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[Wild About Numbers]: Low Event Hockey & The Minnesota Wild

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The Wild seem to finally be moving away from the tedious low event hockey that has become their trademark.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

As much as it annoys us when other fans say the Wild are a boring team, those criticisms have been somewhat justified. From the days of Lemaire's trap, to the mediocrity of the Todd Richards-era teams to the Yeo era, the Wild have been terrible at generating shots on goal but, at times, have been excellent at suppressing shots. That leads to games of hockey where not a whole lot happens.

Generally a lot of excitement comes from games with frequent scoring chances and, in Wild games, there just aren't many. During Mike Yeo's first 2 years as head coach, the Wild were pretty reliant on the dump and chase strategy which, when you don't have players good enough to consistently retrieve the puck and win battles behind the net, means that most possessions end in a dump and a turnover. It could be excruciating to watch at times.

-On to the numbers:

wild events

In the chart above, what is being measured is each team's Corsi For Per 60 (CF60) and Corsi Against Per 60 (CA60) over the last 2 seasons at 5v5 Close ("5v5 Close" is when the score is within 1 goal during the first 2 periods or tied in the 3rd or OT, used to negate score effects). Corsi events are shot attempts (goals, saves, blocks, misses). I've just gone with the 2 previous seasons because, in Yeo's first year he was essentially coaching an AHL roster so results are skewed.

The teams towards the bottom left quadrant are the low event ones while the teams towards the top right play a more high event style. You can see the Wild have been the 8th best team at suppressing shot attempts against at 5v5 Close but have been pretty awful at generating shot attempts.

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Now, let's compare that to this season.

With the Wild struggling to score against the Kings the other night in spite of dominating puck possession, a lot of people started saying that it's just a repeat of last season when the Wild were one of the best possession teams in the league over the first couple of weeks (before eventually tailing off) but couldn't turn that dominance into goals.

The numbers I will be using in these tables are based on Fenwick instead of Corsi. Fenwick is the very same only it doesn't include blocked shots. It correlates very strongly with scoring chances and winning games which is why it's the de facto team stat (Corsi correlates better with Time On Attack but not so much with scoring chances).

Fenwick For% (FF%) at 5v5 Close is what people are talking about when they say "puck possession".


-Here's how the Wild did over their first 5 games last season:

2013/14

FF/60

FA/60

FF%

Final Score

5v5 Close Score

Game 1 vs LAK

32.77

18.02

64.32%

2-3 SO

1-0

Game 2 @ANA

29.79

31.45

48.65%

3-4 OT

0-2

Game 3 @NSH

47.84

17.09

73.68%

2-3

0-0

Game 4 vs WPG

55.66

25.84

68.29%

2-1

2-0

Game 5 vs DAL

56.16

28.08

66.67%

5-1

2-0

  • The Wild had some total domination early in the season last year in terms of possession, but not a whole pile of luck on the scoreboard.
  • They managed to lose a game against Nashville in which they had over 70% possession through mediocre special teams.


-Here's this season so far:

2014/15

FF/60

FA/60

FF%

Final Score

5v5 Close Score

Game 1 vs COL

90.53

25.86

77.78%

5-0

2-0

Game 2 @COL

32.24

45.14

41.67%

3-0

2-0

Game 3 @ANA

30.66

42.58

41.86%

1-2

1-1

Game 4 @LAK

55.14

26.62

67.44%

1-2

0-0

Game 5 vs ARZ

51.87

33.01

61.11%

2-0

2-0

  • Despite all the talk about the Wild being a possession beast this season, after their dominant opening night game, they put up less than stellar numbers on the road in their next two contests before dominating the Kings at the Staples Center. I don't think they played all that badly against the Avs and Ducks, but they gave up 4-5 more shot attempts than they generated and Kuemper had to be sharp both nights as the Wild gave up some good scoring chances against.
  • On a positive note, the Wild haven't been out-scored at 5v5 Close in any game this season. Even in the loss to the Ducks they tied 1-1, with the decisive goal being the shorthanded one the Wild gave up.


-Most importantly, here's an average comparison of the two:

5v5 Close

2013/14

2014/15

FF/60

44.44

52.09

FA/60

24.10

34.64

FF%

64.32%

57.97%

Score

5-2

7-1

  • The Wild haven't been as dominant overall in terms of possession, while still being fantastic, but have out-scored their opposition better.
  • Their shot rate is up by around 8 attempts per 60 minutes, while they're also giving up around 10 more shots per 60 (yet are still the best shot suppression team in the league so far). The higher shot rate for has been very evident in all the scoring chances they've had so far in the season.
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It's still extremely early doors, but there are some signs that the Wild might be breaking free of their low event past and playing NHL hockey the way it should be played. We've heard so much over the last year about how the Wild are moving towards analytics and particularly in relation to the advantages of controlled entries over dumping the puck. Even Zach Parise has professed to being a convert to that line of thinking. The early evidence is that the organisation's subscription to this new philosophy is paying dividends as the team has been continually gaining the zone with control and generating scoring chances. I hope it continues throughout the season and beyond because it's been fun to watch.

wild ca cf

Everything is trending in the right direction. Those extremes probably aren't sustainable, but it's a hell of a good start.

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What are your thoughts on all this, Wilderness? Leave a comment and share on Facebook and Twitter.


Data courtesy of War_On_Ice and Stats.HockeyAnalysis