[Wild About Numbers]: How Often Does The Dominant Possession Team Win a Playoff Game?

Jonathan Daniel

Using 3 years of playoff game data, I looked to see how often the team that dominates shot attempts (getting at least 55% at 5v5 close) in a playoff game wins.

In Game 1 of their 2nd round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild did something quite remarkable; they dominated the "possession battle" at 5v5 Close against maybe the best puck possession team in the league during the regular season (when I say "dominated", I mean they had a Fenwick For% of >55% at 5v5 Close). For a team like the Wild, doing this on the road against the grizzled playoff veteran that is the defending champion 'Hawks was quite an accomplishment even if the final score didn't go in their favour. This is just 1 game but dominating Fenwick (unblocked shot attempt) events at 5v5 Close over a large sample leads to more scoring chances, more goals and more wins, which is why dominant Fenwick teams have such a great track record.


-Here are the detailed numbers from that game:

TOI

GF

GA

GF%

FF

FA

FF%

Minnesota Wild

23.9

0

1

49.0%

20

15

57.1%

Chicago Blackhawks

23.9

1

0

51.0%

15

20

42.9%

  • So, that kind of stats sheet isn't what many people would have expected to see from that match-up, but the Wild managed to surprise people and, it's fair to say, those numbers backed up what we could see with our eyes.
  • Unfortunately for the Wild, despite their dominance, they didn't score and gave up 1 goal.
*

I decided to use the game data from every playoff game over the last 3 seasons to see how often the team with a Fenwick For% of >55% wins and how much they out-scored their opponents by.

Games Played

Wins

Losses

Win%

142

89

53

62.68%

  • So, out of 142 games where one team has a FF% of over 55% with the score close, the dominant team won 62.68% of the time.


Total Goals

Goals For

Goals Against

Goals For%

321

194

127

60.44%

  • The team that dominated possession had 60.44% share of the goals over these games.



What does all this mean? Well it means that more often than not, the kind of possession dominance the Wild enjoyed against the Blackhawks results in a win or at least results in out-scoring with the score close. Obviously dominating possession isn't everything as goaltending, shooting percentage and special teams still play a big role.


It will interesting to see if the Wild can produce a similar performance in today's game and hopefully get some back up from their special teams and goaltending this time or maybe just bury some of their scoring chances.

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Follow me on Twitter for more hockey talk.

Thanks to Extra Skater, Hockey Analysis, Hockey Abstract and SomeKindOfNinja for all the data.

For a quick advanced stats 101, read this. For more in-depth stuff, read this.

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