One Weird Trick the Wild are Using to Win Games

The Minnesota Wild are continuing last season’s somewhat strange practice of winning the battle for scoring chances while falling behind in possession.

Last season, the Minnesota Wild seemed to exist outside the widely accepted understanding of advanced stats. Corsi (made up of all attempted shots) is meant to measure puck possession. Fenwick (made up of unblocked attempted shots) is meant to measure basic scoring chances. Both tend to correlate with success over the course of a season. So a team with a better measurement in Corsi and Fenwick stats should be the team enjoying more scoring opportunities and goals than their opponents. The Wild, somehow, bucked that logic.

The Wild were 20th in the league in Corsi For % at 49.34%. They were 19th in Fenwick For % at 49.89%. Pretty close to 50% in both cases, so they were close to even in puck possession, i.e. being able to attempt shots nearly as much as their opponents. Nevertheless, over half the league was ahead of them in terms of traditional puck possession stats. Yet the Wild were able to finish the season with a third best Goals For % of 55.82, just ahead of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (55.22%). They also finished third overall in scoring chances for % (52.65%). Those results defy the convention, even factoring in an above average PDO of 1.018.

The explanation appears to be that the Wild under Bruce Boudreau have found a way to severely limit the high danger scoring chances at the cost of giving up an above average number of shots from the lower danger areas of the ice. This likely isn’t news to many Wild fans as it was a favorite discussion point around here and the rest of the hockey world whether or not the Wild could maintain those results across an entire season. In the end, the answer was yes, although their overall numbers had regressed towards the mean somewhat from the high points of last season’s long winning streak that pushed the Wild into the forefront of the NHL’s focus.

Good news! The Wild appear to be doing it again. While the team has only played 16 games, and thus it is too early to claim that these results will last all season long, it is encouraging to see the Wild are on the right track to repeat last season’s franchise record performance. The last three games, the point at which Boudreau has recently stated the Wild have been playing to his standards, have seen the Wild not only control scoring chances, but also winning the puck possession fight as well.

In the first 13 games of the season, the Wild have been surrendering a lot more shots than their opponents, but were managing to keep scoring chances essentially even. In the past three games, however, the Wild have jumped out in front in terms of puck possession and scoring chances and have exploded in terms of high danger scoring chances. They are getting nearly two high danger scoring chances for every one their opponent enjoys. With even average goaltending, that is a winning formula. Fortunately for the Wild, Devan Dubnyk appears to be returning to form as he has earned shutouts in his last two games, and Alex Stalock has played very well in the backup role. Unfortunately, the past three games is likely an outlier and not truly representative of how the Wild will perform season long.

Still, it’s a good sign that the Wild have found a way to keep up last year’s winning strategy and have at least demonstrating that they might even be able to improve upon it.

Our Latest Stories