In 2013, Chris Boyle, then of Habs Eyes On the Prize created a landmark data visualization for hockey. Boyle graphed how a team’s shot share (i.e. what percent of attempts belonged to that team instead of their opponents) over the regular season compared to how that team did in the postseason. It was eye-opening. I consider it a foundational text for understanding how and intuiting why “possession” matters.
The vis is like a dartboard, with the bullseye at center being the championship. Around it are four quadrants representing regular-season shot-attempt percentages, which I’ll describe with the overlay below.
Teams that “control play” (i.e. have a high shot-attempt percentage) during the regular season tended to have better outcomes in the postseason. Teams that play “on their heels” (i.e. have a low shot-attempt percentage) tend to miss the playoffs and rarely go far if they make it at all.
The exceptions are fascinating. In 2010, the Washington Capitals were a powerhouse, but they were eliminated in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Cup despite mediocre shot-attempt numbers – though they fired their coach 55 games into the season and dominated thereafter. I like those two examples because they teach us that 5-on-5 shot attempts are not the only thing that “matters” and that there is always more detail to explore.
Nonetheless, precedent says that the 2017-18 Washington Capitals are in deep trouble this postseason. This is the topic of the final snapshot.
|Did not qualify||48||48||49||48||48||49||47|
|Lost round 1||51||51||51||52||51||51||52|
|Lost round 2||51||51||51||51||52||52||53|
|Lost conference final||51||51||51||52||52||51||53|
|Lost Cup final||52||52||52||53||54||52||53|
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