Saturday, December 03, 2011

Last night on the NHL Network's highlight show, it was pointed out that the Detroit Red Wings have been very streaky in their wins and losses thus far this season. Based on the team's game log, I created the following graphic of Detroit's streaks of wins (red) and losses (grey). If you want to see the little notations for games decided during a five-minute overtime (OT) period or a post-overtime shoot-out (SO), you probably need to click on the graphic to enlarge it.

As can be seen, the Red Wings won their first five games, then lost their next six, and so forth. One of the statistical methods of detecting streakiness is known as the runs test. A "run" is an uninterrupted sequence of entirely wins or entirely losses. The fewer runs a team has, the stronger the evidence of streakiness. After 24 games, Detroit has only five runs. Based on an online runs-test calculator, into which I typed a 1 for each win and a 0 for each loss, the Red Wings' number of runs was fewer than would be expected by chance (with a significance of .00082 for those of you with some statistical training).

In this type of analysis, one must be careful to check if the team's schedule contained stretches of easy or difficult opponents, which could inflate the amount of apparent streakiness. This may be the case to some extent for Detroit, but not totally. During the Wings' string of six losses, two were to Columbus and Calgary, both of which today are in last place in their respective divisions. Conversely, during its current seven-game winning streak, Detroit has beaten some of the league's better teams, such as defending Stanley Cup champion Boston, Los Angeles, and Buffalo. The November 25 win at Boston, in fact, snapped the Bruins' 10-game winning streak.

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