How to Read Hockey Stats: Player, Goalie, & Team

Professional sports is about performance. The ultimate measure for performance is how many wins your team gets, but there are many more stats that help to see how well a player or team is playing.

To get a real grasp at the performance of a player or team we need to know what the stats that are tracked and what they mean.

How do you read hockey stats? Hockey stats for either a player, goalie, or team are based on either a single game or the cumulative season. Each of these categories has special statistics related to their performance, and often these statistics will work together to give you a better picture of the overall performance. 

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Let’s work through the individual statistics for each of the categories – player, goalie, and team.

In each section I have taken a typical boxscore or season stat for player, goalie, and team. I will define each of the stats that are used to track performance, and then at the end of each section I will give an analysis of what to look for and how these work together.


Reading NHL Player Stats for Individual Game

player stats from an individual NHL game performance
Stats of three Boston Bruins players from NHL game

G – The number of goals the player has scored in that particular game

A – The number of assists (either primary or secondary) that the player has registered in that particular game

PTS – The number of points, which is calculated by taking the total amount of Goals + Assists, that the player has accumulated

+/- (plus/minus) – Plus/Minus is the total amount of goals a player is on the ice when his team scores minus the the total number of goals he is on for when the opposition scores. For example, if a player is on the ice for 2 goals for and 1 against their plus minus would be +1. In the stats above Bergeron was on for one more goal for than against. Note: Power Play Goals do not count for or against the players on the ice. 

PIM – Penalty Infraction Minutes or more commonly referred to as Penalty Minutes. This is the cumulative amount of penalty minutes a player has received during the game. 

SOG – Shots on Goal is the number of shots the player has taken on net where the goal is forced to make a save otherwise a goal would have been scored. Shots that hit the post or go wide of the net do not count in this category. 

HITS – Counts the number of times a player gives a hit or check where his opponent has had possession of the puck and then has lost it. 

Analysis

The stats show the top three scorers from the one game played by the Boston Bruins. In a typical game, if a player gets two or more points that is considered high. Most players in a game get zero, and the top players in the game will average around one point per game.In addition, 5 shots on goal is considered high.

A few other notes:

  • 5 or 6 shots is considered high
  • Most players get zero penalty minutes with 2 to 4 being the most common when they do. The NHL is a lot less aggressive then it used to be
  • Hit is something that most people do not pay attention too
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Reading a player’s season stats: David Pastrnak

Individual season stats for David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins

SEASON – Refers to the regular season which goes from the beginning of October to the beginning of April. These numbers do not include playoff statistics, which are usually located below a players regular season stats.

TEAM – The team(s) that the player played on during that season. Sometimes a player is traded and will play for more than one team in a season. 

LEAGUE – NHL seems obvious, however there are many leagues a player can play in: AHL, College, Major Junior, KHL, SHL, ECHL, or international competition

GP – The number of games that the player has played during that season. It is always helpful to compare this number to the actual number of games his team as played. Was there an injury?

G – The number of goals the player has scored during the season

A – The number of assists a player has accumulated during the season

PTS – The number of points, which are calculated as goals + assists, the player has registered 

Analysis

Pastrnak is having a fantastic season to date. Some of the items that stand out are:

  • He has 37 goals in 50 games played. A good benchmark for a player is to get 20 goals in a 80 game season. Pastrnak is on pace for over 50 goals, which would put him at the top of the league.
  • He is averaging more than a point per game – fantastic. If you can even average 0.5 points per game you will be in the league a long time
  • Most players have more assists than goals, so Pastrnak is showing that he is a pure goal scorer

PPG –  Power Play Goals is the number of goals he has scored while he is on the power play

PPA – Power Play Assists is the number of assists registered while he is on the power play

SHG – Shorthanded Goals is the number of goals he scored while his team is shorthanded

SHA – Shorthanded Assists is the number of assists he accumulated while his team is shorthanded

GWG – Game Winning Goals is the goal that allows your team to be one more than the opposition. In a 5-2 win the game winning goal was the 3rd goal scored by the winning team. 

PIM – Penalty Infraction Minutes cumulative total for the season

SHOTS – Total cumulative Shots registered on net during the season

PCT – A player’s Shooting Percentage 

HITS – The number of Hits a player has registered curing the season

Analysis

A few more notes about Pastrnak’s season:

  • He got 27 points on the power play, which about 1/3 of his points. That means he is producing a lot of offence (43 points) at 5-on-5, which is an indication of a player that can dominate.
  • 30 Penalty Minutes is less then one minute per game. That is pretty typical for an NHLer, they are not taking a lot of penalties anymore.
  • Pastrnak is taking a ton of shots. He is averaging about 4 shots per game, which is a lot, and is amongst the league leaders


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Reading Individual Goalie Stats: Matt Murray

W-L-OTL – Wins- Losses- Overtime Losses- Wins is the number of wins during regulation or overtime/shootout; Losses is the number of Losses during regulation; Overtime Losses is the number of losses during overtime/shootout. In the standings Wins count for 2 points and OTLs count for 1 point. 

