With the score tied up, the buzzer sounds, signaling the end of the third period, sending hockey fans from all over the globe into a scramble looking for a computer or smartphone. Social media overtime contests, such as ESPN resident puckhead John Buccigross‘ #BucciOvertimeChallenge contest on Twitter continue to soar in popularity over the last few seasons. In the anxiety-ridden months of April, May and June, hockey fans from all over the world try to play the role of Nostradamus in predicting which National Hockey League player scores the game-winning goal in overtime.
After interacting with several individuals about their personal strategies of deciding an overtime winner, I wondered if there was a certain method, based off statistical analysis, that could narrow down the selection process.
Using the last three playoff seasons as our sample, we tracked time-on-ice and shots-on-goal totals for every player who’s tallied a game-winning in overtime since the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The majority of the people I spoke with mentioned players with special teams roles carried a significant amount of weight in their selection process, while a few others mentioned points accumulated during the current game as another factor.
Listed below is every overtime game-winning-goal recipient, broken out by TOI ranking by position, total shots on goal, points and special teams points and prior to the game-winner.
|Steen *GWG on PK||4/30/13||2nd||5||1G||1-0|
|Nyquist *GWG on PP||5/2/13||11th||2||0||0|
|Green *GWG on PP||5/4/13||3rd||3||0||0|
|Kunitz*GWG on PP||5/5/13||3rd||5||1G||1-1|
|Couture *GWG on PP||5/18/13||4th||5||0||0|
|Kesler *GWG on PP||5/3/11||1st||6||0||1-1|
Based off the past three seasons of data, it appears there’s really no correlations existing, but we can draw on probability. For example, players finishing in the top-four at their respective positions in TOI are responsible for 51% of game winners. In the shots on goal category, players firing three or four on goal are responsible for 48% of golden goals. However, 32% of overtime tallies came off the stick of players who fired two shots or less total in the game.
In special teams, only 19% resulted from players who tallied a special teams point earlier in the game. Looking at it on the larger scale, players who notched a point prior to the eventual GWG are responsible 43% of the time.
Due to the small sample, we’ll continue to track data from previous playoff seasons in hopes of making some sort of correlation. But one thing is for certain at this point: it’s anyones guess.