elimination tournaments in hockey can produce some interesting results. We can estimate possession statistics in the
round robin portion, to determine who are the better teams, but that matters
little when a goalie posting a shutout can cause a top ranked team to be
eliminated by the bottom ranked team.
This scenario is not unheard of at the IIHF World Under-20 Championships (World Juniors) which has allowed Sean McIndoe, of Down Goes Brown, to compare this tournament to the NCAA
Basketball March Madness.
happened? Let’s take a look.
When we last left you, the World Juniors had just
completed the round robin portion of the tournament and we had some basic possession statistics for the
10 countries involved. Given the small sample (4 games for each team) we know the numbers are not the most reliable but
they start to paint a good picture.
At the top
of the tournament possession standings was the United States, firmly in the lead, followed by Canada in 2nd
and Czech Republic in 3rd. At
the bottom of the league possession standings we had Denmark, Germany and Slovakia. This is interesting as we know Canada won
gold and Russian earned silver, despite being middle of the possession rankings, while Slovakia won
Slovakia, who was last in the possession standings, won bronze, and Russia, who was rooted middle in the middle of the pack possession wise, placed
second, what exactly happened? We know
that the small sample size of games can cause an issue in our initial estimates. However, in addition to the estimates, the format of a one-game
elimination tournament can also cause wacky results. The teams who have the high PDO are the ones who typically emerge
best-of-3 relegation matchup, between Germany and Switzerland, it was clear from
the possession statistics that Switzerland was the better team. Unfortunately, Switzerland did not receive the necessary goaltending during the round robin to be able to earn enough points to advance to the medal tournament. Thankfully, neither did Germany, the
second-worst ranked possession team. In
this relegation series Switzerland won both games as they dominated Germany to the tune of 56% during close situations.
Quarter Finals we had four match-ups between eight different countries hoping to advance in a one-and-done format.
Sweden vs Finland was one of the quarter final matches and both countries boasted similar scores in possession during the tournament, though Finland
having the slight edge. Their quarter
final match saw Sweden edge out Finland in possession (51%) while the Swedish goalie Linus
Soderstrom posted a quality start. The
opposite luck could not be found in Finland where their goaltender, Ville Husso, posted
a Really Bad Start causing them to lose 6-3.
States and Russia met in the second quarter final match with the top ranking USA expected
to easily advance. The game did not
follow this script as the Russian goaltender, Igor Shestyorkin, stopped nearly
every puck he faced while the American tender Thatcher Demko did not have the
greatest game (yet not bad enough for a really bad start). Despite USA controlling 51% of possession, Russia was able to defeat the USA 3-2 and advance.
Denmark went as expected in the third quarter final match. Canada
dominated Denmark, controlling over 78% of possession, while their goaltender Zackary Fucale posted a
shutout. With neither the Danish goaltenders, or their skaters, unable to control the dominating offence of Canada, the Danes were eliminated.
Republic and Slovakia, the fourth quarter final match, was another unexpected upset as the third ranked Czech
lost to 10th ranked Slovakia. The game was fairly even in terms of possession (51% for Slovakia) and both goaltenders
posting a quality start. Thanks to the
efforts of Slovakia’s Denis Godla posting a shutout the were able to
advance. At this point it starts to become clear why Godla was clearly the best goaltender of the tournament and likely inflated his draft value for this summer.
their quarter final match, Canada was able to dominate Slovakia, while Fucale
posted another Quality Start. Canada controlled over 66% of possession and the score would have been greater if it was not for the Slovakian Goaltender. This is
the only match in the entire tournament, in all 6 of his starts, where Godla did not post a Quality
faced Sweden in their semi-final match, and the game was closer that the pre-tournament possession
estimates would have suggested. Leading into the game, Russia
had the slightest edge but it mattered little since the Swedish goaltender Soderstrom struggled. He let
in 4 goals on 27 shots in this game earning a Really Bad Start. Russia controlled possession, in close situations, in this game at a level similar to Canada vs. Slovakia, posting over 65% in terms of possession.
Bronze Medal match it was Sweden vs Slovakia and initially the possession statistics
suggested Sweden was heavily favoured to win. Sweden was in not control of possession in this game (52% for Slovakia) and the combination of
Godla playing extremely well and Soderstrom allowing 4 goals against on 28
shots caused Sweden to lose the match. Sweden was sorely disappointed to walk away from the tournament empty handed while Slovakia was celebrating for days.
Medal match results were quite interesting. Canada was favoured to win this match but in the end Russia heavily dominated the Canadians who just barely held on to win. Russia controlled 53% of possession in the close situations and 58.8% of Shots For.
The Canadians managed a 23.8% shooting
percentage, which was necessary to win, as Fucale posted a Really Bad Start in
this game allowing 3 unanswered goals by the end of the game. This is only one of two matches in the tournament where a goaltender posted a Really Bad Start but was still credited with the victory (the other was to Czech Republic). Had the skaters not had that shooting percentage Canada would have compared 2015 to 2011.
In one game
elimination tournaments, PDO kills.
At the completion of the tournament Canada won the gold medal and sat at the
top of the possession charts. Possession rankings does
not matter as much in single games where luck has such a heavy influence on the
outcomes. If you order the teams by PDO the top four teams are: Canada,
Sweden, Russia and Slovakia; the same four teams to win entries the medal round.
international tournaments, it’s as important to be lucky as it is to be good..