What wins a hockey game? We often hear from announcers things like, "The team that wins in the faceoff circle will win this game" or "They've got to get the puck on the net if they want to win tonight." But which of these statements are true? More generally, which team stats are best at predicting who wins hockey games?
I take a first stab at that question here by looking at what correlates with winning hockey games. I use seven years of NHL play-by-play data to generate statistics like shot-differential, hit-differential, faceoff win-differential, etc. and then use those statistics as variables in logistic regression in order to evaluate who wins games and why.
What surprised me is that the statistic that I would have guess correlates most strongly with winning (shots on goal) is highly correlated with winning, but in the wrong direction. That's to say, the team that takes more shots in a game is, on average, less likely to win the game. More predictably, I also find that winning faceoffs and being the beneficiary of turnovers both positively contribute to a team's chances of winning.