Advanced metrics are nothing new to the sport, but in recent years they’ve gathered a mainstream following, with more fans tuning in to metrics like Corsi, Fenwick and PDO. It can seem like a daunting task to learn all of these new acronyms, but BHTV’s new series, “The Numbers Game,” will break them down in a way so that Blackhawks fans can relate.
The most basic advanced stat that is now featured on NHL.com is SAT, or Shot Attempts. It counts team shot attempts at even strength while a player is on the ice: This includes shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots by the opponents.
Why do we need SAT when the NHL already provides shots on goal? Because including all shot attempts, even the ones that don’t test the goalie directly, is the best way to measure how well a team is generating scoring opportunities. It also acts as a proxy for puck possession. The understanding is, if the Blackhawks have more shot attempts, they are likely to have more shots on goal, and thus are more likely to score goals and win games. There’s another benefit of having a high SAT count: It also means a team is keeping play far away from their own net.
As of Feb. 27, Duncan Keith currently ranks second in the NHL with a +307 SAT, which means he’s been on the ice for 307 more even-strength shot attempts for than against so far this season. These are raw numbers that are heavily affected by several factors.
1) Ice time. Duncan Keith leads the Blackhawks and ranks seventh in the league with 25:45 of average ice time. The more a player is on the ice, the more likely it is for them to rack up shot attempts for and against.
2) Zone starts. Another Enhanced Stat calculates the percentage of a player's offensive zone starts in order to measure their usage by a coach. More offensive zone starts generally lead to more shot attempts for; conversely, a player that starts the majority of shifts in the defensive zone will be at a disadvantage. Keith’s zone start percentage is only 49% this season, compared to 52% last season, and his lowest in several campaigns. He’s been used in a variety of situations with different blue-line partners this year, which makes his league-leading raw SAT numbers that much more impressive.
3) Quality of competition and quality of teammates. The NHL currently doesn’t offer this information, but several fan-run sites do, including behindthenet.ca, which has been around since 2007. The logic is that players will generally have better SAT numbers when they play against bad opponents and with good teammates. Keith generally plays with the Blackhawks’ top six forwards, who tend to drive possession and shot production, which in turn helps drive Keith's possession numbers.
Once you understand raw SAT, you can study them as percentages – Keith’s SAT% is 57.1 – or as rates – Keith’s SAT per 60 minutes is +11.7. Using percentages and rates rather than raw differential helps contextualize a player’s true performance based on team strength as well as deployment, such as the ones discussed above.