by Scott Swail

After a really tough road trip where the Jets earned only 2 points out of a potential 8—putting Winnipeg in real dire circumstances regarding the playoffs—I thought it would be interested to take a data plunge on a few key factors. This analysis uses data from all 1,288 NHL hockey games played this regular season as of this morning. The analysis looks at the average for NHL teams when they win and when they lose, and then compares that to a similar analysis for the Winnipeg Jets. Here are the key findings.

  • SCORING. When Winnipeg wins, they score an average of 4.4 goals per game, above the 4.1 NHL average. However, when they lose, they only score 1.4 goals per game, lower than the 1.7 NHL average. Winnipeg scores 3.0 goals per game more when they win than when they lose.
  • GOALS AGAINST. When Winnipeg wins, the opposition scores 2.1 goals on average, and when Winnipeg loses, the opposition scores 2.9 goals. Therefore, teams do not have to score a lot of goals against Winnipeg to win, because when Winnipeg loses, they score only 1.4 goals on average. So, even 2 goals per game will beat the Jets when they lose. The differential in goals against for winning games versus losing games is only -0.8 for Winnipeg as opposed to -2.5 across the NHL. A very small margin for Winnipeg which is why they lose low-scoring games.
  • POWER PLAY. On average, Winnipeg has a higher Power Play scoring average than the NHL (20.7 versus 20.4 percent). When Winnipeg wins, they have a lower PP percentage than the NHL (25.1 versus 26.5), but within striking distance. When the Jets lose, their PP drops to 9.7 percent, below the NHL average of 11.7 percent. The takeway here is that the Power Play clearly matters for Winnipeg, as their percentage drops from 25.1 when Winnipeg wins to 9.7 when they lose.
  • PENALTY KILL. On the PK, the Jets are 4.3 percent lower than the NHL average (75.3 vs. 79.6). When the Jets win, their PK rises to 81.4; when they lose it drops to 71.3.
  • FACEOFFS. Faceoffs are a stat that surprised me because they do not seem to factor into average wins or losses. On average, teams win almost exactly half of their faceoffs. And when they win or lose that percentage changes only about a point. For people like me, this is distressing because I think that faceoffs matter a lot. Maybe less than I think.
  • SHOTS PER GAME. Similarly, shots per game do not appear to relate to wins or loses. The differential is extraordinarily minor between the two. It follows that the same goes for shots against.

In summary, the key takeaways are as follows:

  1. The Jets score far more goals when they win than when they lose. In fact, it is a 3-goal differential between how many goals they pot when winning versus losing. This is a critical reality for Winnipeg.
  2. The Jets score so little when they lose that a team only has to score 2 goals on average to win in these games.
  3. The Jets’ PP is 1 for 4 when they win and less than 1 in 10 when they lose.
  4. The Jets’ PK rises to 81.4 when they win but drops to 71.3 when they lose.  

The message is that Winnipeg’s ability to score makes a clear difference in winning versus losing. That seems like an intuitive fact, but the data shows how critical it really is for Winnipeg. The difference between their ability to score, and score on the PP, when they win versus when they lose is huge. The Jets score above league average when they win and score well below average when they lose. It seems to be a tale of two teams that behave quite differently in a win versus a lose. For a team with the firepower that Winnipeg has, it should be scoring more in losses than it does. If it can bring up their goals in these games, they wouldn’t lose near as many of them. But, as we saw yesterday in Pittsburgh, a lapse of 9 seconds can sink their ship.