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NHL Advanced Analytics

NHL Advanced Analytics

Malcolm Darnley
Malcolm Darnley
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9 Min
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Different Advanced Analytics
Applying Analytics To Betting
Shopping For NHL Odds

Traditional boxscore stats can help paint a picture of what just occurred in an NHL hockey game.

If a team is outshot 40-20, we can assume that one team had a territorial advantage and controlled play.

If a goalie made 46 saves, if a team was 4 for 5 on the power-play, if a player was minus three (-3), there is a lot of information we can glean from these stat lines.

Advanced analytics takes us beyond those traditional metrics and tries to provide an even more accurate picture of what really just took place.

A goalie might give up three goals in the first 10 shots he faced.

A save percentage of only .700% is not acceptable for an NHL goalie long term.

However, if all three goals were scored on breakaways, odd-man rushes, or power plays, it may be a case of the team being at fault in this case and not the goalie.

Even the most analytical hockey fan must realize, advanced stats in hockey are just a tool for us to use and help evaluate players and teams, but they are far from perfect.

Using Advanced analytics doesn’t mean we should stop evaluating with our own eyes as well.

In fact, many believe that our new-age metrics and stats should be used to either prove or disprove what our own eyes are telling us.

Whether you are all in on NHL advanced analytics or still unsure of their overall value, finding ways to incorporate them into your betting strategy and research when wagering on NHL hockey games makes a lot of sense.

Key NHL Advanced Analytics

Corsi For Percentage: (CF%)

Corsi is simple to calculate stat that because of its age and recent popularity is considered to be part of the new age analytics being used in NHL hockey.

When someone is talking about CORSI percentage, they are referring to the shot attempts a team or player generates and the shot attempts the opposition generates.

Corsi for Percentage (CF%) is just shot attempts, minus the opposition’s shot attempts. As a team, if you have a positive Corsi rating, that means you are generating more shot attempts than you are giving up.

If you are a player with a positive Corsi, then we know that your team is generating more shot attempts than the other team when you are on the ice.

Corsi includes all shot attempts, even the shots that are blocked and don’t ever get to the net. FENWICK is a stat very similar to what Corsi is trying to accomplish, but it doesn’t include blocked shots.

Expected Goals For & Against: (xGF | xGA)

Expected goals for and against are trying to place a numerical value on the quality of a scoring chance.

The probability of a shot resulting in a goal that is taken from the sideboards is far less than a point-blank shot taken by a player who is all alone in front of the goalie.

Both shot attempts should be considered a scoring chance to some degree, but one is far more likely to end up as a goal in comparison to the other.

xGF and xGA try to put a value on each individual attempt and are a more detailed approach to some of our traditional stats.

High-Danger Scoring Chances: (HDSC)

Much like xGF and xGA, HDSC is also trying to turn scoring chances into measurable and comparable statistics.

Shots that are taken inside the opposition’s end are all ranked with a score of 1, 2, or 3. A “scoring chance” is anything that is ranked as two or above.

A High-Danger Scoring Chance are only one that are ranked as a 3.

Of course, there’s a lot of subjective data and input when it comes to “ranking” shots on goals and assigning them a numerical value based on their overall danger.

However, over time HDSC should provide a pretty accurate picture of how a team is competing in each game against their competition.

Goals Saved Above Expected: (GSAx)

Similar to High-Danger Scoring Chances, GSAx tries to expand on traditional stats and paint a more accurate picture.

In this case, GSAx can give better context to how a goalie is performing. Where traditional Goals Against Average (GAA) and Save Percentage can be helpful stats for assessing goalies, neither takes into account the quality of chances a goalie is facing.

GSAx will factor in the quality of each shot a goalie stops (or doesn’t stop). By factoring in the difficulty of each individual save, we are now able to recognize if one goalie is facing significantly more difficult opportunities than another.

If the Minnesota Wild gives up 30 shots in a game, but only three of them are considered to be High-Danger chances, then we would expect Cam Talbot to allow very few goals in that game.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs give up the same 30 shots in a game but give up 10 High-Danger chances, then we wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Campbell allowed more goals than Talbot did.

If both Talbot and Campbell stopped 27 of the 30 shots each goalie faced, they would both have the same Save Percentage and Goals Against Average, but we could determine that Campbell had the far more difficult task and his numbers should reflect that he actually outplayed Talbot, based on the fact that he had to contend with many more dangerous opportunities.

Creating Our Own Odds

Maybe you are a fan of the New York Rangers and you enjoy cheering against Tony DeAngelo because of his attitude and behavior while he played in New York.

Maybe when the Carolina Hurricanes visit Madison Square Garden you will be passionately cheering for your Rangers to knock off DeAngelo and his Hurricanes and a One Unit wager on the outcome of that game will only add to the entertainment value of your evening.

In this case, a bettor may not be overly focused on the odds for the game and whether they provide much value from a betting standpoint.

However, many of us who like to bet on NHL hockey is not passionate, worth checking what the public bets, about the majority of teams or outcomes of the games we bet on.

A Boston Bruins fan might still be very interested in placing a wager on the Hurricanes vs Rangers game.

