Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Looking Back at Chicago-Boston Stanley Cup Finals

This year's NHL Stanley Cup finals between the victorious Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins, which ended a little over a week ago, contained some streak-related developments. To depict these streaks, as well as experiment with information graphics more generally, I created the diagram below. Just start reading in the upper-left corner (corresponding to Game 1, Period 1) and follow the path clockwise, through Games 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Each little box (tinted red for Chicago and yellow for Boston) represents one minute. Goals are depicted by red goal-light symbols and black boxes in the timeline, whereas penalties are denoted by referee-shirt logos and light-blue bars in the timeline. You can enlarge the graphic by clicking on it. Because of the diagram's size, I had to divide it into three sections (top, middle, and bottom), so you'll have to click on each section separately to enlarge it.

Each team went through a major scoreless streak during the series. The Bruins didn't score for a span of 100 minutes and 57 seconds (starting roughly 6 minutes into the third period of Game 1 and ending nearly 15 minutes into the second period of Game 2). This stretch is depicted via the dashed black line. The Blackhawks later topped that, experiencing a scoring drought of 129 minutes and 14 seconds; after scoring at the 11:22 mark of the first period of Game 2, Chicago didn't light the lamp again until nearly 7 minutes into Game 4. This span is shown with a dashed red line.

Another offensive difficulty for the Hawks was the power play; for the series as a whole, they scored on only 1 of 19 instances in which the Bruins had a man in the penalty box (a few times, a Chicago player was sent off at the same time as a Boston player, which would not be a power play).

The most memorable aspect of the series would have to be the closing moments. The Blackhawks led the series 3 games to 2, but trailed in the closing minutes of Game 6 by a 2-1 score. Chicago then stunned Boston with two goals just 17 seconds apart (with 1:16 and 0:59 remaining) to win 3-2. Tom Tango cited an estimate that Chicago had only a 3% chance of winning the game before its late outburst and noted the oddity of both teams being in a position to pull its goalie in the same game (a team down a goal in the closing minutes will almost always bring its goalie to the bench to substitute in a sixth attacking player).

Weird things can happen in hockey (see this video of quick goals), but Chicago's manner of clinching this year's Cup is one for the ages. 

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