Zack Stortini, pictured above, took 23 shots in 2008-09. He scored six goals on those modest shot totals, good enough to lead the Oilers in shooting percentage at 26.1%.

Hockey or Die! (and Oilogosphere) commenter Ender took me to task yesterday for my post on shooting and save percentage. While he had a number of different points, the one that intrigued me was that team shot totals could fluctuate enough to compensate for some of the drastic shooting percentage changes we will see; in other words, a team like the Oilers (15.2 SH%) might drop back into the standard league range (say, 10%) but shoot enough that it wouldn’t matter. Intuitively, that made no sense to me, but however much I trust my intuition it doesn’t do much for anyone else.

Thus, I decided on a simple test: I’d break the Oilers season last year into 16 five-game chunks (ignoring games 81 and 82) and see how much shots and shooting percentage varied. For good measure, I included shots against and save percentage as well. Here’s the raw data:

  • Games 1-5: +154/-143 shots; 7.79/.895 SH%/SV%
  • Games 6-10: +136/-200 shots; 9.56/.920 SH%/SV%
  • Games 11-15: +142/-148 shots; 11.97/.912 SH%/SV%
  • Games 16-20: +121/-192 shots; 11.57/.927 SH%/SV%
  • Games 21-25: +151/-146 shots; 9.27/.904 SH%/SV%
  • Games 26-30: +127/-187 shots; 11.81/.920 SH%/SV%
  • Games 31-35: +142/-160 shots; 7.75/.881 SH%/SV%
  • Games 36-40: +138/-149 shots; 12.32/.913 SH%/SV%
  • Games 41-45: +128/-156 shots; 10.94/.891 SH%/SV%
  • Games 46-50: +158/-148 shots; 10.13/.926 SH%/SV%
  • Games 51-55: +144/-154 shots; 6.94/.890 SH%/SV%
  • Games 56-60: +139/-145 shots; 12.23/.903 SH%/SV%
  • Games 61-65: +134/-175 shots; 10.45/.903 SH%/SV%
  • Games 66-70: +144/-178 shots; 11.81/.904 SH%/SV%
  • Games 71-75: +141/-150 shots; 5.67/.900 SH%/SV%
  • Games 75-80: +132/-160 shots; 9.84/.925 SH%/SV%

Over these five game segments, shots varied on average by 5.4% from the mean. The total range from minimum to maximum was 26.7%. That contrasted sharply with shooting percentage, which on average varied by 16.5%, and had a range from minimum to maximum of 65.2%. Total goals was almost as bad, with a 14.4% average variance and a range from minimum to maximum of 64.0%.

In other words, shooting percentage varies by roughly 300% more than shot totals. I’d imagine we could narrow both down by focusing on, say, just home games or just road games but using this test it seems clear: when prognosticating, it’s a much better idea to look at the shot clock than at either shooting percentage or total goals scored.

Comments (9)

  1. I think you have the game orders messed up.

    Games 1-5 last year saw the Oilers put up a 10.1 sh% and a 92.5 sv%.

    129 shots for, 160 against and 13 goals for 12 against.

  2. Dawgbone:

    Actually, it’s 132 SF/160SA, 13GF/12GA, 9.84 SH%, .925 SV%. So I do have the games reversed, but the numbers correct.

    I’m pretty good with math, but fairly bad with Excel ;)

  3. If hockey was nothing more than satistics then it would not be worth watching !! Enjoy the sport and entertainment don’t overkill it with stats . Talk more hockey in other words -at least the Canadian teams ! Sorry for being so critical , but this constant fetish with stats leaves little for hockey fans to have space to enjoy banter about the games that are/have taken place .

  4. I agree, it’s better to look at shot totals than SH% or total goals scored over a season.

    Where I disagree is that you can judge the success or failure of a team on a game by game basis with any of those numbers before setting a baseline of at least 30 games.

  5. Madjam:

    I want to get a better understanding of the game, not just enjoy it for what it is. I don’t blame fans who want to do the latter, but I’m trying to analyze all sorts of teams and decisions that G.M.’s make, and to do that I need to go into the stats.

    It won’t be all the time, but it isn’t going to stop either.

  6. Ender:

    Given that the maximum variance between shot totals over five game segments was 26, and that deviation from the mean was far less than that (13% of 135-ish shots) I don’t think we need nearly as much time as you think we do.

    It may turn out as we dig into this more that we will, but I doubt it.

  7. When you crunch the numbers for the whole season, most of the time the teams that are among the leaders in shots are the teams that score the most goals. Saying that, there are some very interesting exceptions (namely the New York Rangers). Here’s their ranking in shots, followed by their ranking in goals/game for the last 8 years.

    08-09- 7th in shots, 28th in g/g
    07-08- 3rd in shots, 25th in g/g
    06-07- 6th in shots, 18th in g/g
    05-06- 16th in shots, 14th in g/g
    03-04- 6th in shots, 17th in g/g
    02-03- 4th in shots, 18th in g/g
    01-02- 6th in shots, 11th in g/g
    00-01- 10th in shots, 7th in g/g

    Only twice in the last 8 years the Rangers have had a shooting percentage above the league average. I have no idea why this is. Are the Rangers getting unlucky? Do they have crappy teams that just can’t score? Do they face better goaltending?

    Madjam- True, hockey is more than just stats. Like Jonathan said, us stat geeks are trying to better understand the game. There’s too many guys out there who are either not willing or not intelligent enough to crunch numbers and actually analyze the game. And that’s fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I just hate it when us stat geeks are looked at as the bad guys who don’t appriciate the game when we choose to expand our knowledge.

  8. Nelson:

    Bizarre. Particularly since Ron Low, Bryan Trottier, Glen Sather and Tom Renney have all coached in that time-frame.

    Still, things were more pronounced during Renney’s final three seasons with the team, so I have to wonder how much his coaching styl had to do with it.

  9. Nelson – I’d be willing to bet that it’s due to scorer bias at MSG. Seriously, they’re idiots there. I’ll take a look at the data.

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