Thursday, May 11, 2006

Playoff Faceoffs

I wrote something about faceoffs in hockey back in December where I argued that faceoffs have little correlation with NHL success in part because even the best and worst teams at faceoffs win nearly half of them. There is a small advantage to winning faceoffs because it can gather teams extra puck possessions, but these possessions are easily made up in other parts of playing a hockey game. Tom Benjamin took offence to the discussion of puck possession, claiming the puck position is more important. Thats a distinction without a significant difference to the discussion. You get better position of the puck through its possession.

So how important are faceoffs in the playoffs? The four teams currently winning in the second round are Anaheim, Buffalo, Carolina and San Jose. These teams have 48.3%, 49.5%, 49.6% and 41.7% faceoff winning rates. Not one of the four teams has won half of their faceoffs. San Jose is the league worst in the playoffs.

Who is the best faceoff team in the 2006 playoffs? So far its the Nashville Predators who won 58.6% of their faceoffs (and lost to San Jose).

I don't think this means faceoffs are entirely irrelevant. It just means they they are such a small factor that their correlation with winning is lost in the noise from all the other factors. Its a fluke that all four winning playoff teams are below 50% in faceoffs, but it is not a fluke that the best faceoff teams are not the best teams in the NHL.

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