SA – The number of shots that were registered as being on net during the game and did not hit the net or go wide of the net

GA – The number of Goals Against that the goalie let in during that game

SV – The number of Saves the goalie made during the game

SV% – Save Percentage is the totals Saves divided by Shots against. In this case 35/38 = .921; although not shown above it is a very common stat and probably the most relevant one on a cumulative season basis for a goalie

Analysis

Murray got the win during regulation and improved his record to 15 wins. 3 Goals Against on 38 shots is above average. You are looking for your goalie at minimum to save at least every 9 out of 10 shots. Anything below that and your team does not have a very good chance of winning.


Reading Season Stats for a Goalie: Matt Murray

Individual stats for a goalie

SEASON – Refers to the regular season which goes from the beginning of October to the beginning of April. These numbers do not include playoff statistics, which are usually located below a players regular season stats.

TEAM – The team(s) that the player played on during that season. Sometimes a player is traded and will play for more than one team in a season. 

LEAGUE – NHL seems obvious, however there are many leagues a player can play in: AHL, College, Major Junior, KHL, SHL, ECHL, or international competition

GP – Games Played; for a goalie this number will be less than a skater. The top goalies will play around 60 games per year.

W – Wins is the number of wins for a goalie in either regulation time or overtime/shootout

L – Losses is the number of losses for the goalie only during regulation time

OT – Losses is the number of losses for the goalie that occured during overtime or the shootout

Goalie stats continued….

More Stats for an individual goal for the season

MIN – Total cumulative minutes played during the season. A game is 60 minutes of regulation time and a possible 5 minutes of overtime and a goalie can play all or a part of the game. 

GA – Total Goals Against scored during the season

SA – Total Saves made during the season

GAA – Goals Against Average which is the average number of goals against per 60 minutes played.  

PCT – Save Percentage, which is the Total Goals Against divided by Total Saves

SO – The number of times a goalie has played a full game and had zero goals against during that particular game

Analysis

The first number I look at for goalie stats is the save percentage. This is the best indicator of individual performance if it is above .910 that is good. If it is between .900 and .910 that is okay and is passable. If it is below .900 and has an 8 at the start that is very bad, and you know that the goalie is having a poor season.

  • Matt Murray is an excellent goalie, so for him to have a .900 save percentage is quite surprising. He must be having a below average season.
  • He still has a lot of wins compared to losses, so the team is probably playing quite well for him and giving him a lot of run support.
  • At the point when the stats where taken the team would have played 50 games, and Murray has only played over half of them. This is an indication of his poor play because you think as a #1 goalie it would be about 35 at this point so the backup goalie will be getting more playing time
  • His GAA is a little high. I would like to see that under 2.5. This also indicates that his team is getting a lot of goals for him, and helping to get the wins!


Reading NHL Team Stats

Example of NHL Team Stats

RK –  Rank is the position the are in either their division (the above example), conference, or league

TEAM – NHL team

GP – Number of games played in the season. A season has 82 games

W –  Cumulative number of wins in either regulation or overtime/shootout, which each count as 2 points in the standings

L – Cumulative number of losses during regulation

OTL – Losses that have occured during the overtime or shootout, which each count as 1 point in the standings

PTS – Cumulative total of points obtained based on 2 points for a win and 1 point for and overtime or shootout loss. Washington has 33 winx X 2 = 66 and 5 OTL X 1 = 5; so 66 + 6 = 71

ROW – Regulation or Overtime Wins – This stat takes out the wins a team secured in the shootout from their win total and is used as the first tiebreaker in the standings

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Reading NHL team stats continued….

More stats for an NHL team

L10 – A team’s record during their last 10 games of play

STRK – Streak; W standings for Wins and L stands for Losses. W3 is a 3 game win streak.

GF – Goals For – Total number of goals scored by the team

GA – Goals Against – Total number of goals scored against the team

DIFF – Goal Differential – Goals For minus Goals Against and is either a positive or negative number.  This is a very predictive stat of who will and will not make the playoffs. A team rarely misses the playoffs if the have a plus goal Differential

HOME – Home Record – a teams record when they are playing at home. If a team is not above .500 at home they are not making the playoffs

ROAD – Road Record – a team is aiming to win as many on the road as the lose. Anything better is found money. 

VS E – Versus East – a team’s record versus the Eastern Conference

VS W – Versus West – a team’s record versus the Western Conference

Analysis

These are excellent records. These are a few things I like to look at when comparing teams:

  • Games over .500 or how many more they have won than lost. For a team to make the playoffs they need to be have 12 more games won than lost. So a record of 48-34 and 96 points would do it. So the Capitals are already 22 games above .500. The means that they would only have to play .500 hockey for the rest of the season and they would still easily make it.
  • A big predictor of whether a team will make the playoffs or not is goal differential. If a team scores more goals than they let in they will usually make the playoffs and vice-versa. So teams that have negative goal differential and are in a playoff spot usually will not stay there. And teams that have a positive goal differential and are out of the playoffs will likely trend upwards. There is a high correlation between this stat and the teams that make the playoffs.
  • I also like to look at how teams do against the other conference. I have heard a number of times reporters who talk about how the East is a better conference than the West and what happens after they play the games? The West is ahead. To me there is an Eastern bias in the reporters that are reflected in the overrating of teams, and players – and this goes with the NHL awards, as well – no bitterness 🙂

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