Winning Isn’t Everything – A contextual analysis of hockey face-offs

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Abstract: This paper takes a different approach to evaluating face-offs and instead of looking at win percentages, the de facto measure of successful face-off takers for decades, focuses on the game events following the face-off and how directionality, clean wins, and player handedness play a significant role in creating value. This demonstrates how not all face-off wins are made equal: some players consistently create post-face-off value through clean wins and by directing the puck to high-value areas of the ice. As a result, we propose an expected events face-off model as well as a wins above expected model that take into account the value added on a face-off by targeting the puck to specific areas on the ice in various contexts, as well as the impact this has on subsequent game events.

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