Sharks vs. Blues: San Jose is a better team when not chasing hits
Actually, pretty much all team's are.
Way back in the first round, which seems like an eternity ago, the Kings started the first game of the first round taking the physical game to the Sharks. I tweeted about it at the time:
Don't get caught up in the big hits. Both teams are physical, but leading in hits isn't gonna be the difference in this series.— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) April 15, 2016
Was I right? Obviously the Sharks won, but what did the hit count end up at? It's worth noting that there's plenty of arena-to-arena scoring bias for hits and that the stat itself doesn't have much value. Turns out I was as the Sharks were outhit by the Kings 229-176 and yet somehow managed to win that series in just five games. Despite not standing up for themselves or their teammates, San Jose outscored L.A. 16-11 and outshot the Kings 133-125.
I know what you're thinking — how about Nashville? A similar narrative crept out after the Sharks lost game six. Had the Predators gotten into the Sharks heads? Was San Jose too tentative because the booming hits from Shea Weber had addled their fishy brains?
I think game seven definitely answered that question as the Sharks were outhit 46-31 and won 5-0. Over the series Nashville threw down 276 hits to San Jose's puny 224 (for some reason war-on-ice only has six games in the series, so I added the hits from game seven to that count).
Hits are a part of hockey, sometimes for the good of the game and often times for the reverse effect. There's nothing wrong with using a good, clean hit used to shift possession or to break up a play, but counting hits as a meaningful team statistic misses the mark by a mile.
When you make a hit, your team doesn't have the puck and when your team doesn't have the puck a lot you're probably not doing so hot in the hockey game. This isn't exactly nuclear physics and this is becoming a more mainstream opinion game by game, but so much time is devoted to the physical nature of a team that it's odd almost all of it revolves around a, frankly, shitty statistic.
This has been RT'd a ton tonight, so here is an update: 11-21 https://t.co/A5FZZ6YLqZ— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) May 16, 2016
That 11-21 record is for teams that have outhit their opponent by 10 or more in a single game. Gretz later tweeted the record since the 2013-14 playoffs:
Go back to the start of the 2013-14 playoffs it's 47-68.— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) May 16, 2016
.408 winning percentage.
I'm not saying hits are killing hockey or that the physical nature of a team is necessarily a bad thing, but when analysts talk about the Blues' win in game one you bet many will bring up the hit statistic. The ones that do don't know what they're talking about — the Sharks are a better team when they let teams chase hits. If San Jose is smart, it'll keep on deferring this part of the "physical battle" to St. Louis.