Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hockey fights and the Bruins: a case study

Those of you who know me may be aware of the fact that I am a fan of hockey. Just a bit.

But one aspect of hockey that's never really captivated me is the fighting. I know, I know — fighting's one of the great parts of hockey, it shows how raw the emotions are, blah blah.

Yes, hockey's a very fast-paced, emotional sport. And if you get pissed off at a guy enough to throw the gloves down, I'm fine with that. What I don't like is the staged crap that starts with circling and has as much hugging as punching. If you have enough patience with the guy to "size him up" for 15 seconds before you try to land your first blow, my philosophy is to just forget the fight and give him an extra hard hit next time around.

The pro-fighting crowd always points to how it energizes the players and can give your team the one-up. To test that theory, I looked up all of the Bruins' fights for the season and looked at each one game by game. For each fight, I looked at what the score was before the fight, who scored the next goal and who won the game.

The tabulated results show that fights don't help the Bruins. My guess is that fights don't have much effect either way, but if you want to really nitpick the stats, they seem to show the Bruins at a slight disadvantage when fighting.

The Bruins are 15-10-4 for scoring after a fight. That is: 15 times they scored next after a fight, 10 times the other team did, and 4 times nobody did. The Bruins' overall goals for/against is 197-131, which is almost the exact same ratio as 15-10 (1.500 compared to to 1.504). So, no advantage there.

But it's actually worse than that for the B's. Most fights didn't have an effect on the game's outcome, in that the team that was winning before the fight ended up winning the game. Of the Bruins' 29 fights, only seven could be argued to have ended up changing (or setting) the game's momentum. In all of those games, the score was tied before the fight; four of them ended up as losses for the Bruins. Even if you account for OTLs, a record of 3-1-3 isn't too great when your overall record is 40-10-8.

The lesson: if a guy's getting chippy at you and you feel the urge to throw the gloves down, fine. But don't pretend it's going to help your team, and don't do it just for the sake of doing it.


Anonymous said...

hahaha you honestly think that the Bitz vs Brash fight was staged? damn son, that's funny.

Yuval Shavit said...

Maybe "agreed-upon" would be a better word than "staged." My point was that if you're calm enough to ask the guy if he would like to fight, then you're probably just fighting for the sake of it.

To contrast, take a look at how this fight starts, at about 1:15 (picked randomly from youtube). None of this "dear sir, wouldst thou care for a round of fisticuffs?" Just start hitting the guy, if you're mad at him.

Anyway, I just picked Bitz because I like the guy, having followed him since before he came to Providence.

Spelunker said...

Yeah, I don't think "Anonymous" up there knows what exactly you were talking about with this Bitz fight. They didn't even look mad at each other! They just looked like they had to get it over with. The refs weren't even worried.

I enjoy real fights, like when Chara flips out on someone for hurting a teammate. Or when Timmy Tom surprise-punches a guy in the face for boarding a teammate.