How to score – Differences in Goal Scoring in Sweden/Finland (Introducing Floorball Analytics)

Picture by Per Wiklund

In the second part of this short series, we’ll take a closer look at scoring in the Finish and Swedish top leagues and some important factors in analytics in general. Here’s part one for you, in case you’ve missed it!

The difficulties and opportunities of Analytics

If you have ever kept track of stats of a floorball team in a single game or over the span of a whole season, you know that it takes a lot of effort and can be frustrating and time consuming. What I find is the most important key, is evaluating what exactly you want to find out. If you are not able to track every shot taken in a league by every player in all the games, put your focus on more specific details that interest you.

In the example below I will show something that is done in the NHL and how something similar can be done with limited possibilities for floorball. When looking at the work of NHL analysts it’s important to remember that they have access to data tracked by the league (every shot taken for example). Many of the best analysts work full-time and have acquired very skillful ways of visualizing the data that they have access to.

What it looks like in the NHL

The image below shows the percentage of all shots taken per player by the Philadelphia Flyers players Simmonds, Schenn, Giroux, Ghostisbehere and Voracek when on the powerplay. The following chart was made by Micah Blake McCurdy, one of my favourite NHL analysts on Twitter.

This kind of chart is called heat map and they are made in various ways for the NHL. To create such charts, a lot of programming knowledge is necessary along with huge amounts of data from tracked games. Circumstances that are not (yet) given in floorball.

Scoring in the SSL and Salibandyliiga

As an example for something that can be done for floorball, I have tracked goals scored in the Swedish SSL and the Finish Salibandyliiga. One of the most important aspects of analytics is the sample size. To evaluate the performance of a team or player, the focus must be laid on more than just one or two games. Every player experiences ups and downs and to account for that, his consistent performance should only be judged with the according sample size. In the charts below are the goals scored in the past 25 games in each league (the games were chosen by availability of video footage). Empty-netters and penalty shots were not counted. In the SSL there were 260 goals scored, in the Salibandyliiga 279.

The goals were registered by shot type: normal shots (blue), one-timers (shot directly after a pass, red) and rebounds/deflections (yellow). The chart looks much more basic than the heat map by McCurdy. Nevertheless, we can see that shots are generally taken from mid-range, mostly from the side. This is because defensive systems often have soft spots between the center and the defenders in the high slot on the side. Let’s see what the chart looks like for the Finnish top league!

The range of shots taken is clearly larger. Players are not afraid to shoot from a larger distance and are successful. Other than that, the distribution of shots that lead to goals was about the same. In both leagues there is a surplus of goals scored from the left side of the field.

When looking at both charts, it becomes clear that floorball today is a shooter’s game. You are not bound to take one-timers to score and the range does not eliminate the possibility of scoring. Players tend to carry the ball and wait for the perfect moment to shoot, often using a defender as a screen. This situation can be seen in almost any game, as a player controls the ball and shields it from the defender with his body. The keeper is not able to track the release of the shot because of the defender that is in his line of sight, giving the shooter increased odds of scoring. Typically the shot is aimed inside the far post of the net, just above the keepers leg. Many of the blue dots on the charts above come from shots like this.

How do you interpret these charts? Have you recognized any patterns? I’m very interested to know, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook. Come back on Friday for the last part of this series, when I will talk about Corsi and Fenwick in floorball.

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