clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Stanley Cup Final 2016: A quick guide to avoiding junk stats

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The war over the use of statistics in sports is as pointless as most of the very real wars we as a species insist on continuing ad infinitum. So I'll spare you the ranting and raving about why you and your grandpa should drop goalie wins in favor of corsi and fenwick. Quite frankly, it doesn't really matter.

What does matter, at least on some small cosmic level, is that you're going to hear a lot of stupid and pointless statistics over the next 48 hours. Some of this is because media members have too much time on their hands and not enough useful information to provide (okay, guilty) and some of it is because, for god only knows what reason, people eat this shit up.

For instance: The Sharks are down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final. I know. It sucks. Do you know how many times a team down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final has gone on to win the Cup? For many of you, the answer is yes because everyone and their damn grandmother Tweeted, Facebooked or texted this stat as soon as the final horn sounded on Wednesday night.

The answer is twice. Two times a team in a 2-0 hole has crawled back to lift Lord Stanley's chalice. That tells you something about what happened in the past, but I'll be damned if it tells you a single thing about what's going to happen in this series. The reasons for this are nearly infinite. You'll hear this phrase a lot: Correlation doesn't equal causation. That's true — and it's almost universally disregarded by sports media.

Before game two, everyone wanted to talk about the Sharks ability to rebound after a loss. San Jose was 4-1 after a loss this postseason! Did you know that? You probably did. This stat doesn't matter — not because the Sharks lost, although that probably makes my case more compelling to you, but because something happening in a totally different set of circumstances doesn't mean it's going to happen again.

Yes, the Sharks bounced back to defeat teams they were better than. I'd be hard pressed to find a San Jose fan who can say the Sharks are a better team than the Penguins after what we've seen in the past two games. Okay, so yeah, that's a small sample size too, you got me.

My point is that while many in the media seem all too keen to take a dump on "advanced analytics" and "possession metrics" they're happy to serve you up a bullshit stew made up of "goals scored on Thursdays" and "hits + points = grit" — or whatever it is they're doing these days. So do your best to tune out the awful nonsense you'll see spewed on NBC Sports and NHL Network, and yes even Twitter, over the next couple of days. It'll only make you angry — or worse, dumber.