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Fun with the NHL’s new stat tracking system, Edge

Having some fun with a new public-facing information system from the NHL

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Calgary Flames v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images

The NHL introduced a new public-facing system to see data called NHL Edge. You can find it here.

Here’s a little more from Michael Russo at The Athletic:

The NHL has been working on puck- and player-tracking technology for over a decade, with tracking up and running in all 32 arenas since the 2021-22 season. National and local broadcasts have been supplied with some of the information, as have clubs, who use the data in analytical packages for coaches or for fans during games on their center-ice scoreboards.

The next phase is making some of the data public — hoping fans enjoy playing around with the site and the media use the data to tell more complete stories.

In the past, the league has provided this data to writers in one-off requests. For instance, in a Brandon Montour feature during last season’s Stanley Cup Final, The Athletic was able to illustrate that the Panthers’ defenseman’s 57 minutes, 56 seconds of ice time in Florida’s four-overtime Game 1 win in the Eastern Conference final equated to 8.96 miles of skating, the longest one-game distance recorded since the league began compiling distance data.

It’s kinda cool to click around and see what data is available. After randomly clicking around, Jake Guentzel pops up having skated almost 3.3 miles at even strength in a game, for one of the most traveled games for a forward this season.

Does that mean a lot or change how you see the game? Probably not. But it’s cool to see which players have had the hardest shot of the season (it’s Philadelphia’s Travis Sanheim at 101.49 miles per hour, by the way) or see just how much Jack Hughes skates around the offensive zone (he is everywhere!).

The team-based outlooks are fun too, it says some information that close observers probably already know (the Pens’ can’t finish!) but some interesting tidbits as well. The Pens’ are a slower team around the league generally speaking, but do have quite a bit of speed bursts. They also skate a lot distance-wise, relative to the rest of the league, and control the puck with plenty of offensive-zone time.

Drilling down on shot location was educational, though painful to see the struggles. Overall, the Pens are shooting 9.4%, below the league average of 9.9%. They have more shots on goal and goals than the average, which considering they’ve played five games and some have played four and some have played six is pretty decent.

One great visualization is the 42 shots from the “home plate” area and six more from directly in the crease, compared to not nearly as many from other areas. (Remember this for the next “get to the net!” reply guys whose solution is that the team isn’t/can’t get shots from in tight. One thing this data should hopefully teach if we are smart enough to learn is that teams fight to get to these scoring areas and do shoot quite a bit from there). This data is showing that Pittsburgh shoots very frequently from in close to the net.

The quantity there is encouraging. The shooting percentage is probably better than one would have expected or guessed from high danger locations for the Pens.

From mid-range, Pittsburgh is holding close but falling behind, and this data starts to show where the problem is with only a 7.7% shooting rate. When you compare this to the boxcar stats of Rickard Rakell having no goals in the first five games and Jake Guentzel scoring just once, this next graph starts to make sense. It visualizes the common sense, well-known point that those players need to use their shooting talent to score more for this area.

The good news is that the year is new, the sample is small and it wouldn’t take a lot to reverse the trends. League average is to have four goals on 43 shots. The Pens are close (three goals on 42) but need to keep that going. One hot night would put Pittsburgh well up the ranks at this point, but when looking to answer the question about “why have the Pens only won two of their first five games”, this chart should be entered into evidence as one of the top exhibits.

Zone time is a relevant topic for the Pens; a big part of their gameplan and over-arching strategy is to stay out of the defensive zone to help play to the strengths of players like Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang, and the most of the skilled players in general who are going to help when moving forward. So far, so good in that realm, the Pens have largely been able to keep the puck in the offensive zone, which by rule is going to mean that it is going to be in their defensive end less.

For Edge’s release, the site is getting crushed with traffic and responding slowly, I didn’t get to investigate too closely who is responsible for all those speed bursts that have the Pens standing out from that very top graphic. But I’m happy to report that Sidney Crosby has 11 of the entire team’s 104 bursts over 20+ mph, which puts into visual evidence what your eyes are telling you that Crosby hasn’t fallen off much, if at all, and still remains one of the league’s most effective and well-rounded players. His top end skating speed of 22.26 mph ranks in the 90th percentile of all forwards, which is really encouraging to see.

Crosby might not be “the Kid” any longer, but he’s still getting around the ice in a very impressive way. We didn’t need a new stat-tracking system to understand that, but it’s still pretty cool to see new data and information that the league is tracking.