Advanced Stats to Know for Hockey Betting

Pavel Francouz #39 of the Colorado Avalanche. Mickey Bernal/Getty Images/AFP

Hockey is definitely not followed as closely by the average sports fan—or average gambler—as the other three major team sports in North America. That’s good news because it offers an opportunity for those bettors that are willing to take the time to educate themselves on the sport.  

Here’s a look at some of the advanced hockey statistics that can help you as you try to outearn everyone while betting on the Stanley Cup Playoffs.   

What’s Corsi on NHL?

This statistic is based on another sport that North Americans don’t have a close relationship with either—soccer.  

In soccer, there is very little scoring, but one way to determine which team is doing better is to look at ball control, similar to the time of possession in the NFL or college football. If one team is spending most of its time with the ball on the other team’s half of the field, it’s probably a good sign that the ball will eventually find its way into the net for them.  

That’s essentially what Corsi is measuring on the ice. Which team is controlling the puck and keeping pressure on the other team’s goalkeeper. The more scoring opportunities a team has relative to its opponent, the more likely it is to eventually score. It’s named after an old Buffalo Sabres assistant coach and it looks at the shot differential during full strength play (in other words, eliminating the time when one team is on the power play).  

If a team gets off a shot, even if it misses or is blocked, it’s a Corsi For. If the other team does, its’ a Corsi Against. The Corsi number then measures how many shots a team gets relative to its opponent.  

Tweaks to Corsi 

Players can also have Corsi numbers, which measure how many shots an NHL team gets off while he’s on the ice. It’s been found to be a more accurate indicator of a player’s contribution to the team than the old plus-minus statistic. 

Some observers have criticized the Corsi percentage because blocked shots shouldn’t be included as a true shot on goal. The counterargument is that Corsi is trying to measure puck possession time and a blocked shot usually occurs when a team has the puck in the other team’s zone. Regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, there’s a stat available for you. The Fenwick number is similar to Corsi except blocked shots are excluded.   

Looking at Corsi by score is also important. If a team falls behind, it might become desperate and take more chances, increasing its number but not because it is dominating play in the classic sense.  

What’s the Concept of Danger in NHL?

It might be a bit difficult, but Corsi and Fenwick can be tallied by hand as you watch a game. As technology has advanced, it’s allowed hockey statistics to take advantage of the player location data that is now tracked for each game, and shot attempts can be plotted based on the actual coordinates of where a player is on the ice.  

That allows us to look at the quality of shot attempts in more detail. Shot selection is always an important factor to consider in hockey. A shot from just past the blue line, in heavy traffic, probably isn’t going to go in. To measure the likelihood of scoring, hockey analysts have developed the concept of Danger. Essentially, it’s a measure of a shot’s probability of scoring. The higher the likelihood of a goal, the higher the danger.  

Just to be clear the “danger” is on the team on defense. In other words, the goalie is the one in danger of giving up a score. It’s not a high-risk shot for the offense, which is sometimes a source of confusion for novices.  

Comparing the number of high-danger scoring chances for a team and its opponents can help give a sense of who is truly controlling play and getting good opportunities. And the number of high danger chances a team is able to turn into goals gives a good read on the shooting skill of its players.