Is It Better To Give Than To Receive?

Previously we've looked at the team-by-team level of Hitting in the NHL, and shown that a high level of hits doesn't necessarily correspond with team success. I thought I'd take this a step further, and look at not just who's doing the hitting, but who's getting hit. The first table below shows accumulated data from the 2005-6 Regular Season, broken down by Hits For, Hits Against, the Ratio between those two values, as well as the difference (call it a Hits Plus/Minus). Not surprisingly, some of the teams that did the most hitting got hit the most as well, meaning that teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Dallas provoked other teams to hit back, responding to their aggressive play. Similarly, low-hitting teams like Minnesota, Florida, and Columbus were among the teams that got hit the least - their games were closer to the Ice Capades than SlapShot.

On the extremes, however, you have teams that either got hit or out-hit their opposition by a wide margin. The Boston Bruins, for example, dished out 44% more hits than they took, far ahead of 2nd-place Anaheim at +20% (hey, at least they led the league in something, right?). At the opposite end you have more teams that were seriously pushed around. Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Colorado, and the New York Rangers all gave less than 80% as many hits as they took, with the Rangers taking 378 extra hits over the course of the season. Take a look at the table below, and see how your favorite team stacks up on the Bully-to-Punching-Bag scale:


Hits For and Against By Team (2005-6) Sorted By Ratio
TEAMHITS FORHITS AGAINSTRATIODIFF
BOS175812221.44536
ANA124610411.20205
PIT132111611.14160
NYI152313411.14182
CBJ114710111.13136
WSH154213601.13182
FLA11219961.13125
TOR180516131.12192
CHI135112301.10121
N.J116710671.09100
OTT175816111.09147
MTL164915201.08129
L.A135312771.0676
ATL140613291.0677
CGY164815591.0689
DAL172216331.0589
VAN135513021.0453
EDM120311751.0228
STL117511751.000
PHX142214350.99-13
NSH115512310.94-76
S.J141115180.93-107
PHI129414140.92-120
DET114912960.89-147
CAR113712830.89-146
BUF107312850.84-212
COL95112090.79-258
MIN84611060.76-260
NYR119215700.76-378
T.B97512970.75-322


Now here's where things get real interesting. We showed earlier that the level of Hits a team makes isn't significantly correlated to its performance. When you look at the correlation of Hits to Goals For and Against, you come up with values of -0.03 and 0.05, so near to zero as to suggest no relation between those figures. For those needing a quick refresher, correllation values swing from 1 to -1. 1 means that two stats run perfectly in lockstep, -1 means they are opposed (high value in one means low value in the other), and 0 means no discernable relation.

When I ran the figures for the Ratio of Hits For/Against on a team-by-team basis against their Ratio of Goals For/Against, I came up with something surprising; a correlation value of -0.40! That suggests that teams which outhit their opponents end up getting outscored by them (and hence, why Bobby Clarke is out of work).

The relationship isn't particularly strong, but it is stronger than many other links found so far. Perhaps the real heroes on a team are the guys who take Hits in order to make plays, holding onto the puck for that extra split-second before getting knocked on their kiester.

I'd encourage those who are more formally trained in statistics to verify these results (hello, Hockey Analytics and Hockey Numbers). And stay tuned for further nuggets from the NHL statistical goldmine...

Hits For and Against By Team (2005-6)
TEAMGOALS FORGOALS
AGAINST
RATIOHITS FORHITS AGAINSTRATIO
ANA2542291.11124610411.20
ATL2812751.02140613291.06
BOS2302660.86175812221.44
BUF2812391.18107312850.84
CAR2942601.13113712830.89
CBJ2232790.80114710111.13
CGY2182001.09164815591.06
CHI2112850.74135112301.10
COL2832571.1095112090.79
DAL2652181.22172216331.05
DET3052091.46114912960.89
EDM2562511.02120311751.02
FLA2402570.9311219961.13
L.A2492700.92135312771.06
MIN2312151.0784611060.76
MTL2432470.98164915201.08
N.J2422291.06116710671.09
NSH2592271.14115512310.94
NYI2302780.83152313411.14
NYR2572151.20119215700.76
OTT3142111.49175816111.09
PHI2672591.03129414140.92
PHX2462710.91142214350.99
PIT2443160.77132111611.14
S.J2662421.10141115180.93
STL1972920.67117511751.00
T.B2522600.9797512970.75
TOR2572700.95180516131.12
VAN2562551.00135513021.04
WSH2373060.77154213601.13