Control freaks

Blackhawks' success shows that puck possession is most of the battle

Originally Published: December 10, 2013
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

Numbers Jason Schneider for ESPNPuck possession is as underappreciated as on-base percentage was in MLB pre-Moneyball.

SLOWLY BUT SURELY, statistical analysis is coming to hockey. At least one-third of NHL teams are using advanced metrics to evaluate players, and next-level numbers are leaking into game-day stories and blogs. The NHL has given this stats boom a boost by making shooting, power play and penalty data since 1997 available on its website, alongside "real-time scoring stats," which include hits, blocks, giveaways and takeaways. It's a fascinating trove of data, and hockey metricians have begun to boil and stir the numbers into all sorts of concoctions.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.