Aside from the standard team stats like wins, losses, and goals, and the standard players stats like goals, assists, and points, faceoffs might be one of the most talked about stats in the game of hockey. You can’t go five minutes in a hockey game without the broadcasters talking about how the teams and players have done in faceoffs, and they always talk about how it helps a team get possession of the puck, and how it helps the team win.
But, is that actually true? Are faceoffs actually important in a hockey game, or are they just statistical noise disguised as a notable part of a hockey game? I decided to do a bit of a deep dive into how much they impact the game.
So, you may be wondering, how can you just simply find out the value of something in sports. Its actually a lot easier than you may think. You remember in math class when they made you figure out the equation of a line? That’s going to play a big role in figuring this out.
Now, this isn’t something I discovered on my own (I’m not that smart). I’m using a process I first discovered with current Carolina Hurricane’s assistant GM Eric Tulsky’s work from over 10 years ago. Basically, what figuring out the equation of the line tells us is how many points a team with a 0 faceoff differential should get, theoretically.
So, first I took each team’s faceoff differential and points from the 2018-19 to 2020-21 NHL seasons (it’s still a bit too early in this year’s season to include that data) and threw the data on a scatter plot in Excel. Once I got that, I just do a simple right click to add a trendline, and I have all the info I need.
So, our data’s trendline has an equation of 0.0227x + 91.159. What that tells us is a team with a 0 faceoff differential will finish with 91 or 92 points, and that every extra faceoff win is worth about 0.02 points. Since 0.02 equals to about 1/50, that means that 50 more faceoff wins than losses is worth a point, and 100 more wins than losses is worth a win.