to the bus to continue our journey.
Next stop: Amsterdam. Upon arrival, we headed to the Anne Frank house. Without sounded insensitive or anything of the sort, it was really nothing special. It was crazy, however, to see the dire conditions in which they hid/lived. Starving, we went on the hunt for food. Knowing there was a Burger King at our hotel, we headed back. Little did we know it would be closed. So, we ordered food from the hotel bar/restaurant. After a true fiasco in dealing with the bartender there, I went without eating until much later in the night. We then hit the town, stopping at a couple bars and trying some new drinks.

Day 10 - Edam/Volderdam

In the morning, we went and visited a cheese and wooden shoe making place. There were a number of cheeses and I was pretty liberal with my free samples, as they were all very good. The wooden shoes were actually pretty comfortable. I would never wear them, though. Not really high fashion. After the factories, we went for a leisurely bike ride through Edam. We visited a marina, rode past a windmill, then lost a group of stragglers, including my father, for a good 20 minutes. After the found their way back, we went to the seaside for lunch. I bravely tried the fresh eel, and found it to be quite good. After bussing back to the hotel, we went back to Amsterdam. We had dinner at some Indonesian place, which was decent but not great. After that, we tried more new, local foods and carried on our way to a canal tour. After the boat tour, we headed to the Red Light District and found a bar. The District is really as surreal as you expect it to be. It takes "window shopping" to a whole new meaning. After a while, we headed back to the home on a bus that really "hauled ass" as Michael put it. Amsterdam was a great part of the trip.

Day 11 - Cologne/Heidelberg

Slept on the bus for most of the morning as it was still very early. We stopped in Cologne for lunch. The cathedral there was massive and quite beautiful. Some of the group climbed the tower, but we were hungry so we headed to the train station and got some food. We continued on and went for a cruise along the Rhein river. The weather was perfect. David stole a cake. It was a good time.
On the way to Heidelberg, we played a bunch of games since we were all bored. Contact, catchphrase, madlibs, and others helped pass the time. In Heidelberg, there was a pre-arranged dinner that Shannon, Kristi, my parents and I did not partake in. I settled for the German specialty Spatzle, and it was actually pretty good and apparently better than what the organized dinner got. We headed back to the hotel, had some drinks and played some games, and went to bed.

This was a long post, so I'm going to break it up. Next up, Switzerland.