This article will contain a higher than usual degree of statistics. I will do my best to make said statistics as entertaining as possible, but they are statistics nonetheless. Do your best to bear with me through the numbers as we discuss the Dallas Stars power play.
Now, allow me to tell you all a story.
About six weeks ago, the top story for your Dallas Stars was centered on the power play. If I remember correctly, they were somewhere around 1-for-60 at home at that point in the season on their power play. It was dreadful and everyone knew it. What people could not explain was WHY it was dreadful. In my opinion, the Stars deploy a high level of talent (at least on their first power play unit) to be effective.
So, late one night after a game in which they once again failed on their power play for the entire game, I began digging through some numbers. At that point in the season, when this story began, the Stars were 29th in the NHL in goals per 60 minutes while on the power play. Is that good? Hint: there are only 30 teams in the National Hockey League. This ranking was not surprising at all. What was surprising was seeing that the Stars were 10th in shots per 60 minutes on their power play. So hmm…29th in goals…but 10th in shots….simple intuition would say more shots equals more goals. In fact, most other teams’ rankings showed a correlation between shots per 60 minutes and goals per 60 minutes. The Stars were a strange anomaly.
Therefore, I sought the wisdom of one Brandon Bibb (@BrandonBibb_DBD) from the fantastic Dallas Stars blog defendingbigd.com. I brought forth this statistical finding and he told me not all shots are equal. It could, in fact, be because the Stars’ shot locations are poor. I asked him if there was anyone keeping track of shot locations and there was not one that he was aware of. At that point I decided I would take this on as a project. I would spend the next few weeks charting each power play, recording each shooter and location.
My hypothesis was this: the Stars’ power play has endured poor results simply because of luck. To test this hypothesis, I calculated how many shots were taken from poor locations (the blue line) and how many were taken from high quality locations (inside the circles, the slot, and the crease). Here are my results: a staggering 85% of shots were taken from high quality locations on the ice whereas 15% were taken from low quality locations.
After ruling out shot location as a reason for poor results, I questioned WHO was taking most of the shots. Shot location might be fine, but if Sergei Gonchar is taking most of the shots, one would suggest the power play might struggle. However, these results also seem to line up with success. The top three shooters on the Stars power play are Tyler Seguin (25%), Eric Cole (17%), and Jamie Benn (15). I believe the Stars are happy with those percentages, so we can’t suggest a change in shooters, right?
To recap: the Stars’ power play is terrible. However, neither shot location, nor choice of shooter, appears to be an issue. Shot frequency is also not a problem as the Stars were 10th in the NHL at the time. Therefore at the end of collecting my data, and organizing it into useful information, I can only conclude that my original hypothesis was correct. The Stars’ power play was not scoring goals simply because of random distribution. If this is indeed the case, the power play should go on a tear in the second half of the season. Since I began collecting the data in late December, the Stars have jumped from 29th to 23rd in goals per 60 minutes on the power play and remain 9th in shots per 60 minutes. As the season continues, I expect that gap between shots and goals to continue to shrink.
(note: I could talk about this in much greater length, but I will keep it short and sweet on the article. If you’re interested in a further discussion, find me on twitter: @jdsailors16 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers.)