Is the Wild's Early Season Success Smoke and Mirrors?

I spent the better part of my day building my game analysis spreadsheet, so that means a whole bunch of stats and analysis.  So if you don't like stats (even the non-fancy ones!), feel free to check out now.  I'm assuming that everyone closed their browser and I'm now just typing an article for myself.  Fair enough.

I'll cut to the chase.  The Wild have been beating up on some really bad hockey teams and losing to the good ones.  At a truly astonishing level.

The Wild have a record of 15-6-4, good for 34 points.  That puts them in a tie for 6th in the entire league.  But what happens when you split out the games vs teams with a winning record (more than 0.500) and teams with a losing record (0.500 or below)?

Wild's win percentage:
vs good teams = 0.464
vs bad teams = 0.954

That is incredible.  The Wild are nearly perfect in 11 games against bad hockey teams.  Only one shootout loss in the mix, and 8 of the 10 wins were in regulation.  Against the good teams, the Wild have only 4 regulation wins in 14 games.  Not so good.

But it doesn't stop there.  In nearly every statistical category, the Wild are drastically better against bad teams vs good teams:

Shooting percentage:
vs good teams = 7.6%
vs bad teams = 11.2%

Save percentage:
vs good teams = 87.9%
vs bad teams = 94.3%

Power Play %:
vs good teams = 14.3%
vs bad teams = 28.2%

Penalty Kill %:
vs good teams = 76.5%
vs bad teams = 84.2%

PP Shooting %:
vs good teams = 9.7%
vs bad teams = 16.4%

PK Save %:
vs good teams = 83.3%
vs bad teams = 85.7%

Against good teams, the Wild are getting much better quality chances (indicated by higher shooting percentage) and keeping the opposition to lower quality chances (indicated by higher save percentage).  And not just a small difference, by quite a bit.

Special teams are also night and day.  The Wild convert nearly twice as many power plays against bad teams than good and kill off substantially more penalties.  They also score on nearly twice as many shots on the power play, again indicating much better chances against the bad teams.

The craziest part though, is when you look at the possession numbers, indicated by shots and shot attempts.  I don't have the best numbers (to compare say attempts at even strength with the score close), but just some basic stats:

Shot differential (per game):
vs good teams = 5.43
vs bad teams = 0.27

Shot attempt differential (per game):
vs good teams = 5.50
vs bad teams = -1.36

Those numbers mean that the Wild are drastically outshooting good teams and are roughly even in shots with bad teams.  This isn't the first time the fancy stats have been backwards with the Minnesota Wild.

Here's what I said back then:

Why do the Wild “defy” statistics?  Because shots, and any derivative of shots (Corsi and Fenwick) are terrible predictors of success.  The Wild and other teams who play defense are perfectly content to let the other team take a shot through a half dozen bodies from the point or boards.  That’s a low scoring chance.  More importantly, the Wild DON’T want you taking a shot on a 3-on-1.  That’s a high scoring chance.

Good hockey teams don't care about shots.  They care about defending the middle of the ice and preventing odd man rushes.  If you can do those two things, you will win hockey games.  The Wild are able to rip it up against teams that don't defend well, but they are struggling quite a bit in solving teams that stand up at the blue line and box shooters out to the perimeter.

I've said it before, but the most important stat for a team is goal differential:

Goal differential (per game):
vs good teams = -0.71
vs bad teams = 1.46

So what needs to happen?  I honestly don't know.  Each of the last two years the Wild have collapsed once the season really got going.  Does Mike Yeo need to make adjustments?  Do the leaders need to step up?  Are the Wild just a mediocre team that has happened to have a pretty weak schedule so far?  Probably all of the above.

But for Wild fans, this is likely going to be a very bumpy ride.  We will either see some heroes step up and carry this team through the meat of the schedule (especially if Zach Parise is going to miss time with an injury), or we will see some big changes all around.  They front office has been fairly patient to this point, but another collapse cannot be tolerated.


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  2. Fenwick is a terrible predictor of success? You might wanna read this:

  3. This article makes me depressed. And it's Thanksgiving....THANKS ALOT! (But good read nontheless thanks for putting this together). I HATE YOU! :)