That person should be much more interested in the available odds and be looking to find some sort of value when betting on the game.

As we discussed in NHL Betting Guide, the odds provided for each team are actually a reflection of their probability to win the game.

When we talk about a value betting opportunity, we are talking about the probability of an outcome being slightly different than the odds suggest.

Let’s analyze the game below and create a value betting opportunity:

  • St. Louis Blues +100
  • San Jose Sharks -120

In our scenario above, the Sharks are the favorite with odds of -120. Those odds tell us that the Sharks have a 54.55% chance of winning the game.

However, if our homework and analysis tell us that this game is actually a coin flip and that both teams have an equal chance of winning the game, then we would have a value bet opportunity on St. Louis.

If both teams are equal, then each team should be a -110 moneyline bet. In our scenario above, we see the Blues are +100 and not -110, thus giving us an advantage (or value) opportunity.

There is no one set way or formula to create odds. Gamblers and oddsmakers all have their own factors and information they deem important in determining the outcome of a game.

However, there are some common pieces of information that the majority of bettors will take into account.

NHL Team Rankings

Having updated rankings of all 32 NHL teams is the foundation or starting point to begin handicapping an NHL game.

If the Tampa Bay Lightning are your top-ranked team and the Detroit Red Wings are your 32nd-ranked team, then if Tampa plays Detroit, we obviously know that oddsmakers are going to make the Lightning significant favorites.

Using Advanced Analytics

After comparing teams using their own personal rankings, many bettors will dive into the next layer of analysis and study some advanced metrics or stats they find important.

Some of the key analytics many focus on are: High-Danger Scoring Chances, Team Corsi and of course Goals Saved Above Expected, (GSAx) which can tell us how goaltenders are performing both over the course of the season and in recent games.

Stats should be looked at from a season-long perspective and from a more recent sample size. Maybe Connor Hellebuyck has the best GSAx amongst all goaltenders for the 2022 season after his Winnipeg Jets have played their first 45 games.

Obviously, that tells us Hellebuyck is playing extremely just past the halfway point of the season.

However, if the Jets have allowed 15 goals over their last three games and we notice that in those games Hellebuyck’s GSAx is actually below the league average, we might want to factor that recent information into our handicapping as well.

Miscellaneous Stats

Our magic recipe to try and create odds for a specific NHL hockey game does not end after analyzing our team rankings and some key analytics.

Obviously, we are going to want to factor in some other miscellaneous factors.

Current travel schedule, key injuries, home-ice advantage, and any other information a bettor determines to be important all need to be weighted and factored into your odds.

When it comes to home-ice advantage, recent data would suggest that home teams win at a 3 – 4% rate more than the visiting teams do.

What this number allows us to do is create odds for a game as if it would be played at a neutral site and then apply a 3-4% advantage for the home team.

Comparing Your Odds To The Opening & Closing Lines

Comparing your odds to both the opening and closing line odds is important in the long term to understand your ability and skill set at being an oddsmaker.

Obviously, we want to compare our odds to the opening odds laid out by bookmakers. This will be our opportunity to see if we think there is any value and advantage to betting on a particular game.

We also want to see if our odds are similar to those offered by the sportsbooks because we have lots of data dating back many years to suggest oddsmakers are very good at creating and setting odds.

If our odds vary drastically from what multiple sportsbooks are opening with, you might want to continue tweaking your method.

We also want to compare our odds to the closing line. More often than not, the closing line price of a game is the most accurate price.

We want to study how our odds compare to that of the closing line and were right in thinking there was value on the opening odds posted?

Did the closing line move in the same direction we expected it to?

Creating odds and handicapping NHL hockey games can be as simple or as complicated as we want to make it.

Different bettors will develop their own strategies and formulas to determine what they believe are accurate odds for a specific game.

The benefit of taking the time to do this type of analysis and work is that it can alert gamblers to opportunities where they have the odds advantage and not the sportsbook.

Shopping Around For Your Best Odds

It doesn’t matter if you are the most experienced gambler around or a new bettor just becoming familiar with NHL hockey, the biggest advantage someone can provide for themselves is to shop around and compare the odds at different sportsbooks.

Many times oddsmakers will slightly disagree when they set their opening odds.

It is not uncommon to see a sportsbook open with a favorite listed at -120 and a different sportsbook open with a favorite at -130 for the exact same game.

If your analysis and homework were suggesting to you the home team was the right play for that game, a $100 bet at -120 odds pays out at $83.33 in profit.

The same $100 bet at -130 odds provides a return of $76.92.

Just over $6 in profit difference may not seem like a difference-maker, but considering this was a $100 bet, we are talking about over a 6% advantage just for betting the -120 odds.

Over time a 6% edge in sports betting is considered a huge advantage and professional gamblers are trying to make a living off smaller edges than 6%.

Without doing any of the handicapping and research required to create your own odds a gambler is often able to find themselves a 5 – 10% advantage, just by shopping around.

If you can create a 5% edge just by choosing the best odds for your specific bet, you are now flipping the advantage from the sportsbook to the bettor and giving yourself the best opportunity possible to be profitable with your wagers.

Thirsty For More Betting Knowledge? Check Our Sports Betting Guides Hub.