Vulgar Statistics: The Impact Of Back To Back Games
Earlier this season I took a look back at the impact that playing back to back games had for the Northeast in 2009-2010 and a look forward at what that might mean for 2010-2011. For this entry I will expand the view to encompass all the Eastern Conference teams and how they fared in their back to back games in 2010-2011.
In this entry, I will be introducing the use of embedded Google Documents, a new WordPress feature, as opposed to my usual low tech MS Paint images. It should make things easier to upload, easier to look at, and copy-pastable for those that want to fiddle around with the data on their own.
If you’re seeing what I’m seeing…it’s beautiful…
To put it simply, what the hell? Teams have a better winning percentage in the second of back-to-back games, and they have a better winning percentage on the road in the second of back-to-back games. It’s mind boggling, and I’m at a bit of a loss to explain it. Perhaps theres a psychological factor in knowing that you have to play the following night, and an unwillingness to go all out for fear of being winded for that second game. That’s about the only explanation I have to offer for the first part.
As far as having a better winning percentage on the road, I think that teams tend to play back to back road games against nearby opponents, such as Florida and Tampa Bay. It stands to reason that there’s less travel in making it to a second game on the road than there is in coming back home. It also reminds me of something I’ve heard Rob Ray say on the radio. He mentioned that when a team returns from a roadtrip, often the players minds are more focused on taking care of things in ther personal lives that need to be done after returning home than they are on playing hockey.
A few things caught my eye about individual teams. The Sabres improved mightily in the second of their back-to-back games bringing a 6-7-3 record in 2009-2010 to 13-8-2 this past season, and they put on an 8-3-0 show in coming home for their fans. (They were an unspectacular 2-2-2 last season.) Pittsburgh showcased their depth by notching the most points in back-to-back couplets going 21-9-4 overall and Carolina continued to make its case for most bizarrely enigmatic team. I repeatedly stated that I had no idea how Carolina contended for a playoff spot this year, scoring a decent amount of goals while being blow average to terrible in every other facet of the game. In head scratching fashion, they had the best record in the second of back-to-back games at 14-4-4, going 8-3-3 against playoff teams in those games. Good job Carolina, you stumped me.
Every year people make a big fuss out of back-to-back games and everything in this study shows they’re not as big a deal as people think, especially since every team in the NHL has their fair share of them (often on the same days). I don’t think having fewer than five more back-to-back games than any given opponent is going to make a difference over the course of a season. While fatigue may come into play occasionally, by and large these guys are professionals who are conditioned to do exactly what back-to-backs demand, play a lot of hockey very well over a short period of time.