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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Top and Bottom 5 on 19 October – The Colonel

You have felt it without truly knowing it: there is a certain character displayed by your favorite team’s play that produces about bursts of energy in which they ‘own’ their opponent. There are many factors that dictate this. Overall team conditioning and stamina may create more dominant goal scoring late in a game. Likewise, a particular coaching system or style might produce a team scoring advantage.

Here at OGA, we thought we’d analyze this for the top and bottom five teams in the NHL as of games completed on 19 October in order to gain some perspective about the disproportional play between winning and losing teams. We were not disappointed as we found two, key differences between the bookends of the NHL standings.

The Top Five

As of 19 October, the top five teams were PIT, NYR, COL, CHI and CGY. These five teams displayed two overall tendencies in terms of scoring. First is that all teams produced multi-minute spans of consecutive time in a one or more periods where at least three goals were scored. Our coined phrase here is ‘Point of Domination’ or PoD. The longest sequential PoD is the 5th through 8th minutes of the 1st period for CGY in which they averaged almost two goals per minute. Specific PoD’s for these teams are listed below:

PIT – Minutes 4 – 6 and 12 – 14/2nd Period and 7 – 9/3rd Period; Avg of 3 G’s
NYR – Minutes 6 – 8/1st Period and 1 – 3, 12 – 14 and 18 – 19/3rd Period; Avg of 3.5 G’s
COL – Minutes 4 – 5/2nd Period; 4 G’s
CHI – Minutes 5 – 7, 9 – 11 and 13 – 14/2nd Period and Minutes 3 – 4/3rd period; Avg of 3.5 G’s
CGY – Minutes 5 – 8 and 10 – 12/1st Period + Minutes 18 – 19/3rd Period; Avg of 5 G’s

Across these PoD’s, a total of only 7 of 56 goals scored (or 12.5% of them) were what we like to call ‘Comeback Goals.’ These are goals netted within five minutes of an opponent’s score as a team pushes to regain momentum in the game. This suggests overall team play was more often dominant than not in their contests.

PoD-wise, team character also indicates three of the five teams (PIT, CHI and CGY) play a style of game that is hard-charging right from the opening faceoff. The NYR tend to finish a game strong, possibly indicating their conditioning and team drive are superior to their opponents.

The second tendency displayed in scoring was the fact all of these teams generated at least one dominant period of play where they produced double-digit goals while out-pacing their opponents’ scoring by about 1.5 goals to each one allowed. Suffice it to say with a little license taken that a ‘Span of Domination’ – SoD – exists in winning teams’ characteristic play. By team, the SoD’s are:

PIT – 1st and 2nd Periods/1.82 : 1 Goal Differential
NYR – 3rd Period/3 : 1 Goal Differential
COL – 2nd Period/1.75 : 1 Goal Differential
CHI – 2nd Period/1.4 : 1 Goal Differential
CGY – 1st Period/2 : 1 Goal Differential

PIT seems to wear down opponents in the early going where they produce 31% of all scoring in the form of Comeback Goals. The defending Cup Champions therefore attempt to demoralize opponents throughout a game.

The NYR display a tendency to be a strong closer over the seven wins they have earned since the beginning of the season. A full 20% of their scoring comes between Minutes 12 – 18 of the final frame.

COL and CHI owe their success to 2nd period SoD’s that are enough to carry them through to victory. The only later trend visible is a span of a goal every other minute over the middle nine minutes of COL’s 3rd Periods.

And CGY comes out like gang busters in the 1st frame, trailing off more and more each period thereafter except for a three-goal producing effort in the final two minutes of games.

Taken together, the presence of PoD’s and SoD’s are a measure of when team dominance occurs in games for the Top 5 teams in the league.

The Bottom Five

At the other end of the spectrum, your bottom five teams on 19 October were TOR, MIN, NYI, MTL and FLA. Of these clubs, three in particular (MTL, TOR and FLA) displayed a single PoD of three goals each in one period of play. They are:

MTL – Minutes 18 – 19/1st Period; 3 G’s
TOR – Minutes 2 – 4/2nd Period; 3 G’s
FLA – Minutes 17 – 18/3rd Period; 3 G’s

MTL produces an interesting note here. The Canadiens have scored three goals over the 18th and 19th minutes of the 1st Period, and another two goals in the 19th minute of the 2nd period. Could it be that psychologically speaking, they are expending more positive effort in order to secure a less strenuous redress between periods?

Long Island fans should note that of all 10 teams, the Islanders have scored the second most Comeback Goals. This can be taken as a potential sign of a team that does not give up and is on the verge of defending a lead versus chasing one.

Toronto’s was the only PoD that extended for three minutes and was exactly one goal per minute. The remaining two teams did not display any PoD’s. Apparently, a lack of multiple PoDs over one or more periods is an indicator of not being able to compete at the same level as teams leading the League standings.

And as for the SoD, none of the bottom five teams outscore their opponents in any regulation period of play. The NYI have scored as many goals as their opponents in their 2nd Period, and the same is true for MIN in their 3rd period. Both MTL and MIN have outscored their opponents in OT, in both teams’ cases the only games they have won since the start of the season. So our conclusion here is that teams who cannot dominate one or more period’s span of time will have trouble leading the League standings.


In studying how teams score, two evaluation factors stand out. Points of Domination are consecutive minutes of play where three or more goals are scored, producing pressure on opponents that is difficult to overcome. Whether a result of the team’s system of play or conditioning, if it is not present in multiples over one or more period of play, it is not a recipe for a winning percentage of play.

The other key measure is a Span of Domination where a team’s scoring has outpaced their opponent overall for an entire period. Winning teams have at least one period where this is the case, while the bottom five teams do not. Failure to establish an SoD is likely to indicate a team that is not in the top tier of the League.

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