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Hockey Analytics 101: Why We Use Game States

Traditional box scores only provide part of the story of a game. That's why it's important to understand "game states" to fully assess performance

by Alison Lukan / @AlisonL / nhl.com/kraken

If you look at a traditional box score for a hockey game, it includes stats for the entire game. That makes sense, of course, and tells the story of the game as a whole. But, an entire 60 minutes of play can include a variety of scenarios like power plays, penalty kills, or delayed penalties that can influence which players are on the ice, team strategies, and systems. Because of that, when we evaluate play from an analytical perspective, we always want to compare apples to apples and that means using "game states."

Game states are simply indicators that identify which part of the game the stats you are using come from. Are you looking at data only on the power play (PP), on the penalty kill? (PK or SH for short-handed), or at even strength (ES)? You will also see game states defined by the number of players on the ice: 5-on-5, 4-vs-5 (penalty kill), 5-vs-4 (power play). The numeric definitions can be more helpful depending on what questions you are trying to answer because they specify exactly what Game State you are looking at versus some potentially being lumped together (i.e. 4-on-4, 5-on-5, 3-on-3 all being "even strength" situations).

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Beyond the Box Score - An Intro to Hockey Analytics

Understanding the numbers that go deeper into the game of hockey: what they are, what they mean, and how to use them

by Alison Lukan / @AlisonL / nhl.com/kraken

Sport is about the joy of the game. In hockey that means the sound of a skate scratching ice, the awe of a pass that unbelievably connects from one stick to another, or the thrill of a last second goal. But how those events come to mean something always brings us back to numbers. At the most important level, that's the scoreboard. Whichever team puts more pucks in the net wins the game. But beyond that, there is a wealth of information being recorded, measured, and calculated that dig into what is happening and help us mathematically predict what might happen next. These data points that go beyond a traditional scoresheet are called analytics, and if you are looking to understand them a little bit more, this story is for you!

 

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Hockey's Positions

It might look like chaos on ice, but the sport has defined roles that turn the mayhem into magic. A closer look at each of six positions

by Bob Condor / @SeattleKraken / nhl.com/kraken

The whirling, bumping, skate-scraping, non-stop action of a typical NHL game might create an illusion for new fans: Maybe hockey doesn't have actual positions? Well, except for the goalies. Otherwise, the five skaters all seem to be zipping all over the place, skating backwards, cycling forward and backward, exchanging spots with each other.

Kraken faithful, we're here to clear up any illusion of confusion. Yes, there are five distinct positions in front of each goalie: Center, left wing, right wing, left defense, right defense.

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Where We Stand

The Kraken earned a team point in Saturday's overtime loss. Fans asked how and why? Our 'Hockey 101' answers, plus tips on reviewing the standings to learn more about team trends

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor / nhl.com/kraken

There's a lot to learn from the NHL standings, whether you are a newbie fan or hockey diehard.

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AHL Arrangement

Kraken tabs Charlotte Checkers as American Hockey League affiliate for 2021-22 season, sharing the roster of young pro prospects with NHL's Florida Panthers. Some players could well wear Seattle jerseys this season

by Bob Condor / @SeattleKraken / nhl.com/kraken

In a partnership that will benefit two NHL franchises, an American Hockey League franchise and some-two dozen young players hoping to make the big clubs, the Kraken announced the AHL Charlotte Checkers as their affiliate professional development team for the 2021-22 season in partnership with the NHL's Florida Panthers.

"The AHL plays such a key role in the development of NHL players," said Ron Francis, Kraken GM. "This is a very important decision for the long-term success of our organization."

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Measuring and Marking Up

There's no hockey without a rink, which is obvious. But less known are the dimensions and markings of regulation ice sheets. Here's a 'Hockey 1.0' primer for Kraken fans

by Bob Condor / @SeattleKraken / nhl.com/kraken

The first thing for Kraken fans to know about standard-size hockey rinks in North America is the length of the ice surface is 200 feet. That informs the term, "200-foot player," which refers to hockey forwards who excel on both the offensive and defensive ends of a rink.

If you are still learning the sport, feel free to use this new dimensional knowledge in a sentence to impress hockey-savant friends: "That player has a strong 200-foot game."

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Finding the Depth

A growing number of NHL teams are trending toward goalie tandems who share playing time over a regular season rather than one starter who carries the workload in net

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHL.com/Kraken

When the Swedish star goalie Henrik Lundqvist debuted with the New York Rangers in the NHL at 23 years old for the 2005-06 season, he played in 53 games over an 82-game schedule. That's 65 percent. He then secured the NYR net, averaging 70-plus games for the next five seasons or 85 percent of the goaltender workload.

Those marathon-man seasons are over for Lundqvist, 38, who signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals this offseason after 15 years in New York. He will split time with an emerging star, the 23-year-old Russian-born Ilya Samsonov, and likely play less than half of the 2020-21 games for the Caps. 

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When Left is Right

Hockey players often make a split-second decision to shoot right or left as kids, but a little more thought goes into which side they'll play on NHL ice

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

NHL coaching staffs think about matchups on the ice from shift to shift, game to game, practice to practice. Those matchups tend to be focused on which line of three forwards is facing which line from the opponent. It further includes attempting to get the best defenders on ice to combat the foe's top scorers. 

But there is a whole different sort of matchup when young hockey players pick up a stick. Do you shoot right or left? Then, later, as players develop and progress, if you play on the wings or defense, to play the right or left position? 

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True or False: Goalies are Weird

The answer is complicated, but let's agree that hockey's last line of defense is both entertaining and stellar

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

The question of goalie weirdness is a matter of whether you embrace the gray matter of life.

If you want yes-or-no, true-or-false clarity across culture and society, that's tougher than seeing Connor McDavid or Nathan McKinnon bearing down on your net for a breakaway attempt.

The same goes for determining the simple answer to whether goalies are weird or not.

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Everybody in the (Data) Pool

Before diving into the deep end of the hockey analytics pool, we wade through the fundamentals

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

Before dipping even one skate into the hockey analytics pool, let's start with three guys who dove straight into the deep end. First up is Frederick Winslow Taylor, a mechanical engineer from Philadelphia who first applied analytics and other engineering principles to promote efficiency in manufacturing processes in the late 1800s. Taylor touted time management as an important factor to work output. He basically founded industrial engineering as a scholarly and professional pursuit. 

Second up is Henry Ford, who applied analytics to his automobile assembly line. He was most interested in measuring the speed of work. Ford's success inspired more businesses to analyze how to be both more efficient and productive-the practice of "analytics." Computers supersized the analytics movement because more data could be calculated and analyzed way quicker. By the late 1960s, computers were being used regularly to support business decisions. Business analytics were here to stay in the business world, leading to data analytics that can be simply defined as researching, discovering, formulating and interpreting patterns within data. 

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