Hitting and Winning Games


It’s frequently stated that physicality and a strong hitting game lead to winning. With that in mind, I decided to look at how the five highest hitting teams each season over the past decade compared with the five lowest hitting teams.

To make things fair, I’ve ranked them using only hits recorded in road buildings, since the standards for hitting can vary widely depending on who is tracking them – by using only road statistics, each team is judged by a wide field and half the data isn’t coming from their home rinks. All information comes from NHL.com.

I also inserted the average point total for teams pre- and post-lockout..

Top Five Hitting Teams

  • 2008-09: TB, NYR, PHI, LA, BOS – Total Points: 455
  • 2007-08: ANA, NJ, BOS, PHI, OTT – Total Points: 484
  • 2006-07: ANA, NYI, WSH, TOR, NYR – Total Points: 457
  • 2005-06: ANA, OTT, TOR, PHI, CGY – Total Points: 505

Post-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 95.1

  • 2003-04: PHI, CAR, COL, ATL, CBJ – Total Points: 417
  • 2002-03: COL, SJ, EDM, NYR, CGY – Total Points: 423
  • 2001-02: CGY, COL, NJ, EDM, FLA – Total Points: 425
  • 2000-01: COL, NYR, SJ, BOS, LA – Total Points: 465
  • 1999-00: NYI, CAR, EDM, LA, ATL – Total Points: 363
  • 1998-99: NYI, BUF, VAN, EDM, CHI – Total Points: 355

Pre-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 81.6

Bottom Five Hitting Teams

  • 2008-09: COL, DET, MIN, FLA, VAN – Total Points: 463
  • 2007-08: MIN, COL, EDM, LA, DET – Total Points: 467
  • 2006-07: COL, DET, MIN, VAN, TB – Total Points: 510
  • 2005-06: TB, COL, DET, MIN, NJ – Total Points: 496

Post-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 96.8

  • 2003-04: MIN, DET, TB, SJ, DAL – Total Points: 499
  • 2002-03: CHI, MTL, DET, BUF, OTT – Total Points: 451
  • 2001-02: DET, TB, MIN, WSH, MTL – Total Points: 430
  • 2000-01: MIN, CHI, NSH, ATL, DAL – Total Points: 385
  • 1999-00: NSH, STL, DET, BOS, OTT – Total Points: 460
  • 1998-99: DET, NSH, DAL, BOS, PIT – Total Points: 451

Pre-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 89.2

Final Tally

  • Hitting Teams: 86.98 points per season
  • Non-hitting Teams: 92.24 points per season

To borrow a quote, who saw that coming?

As for what it means, I think the implication is obvious.

  • RCN

    I can't remember where I heard it, but aren't hits counted by an employee of the barn that the game is being played in, and considered one of the most inaccurate stats that is tracked?

  • RCN

    @ Word:

    Not inaccurate, but highly subjective. That's why only road games were used – each team's numbers should be comparable, whereas if we included home games half of the sample would be coming from a single source.

  • RCN

    JW, dude, you beat me to it! I was working on this exact same post today. What got you thinking about it? I just started digging around HockeyAnalysis.com and saw the adjusted hitting stats. Anyway, good post, good work.

  • RCN

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    I don’t know what got me thinking about it; my mind was wandering and I thought ‘hey, let’s toss something together’.

    Oddly enough, those words were also said regarding the creation of Poutine, Turducken, the last Transformers movie, MacT's line combinations, The Score television network, and Frankenstein's monster.

  • RCN

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    the last Transformers movie

    Actually, I'm pretty sure the thought process was something like:

    "Ooh, Megan Fox. Ooooh. I need to put her in a movie so I can watch her. I'll toss in some explosions – yeah that'll work – and giant robots. Can't go wrong with giant robots."

  • RCN

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    Oddly enough, those words were also said regarding the creation of Poutine, Turducken, the last Transformers movie, MacT’s line combinations, The Score television network, and Frankenstein’s monster.

    The odd one out is Frankenstein's monster- he was thought out ahead of time.

  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Was there a sequence where Megan Fox ran in that movie where it wasnt in slow motion? I think not.

    and honestly, you CANT go wrong with giant robots. Especially if they have spanish accents and jive talk a lot.

  • RCN

    Well, personally I think this is complete crap as the hit stats are entirely subjective, but….I guess that the collection of figure skaters wearing copper and blue aren't completely hopeless.

  • RCN

    @ Archaeologuy:

    I'm not going to say anything else about the Transformers movies. People either loved them or hated them, and I'm on one end of the scale.

    Alright, one thing. I'm on the Roger Ebert end of the scale.

  • RCN

    Interesting where those stats led, but not totally surprising.

    If you look at individual stats for hits by defencemen, they don't always favor players who are better defensively.

    Nik Lidstrom for example, isn't even in the top 30 in hits, but I don't think anyone would argue that he is an elite defender, using body position instead of hitting to get the job done.

    I think this has more to do with what kind of team the GM has built as opposed to how successful hitting is. E.g. Anaheim (built to hit) vs Detroit (built to not hit)

  • RCN

    Zamboni Driver wrote:

    hit stats are entirely subjective

    Do you think those lists above fail to reflect hard-hitting and non-hard hitting teams?

