Over the course of the last decade or so the Chicago Blackhawks and NHL at large have gotten more and more comfortable with advanced statistics, a la the MLB’s sabermetrics movement. Perhaps no organization has used them as religiously as the Blackhawks, but what are they?
If you’re an avid reader of hockey news like myself, then I’m sure you all have noticed some fancy stat words being thrown around more and more in the hockey world. If you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan, that sort of thing is nearly unavoidable as GM Stan Bowman has been vocal about their use, and it’s not going away.
So I’ve decided to put together a quick list of some of the most basic yet popular analytical stats and how they are relevant to today’s hockey and our Blackhawks.
Corsi and Fenwick
Corsi and Fenwick are both stats that keep track of shot events over the course of a game and season. They can be used to measure both individual player performances as well as team-wide play.
Corsi registers all shot events, be it a shot on goal, a missed shot or a blocked shot, while Fenwick ignores blocked shots. Both stats are separated into for (shot events on behalf of a team) and against (shots events by a teams opponents) categories.
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To calculate these stats, all you have to do is add up all shots on goal, missed shots and opponent blocked shots (exclude the last of those three if measuring Fenwick), then multiply that number by 100 to get a team’s Corsi-for or Fenwic-for percentage, and vice versa for against percentages.
So how is this relevant? The thinking is if you are shooting the puck more than the other team, whether or not you hit the net, you are more than likely controlling possession of the puck a lot more than the other team.
So if you’re typically getting more pucks toward the net, the likelihood of your team scoring more goals increases. More goals means more wins, and since these two stats have gained more prominence and their tracking has become more common a trend, that seems to prove the idea that teams with higher Corsi and Fenwick scores more commonly make it to the playoffs.
It’s no surprise that the ’Hawks’ top scoring line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane features three players with Corsi-for percentages at or above 50. This means while these players are on the ice, they are typically controlling the puck more than the other team. Because of this we have seen incredible production from this line over the last two seasons.
Zone start percentage (ZS%)
This stat’s name is a bit more self-explanatory than the last as this is a measure of a player’s offensive- and defensive-zone starts, or how many faceoffs a player takes in either zone, excluding the neutral zone.
This stat is more tailored for analyzing individual players rather than whole teams. An interesting thing about this particular measurement is that a player can be anywhere on this statistical spectrum and still be considered a good player. In other words, it’s not a stat that gauges a player’s performance, rather what type of role that player fills.
For example, Marcus Kruger, perhaps the Blackhawks’ best defensive forward, has a defensive-zone start percentage of roughly 70, whereas, Kane who is undoubtedly the team’s best offensive weapon sits at approximately 34.
Jonathan Toews, a perennial Selke Trophy contender for best two-way forward, floats closer to the middle with a defensive zone percentage of about 44.
This isn’t by mistake, especially with a coach as good as Joel Quenneville who wants to put a player in position to best utilize his skills and help the team succeed.
This stat, used in conjunction with Corsi or Fenwick, can tell a whole different story. If a player with a high defensive-zone start percentage has a middling or above-average Corsi or Fenwick rating, they are doing a good job of defending their zone, flipping the ice and getting offensive chances of their own. Typically though, a high D-zone percentage leads to lower Corsi and Fenwick ratings.
The same can be said for players with high offensive-zone percentages. They are expected to keep the puck in their end and thus have higher Corsi and Fenwick ratings.
IGP, IAP, IPP
An easy way to think about these stats is advanced plus/minus. They stand for individual goals, assists and points percentage. They measure the percentage of scores a player is on the ice for, and his participation in those scores.
If a player scores or assists a goal, his percentage goes up. However, it goes down if he’s on ice and had no statistical impact on a goal. This measures a player’s total participation on the points scored while he is on the ice.
This stat can be used to help build lines, as it shows who is actually impacting the scoring. It allows you to build teams by either having all the top-percentage guys on the top units, or some teams will spread the wealth to have a more balanced attack, as we see with the Chicago Blackhawks splitting up Kane and Toews.
Enhanced stats are fun!
Analytics can be confusing, and this article only covers a few of them. But learning them and being able to apply them can be very rewarding. As hockey fans or sports fans in general, learning all the nuances of a game is just as much fun as casually watching. I encourage you to dive deeper into the world of hockey analytics and see what conclusions you can make from them.