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
TEAM HITS FOR HITS AGAINST RATIO DIFF
BOS 1758 1222 1.44 536
ANA 1246 1041 1.20 205
PIT 1321 1161 1.14 160
NYI 1523 1341 1.14 182
CBJ 1147 1011 1.13 136
WSH 1542 1360 1.13 182
FLA 1121 996 1.13 125
TOR 1805 1613 1.12 192
CHI 1351 1230 1.10 121
N.J 1167 1067 1.09 100
OTT 1758 1611 1.09 147
MTL 1649 1520 1.08 129
L.A 1353 1277 1.06 76
ATL 1406 1329 1.06 77
CGY 1648 1559 1.06 89
DAL 1722 1633 1.05 89
VAN 1355 1302 1.04 53
EDM 1203 1175 1.02 28
STL 1175 1175 1.00 0
PHX 1422 1435 0.99 -13
NSH 1155 1231 0.94 -76
S.J 1411 1518 0.93 -107
PHI 1294 1414 0.92 -120
DET 1149 1296 0.89 -147
CAR 1137 1283 0.89 -146
BUF 1073 1285 0.84 -212
COL 951 1209 0.79 -258
MIN 846 1106 0.76 -260
NYR 1192 1570 0.76 -378
T.B 975 1297 0.75 -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)
TEAM GOALS FOR GOALS
AGAINST
RATIO HITS FOR HITS AGAINST RATIO
ANA 254 229 1.11 1246 1041 1.20
ATL 281 275 1.02 1406 1329 1.06
BOS 230 266 0.86 1758 1222 1.44
BUF 281 239 1.18 1073 1285 0.84
CAR 294 260 1.13 1137 1283 0.89
CBJ 223 279 0.80 1147 1011 1.13
CGY 218 200 1.09 1648 1559 1.06
CHI 211 285 0.74 1351 1230 1.10
COL 283 257 1.10 951 1209 0.79
DAL 265 218 1.22 1722 1633 1.05
DET 305 209 1.46 1149 1296 0.89
EDM 256 251 1.02 1203 1175 1.02
FLA 240 257 0.93 1121 996 1.13
L.A 249 270 0.92 1353 1277 1.06
MIN 231 215 1.07 846 1106 0.76
MTL 243 247 0.98 1649 1520 1.08
N.J 242 229 1.06 1167 1067 1.09
NSH 259 227 1.14 1155 1231 0.94
NYI 230 278 0.83 1523 1341 1.14
NYR 257 215 1.20 1192 1570 0.76
OTT 314 211 1.49 1758 1611 1.09
PHI 267 259 1.03 1294 1414 0.92
PHX 246 271 0.91 1422 1435 0.99
PIT 244 316 0.77 1321 1161 1.14
S.J 266 242 1.10 1411 1518 0.93
STL 197 292 0.67 1175 1175 1.00
T.B 252 260 0.97 975 1297 0.75
TOR 257 270 0.95 1805 1613 1.12
VAN 256 255 1.00 1355 1302 1.04
WSH 237 306 0.77 1542 1360 1.13
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