    Speaking simply as a fan without numbers, my lists would have looked very similar for this past season – they just make sense.

    Besides, we're cutting the subjectivity by using 29 different arena numbers; this would seem to give us an accurate view.

  • RCN

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Alright, one thing. I’m on the Roger Ebert end of the scale.

    You made me google Ebert and Transformers. I am a better person for reading his entry regarding that movie.

  • RCN

    @Jonathon Willis

    Just for fun, can u remove Detroit from the equation, and the similar ranked team from the heavy hitters side. I have a feeling as well that Detroit is an anomaly in the statistics. I also have a suspicion that lower goal scoring teams win more games because of their hitting, but I wouldn't know which stats to use to compare goals for and against with hits and total points compared. For example, San Jose finished first last season I believe, did they score less goals but hit more than Detroit?

  • RCN

    More fuel to the fire: Who did most consider the "toughest teams in the league"?

    – Boston
    – Philly
    – Calgary
    – Ducks
    – Van

    Who did those teams lose to?

    – canes
    – Pens
    – Hawks
    – Wings

    All "soft" teams.

    Conclusion: Though physical play is important, it's severly overated.

  • RCN

    I also posted this on JW's other site, but for the benefit of those here, I would suggest that only looking at the extremes doesn't tell you much, because a single team, like the Red Wings, will severely skew the sample. I'd be curious to see what the correlation is for all 30 teams before even beginning to speculate about whether there's a causal relationship there (remembering as always that correlation != causation).

  • RCN

    Bottom Five Hitting Teams

    13 out of the 20 bottom hitting teams in the past 4 years have been from the NW, yet the NW is regarded as the most gritty of the divisions.

    That doesn't add up at all and ruins the credibility of the experiment IMO.

    It doesn't really matter though as Anaheim and Detroit have shown us that there is more than one way you can win the game. Unfortunately we have 1/4 the skill of the wings and 1/4 the toughest of the Ducks.

  • RCN

    @ Ogden Brother:

    Boston was going through ton of injuries.
    If you watched the playoffs, Pens werent soft at all. Lets see players who were physical.
    Gill to name the few.

    Hawks won only because they were able to out-muscle both flames and the nucks. Those two series established Seabrook and Byfuglien.

  • RCN

    Also JW the following to be considered:

    1> Cal Clutterbuck throwing 300+ hits is still less than Lucic dishing out 150 hits. Tell me that Lucic hit on Van Ryan did not shake up the Leafs team! There is a saying in Hindi. " 100 sonaar ki, 1 lohaar ki." Simply translated, it means 100 hammer hits by a oldsmith(sonaar) is comparable to one(lohaar) by a blacksmith.

    2> A lot of hitting does not one any good and many times puts the hitter off position. However great hitters are those who know when to dish out big hits. Classic example would be from our southern neighbors. Reghier and Phenauf are both big bruising D-men. However, Reghier is smarter. He knows when the appropriate moment is for a hit and when good positional play would suffice. And we know how much trouble he gives our skilled players.

    3>Now look at teams 6-10 and 11-15 in the hits.
    We can agree these are teams with a good mix of hitters and skill. I am sorry due to time constraint i am doing only the 08-09 season:

    SJS, CGY, PITS(thats right ogden brother), ATL, MTL
    total points: 483
    average points: 96.6

    We can see here total points( and hence average points) is way higher than the bottom 5 for 2008 i.e: non hitters.

    11- 15
    total points: 473
    average : 94.6

    Again this is higher than the bottom 5 teams for 08-09.

    4> Norris trophy finalists
    07-08 Lidstrom, Chara, Phenauf
    08-09 Lidstrom, Chara, Green
    Except for lidstrom all three are known for their Hitting prowess.

  • RCN

    One last point. If you take away 05-06 season from your consideration as the difference(point-wise) between top5 hitting teams and bottom 5 hitting teams is huge.

    Top 5 hitting team:
    total points- 1444 , avg: 96.27 points per team per season

    Bottom 5 hitting team:
    total points- 1426, avg: 95.07 points per team per season

  • RCN

    i think it's really tough to cull any sort of data from these stats other than teams that play most their games in the east record more hits and teams that play in the west (particularly the NW) record fewer hits.

    i think this is more a study in stat tracking from conference to conference as opposed to a thorough look at hitting results on points.

  • RCN

    what are the PIM's for the teams that had high hitting rates vs. the ones who didnt? thats all that matters. the actual hitting stats dont. the one anomaly year is probably the Ducks cup year where they "bossed" the league to a cup.

  • RCN

    At the end of the day I think there is a very important point to draw out of the stats; as Jonathon implied it is not so much the NUMBER of total hits that are dished out, but more importantly WHO is landing those hits.

    Using Anaheim as an example of a "big" hitting team, look at who does their scoring AND hitting…Getzlaf, Perry, The Human Rake, etc.

    So long as your "hitters" also play a complete game you are going to have an edge…if they can do nothing but run around looking for the big hit, you are at a disadvantage.