Using the power of mathematics to win hockey games
By Daniel C. Bryndle
The Key to Guaranteed Wins in Hockey Games
I wrote the book “A Fly on the Wall in the NHL” in 1994 as a gift to family and friends and to those that were interested in the NHL’s “middle years,” from 1970-1983. It is simply a recounting of the most memorable and influential moments I spent fitting players for hockey equipment in dressing rooms around the National Hockey League and the AHL.
During that time, I sat through their practice sessions to wait for the team I was assigned to fit. I would watch the greatest shooters of that time at practice, and get to speak to some of the game’s greatest coaches. Having said that, I am an “outlier” in the process; someone who was there but unnoticed. By strict definition, an outlier is “one who is situated away from the main body or system.” I wasn’t part of the team or league, even as I experienced the intensity of the teams, players, and coaches.
That experience of sitting and watching those teams, along with my burning desire to understand how the great shooters scored so much, contributed in part to the development of the Win Now Matrix for the NHL. I quickly learned that this is the key to guaranteed wins in hockey.
The explanation of the matrix, and what it does, comes after considerable self-study in applied analytics in both business and sports. I have modified the four pillars of personal growth that I featured in my book “Win Now for Life,” to winning immediately in both the NHL and all ice hockey games.
The 4 Pillars of Personal Growth
- Significant high-percentage data-point capture
- Data stacking
- Applied captured momentum
Through trial and error, I have come to understand how to apply these four pillars to ensure immediate wins in the NHL. The four pillars in concert applied in any game can create up to a 95% winning outcome, with up to 28 data points stacked.
Here is an example of how the Win Now Matrix benefited my grandson’s youth hockey team. The Bantam hockey league in Upstate New York was structured like the NHL, where in the playoffs the best team plays the worst team until only two teams remain. I had attended every practice and asked the coach before the playoffs what the chances were for his team to win it all. His answer surprised me: “We won’t win. The number one team in the league has scored twice as many goals as we have during the season. We are good defensively, but we can’t score.”
Without hesitation I told the coach (who was a local high school history teacher) about my theory. I then explained that the number one scoring play in the history of the NHL, from the number one scoring player in the history of the league, comes down to one play: the Peek-a-Boo.
It works this way: When the players have the puck in their zone, they should go straight toward the goalie like they intend to shoot the puck and then take the puck behind the net. There are five ways to score:
The 5 Ways to Score for Guaranteed Wins
- Tuck the puck in the right corner
- Tuck the puck in the left corner
- Make a pass to the right wing
- Make a pass to the left wing
- Pass to the center
The players and coaches on the other teams will not know how to react. You will catch them by surprise, and the players will be confused as well. The play is called the Peek-a-Boo because the player with the puck behind the net makes the goalie look over his shoulder to see where they are with the puck. The player with the puck then goes to the other side and in effect says “peek-a-boo” to the goalie.
As it turned out, my grandson’s team made it to the finals and it was a very big deal in our little town. The stage was set: The players’ names had been placed above every locker; the stands were full; the announcer introduced every player; and the theme from Rocky was piped across the system at the game’s start. It was indeed the highest-scoring team in the league they were playing, with twice as many goals scored all season compared to my grandson’s team.
His team won that game in the second overtime and that coach’s son scored on the Peek-a-Boo, tucking the puck in on the goalie’s right corner. The coach saw me in the stands and motioned for me to come onto the ice with the team to celebrate. As I approached him, he high-fived me and said that was all they practiced since I told him about it. It was a major celebration and you can well imagine how excited those boys were at the local pizza place. No doubt this was a prime example of using the Win Now Matrix as the key to guaranteed wins.EZGoal Hockey Folding Pro Goal with Backstop and Targets, 2-Inch, Red/White
With that said, the introduction to the Win Now Matrix began back in 2001 with a Stanley Cup series in Buffalo, New York, with my hometown team. The most recent application was last year (2019), in the Stanley Cup series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets. In both cases the winning teams that were supposed to lose won—and won big. The losing teams have searched for answers as to what happened. One team’s goalie’s dream season came to a crashing end in Buffalo. The other team’s owner said he felt his team would never recover from that collapse, without an explanation. Well, here is one explanation—if you can believe it.
The first data point that was offered to the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff teams I contacted was the league stats on scoring distance. Eighty percent of all goals in the NHL are scored within 20 feet of the net space. The key to guaranteed wins means increasing your team’s scoring chances. Make sure every player that shoots on net is aware of that, and should only shoot inside that space or when another player is inside that space. Using the same ratio, I suggested that all of the goals scored on any goalie are scored in that relative space. I then recommended the team look at similar ratios in penalty minutes relative to games won, and so on with high-percentage events, both offensively and defensively. By stacking those ratios, and expecting momentum, teams would control the game.
The final pillar is Safety: No unnecessary penalties. No fighting. Play rope a dope. It’s all true; every word of it. The teams won immediately.
I will continue to introduce this approach to select teams that are interested, when the Stanley Cup is eventually played this year. As the coronavirus continues to take a regrettable toll on people’s lives around the world, a high-scoring and well-played Stanley Cup series by underdog teams may help us all feel that life is returning to normal, and that there is an opportunity for any team in the playoffs to win it all. And that goes for hockey played at any level.
Daniel C. Bryndle, developer of the Win Now Matrix, has worked extensively with the NHL and AHL. He is the author of “A Fly on the Wall in the NHL” and “The Win Now Matrix.” For more information visit danielbryndle.com.
CrossIceHockey.com is reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.