Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Before the season many experts picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup. The reasons were obvious. The best 2-way player in the world (NOT debatable in this writers mind), one of the most skilled wingers in the league, a top-4 that rivals any in the game, and a champion’s heart and mentality that comes with winning two cups in five years.
However, the ‘Hawks didn’t seem to bring their ‘A’ game to start the season. Whether it was playing down to their opposition (the loss to Calgary in the third game of the season), losing 3 of 4 shortly thereafter, or getting shutout by the Jets at home, the Blackhawks didn’t seem to be “clicking”. That has obviously changed.
With last night’s come-from-behind 3-2 win Chicago has strikingly turned the corner. Winners of 7 straight, everything seems to be working. It’s not surprising that the Hawks place in the standings (first) coincides with their place in the Corsi and Fenwick ratings (both first). One can argue against the merits and worth of hockey’s ‘new’ wave of analytical data…however, puck possession has become a widely used and accepted means of tracking success. You possess the puck more, you win more.
If you’re new to hockey’s advanced statistics just know a team’s Corsi Number is the sum of all shots directed by a team towards the opposition’s net (shots on goal, missed shots, and blocked shots), minus the sum of all shots directed by the opposition towards your team’s net. Below is the actual equation.
Corsi Number = (Shots on Target For + Missed Shots For + Blocked Shots Against ) – (Shots on Target Against + Missed Shots Against + Blocked Shots For)
So you have a Corsi For and a Corsi Against. Thus, we can use Corsi as a proxy for puck possession. The Blackhawks sit first in the league in CF% at 55.4%. It’s telling that three of the top 5 teams in CF% are tied for the 2nd most points in the league and another in the top 5 are the defending Stanley Cup champion LA Kings (oh how it pains me to say that!).
The alternate to Corsi is a team’s Fenwick percentage. Because Fenwick doesn’t include blocked shots, some prefer to use a team’s Corsi number as a greater indicator of offensive production. The thinking is it represents gaining possession in the zone and at least creating enough space to attempt a shot. Even if a shot is blocked, the need to block the shot was created which is viewed as a positive offensive sequence.
Now, the season is only a quarter of the way through so the sample size is relatively small. However the Blackhawks and Kings were 1st and 2nd in CF% last year and most observers would agree they were the two best teams in the league. And in the 2012-2013 season the ‘Hawks were in the top 5.
Again, it’s pretty simple. If you have the puck more, you win more. Hopefully the ‘Hawks continue to dominate the puck. If so, we may just be preparing for a parade at the end of the season.