Radical Stat Proposal: The Own-Goal

I understand I may be a little biased when it comes to this subject, being a goalie and all, but before you judge, hear me out.  Think about how many times during the course of your hockey watching career you have seen a goal hit an unsuspecting defender’s skate/pant/shin pad and go in behind a goalie who should have been innocently watching that puck sail wide.  Should the goalie be responsible for this?  If the goalie does his part to keep the shooter from putting the puck into the net only to be foiled by his own teammate, should the stats reflect his “failure”?

Therein lies the crux of the issue.  If you were to quantify the number of times the puck inadvertently bounced off the defenseman into the net in his own stats, as an evaluator, can tell that number most likely represents a fluky sample.  However, it is much more difficult to extract those types of situations from traditional goalie stats.  Let’s say hypothetically that our sample defensive group is guilty of 12 own-goals for the season.  Unless some deeper statistical tendencies (a subject for another post) could be derived from the number, you can see that 12 instances of bad luck found their way into the back of the team’s net.  If those twelve goals were embedded into the rate stats for the goalie for the season, it changes the equation significantly.  For example, last season Hank played 66.8 games (4007 min.) and had a very respectable 2.28 GAA.  He allowed 152 goals during that time.  If you subtract our own-goal sample out of 12 goals, it brings his goals allowed down to 140.  His GAA goes from 2.28 to 2.10. His save % goes from .923 to .928.

This exercise works for two purposes.  First, is proper allocation of responsibility for what occurs on the ice.  While it may seem harsh to punish the defensemen tying a guy up in front of the net who falls victim to a bad bounce he probably couldn’t have avoided, this happens all the time with the +/- statistic.  Back-checking forwards can be victimized by the dreaded minus because a 2-on-1 goal is scored.  Seems unfair, right?  The goalie playing the position properly should not be held responsible when a shot, which is not a shot on goal, falls into the back of his net due to one of his teammates.

The second purpose is one of evaluation.  As I mentioned before, it is much more difficult to dig these fluky situations out of goalie’s rate stats.  All they do is serve to skew the perception of the goalie’s abilities when examining these stats.  Also, if one defensemen has an excessive amount of own-goals over the course of a large enough sample, it may tell you something about that defensemen’s positioning tendencies.  Assuming you can draw information outside of small sample-size noise, it could be a useful tool in improving defensive positioning.

The NHL will probably never adopt the own-goal statistic, but I think that it makes a ton of sense.  From a defensemen’s standpoint they are an isolated incident.  As long as they fall within an average statistical range, they can be dismissed as bad luck.  For the goalie, it can be the difference between a good season and a Vezina season.  As the statistical evaluation models become more advanced and we start to quantify more minutia that happens on the ice, I still hold out some hope we could employ this type of stat to understand that line that blurs skill and luck.

* For clarification purposes, the scoring on the own-goal would still be a goal for the last offensive player to touch the puck, but would be treated like an empty net goal for the purposes of goalie stats and credited to the defensive player whom the puck deflected off of.

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  1. There’s a flipside to what you’re proposing.

    Goaltenders would still get credit for all the times they stop the puck off of those bizarre bounces. So you’re really just unnecessarily inflating save percentage, unless you’re going to treat every situation off a defender’s skate (or similar) as an EN situation.

    1. You raise an excellent point Smurf. Unfortunately the statical argument to your counter-point would be the weakest one, but I feel there are very valid logistical and philosophical reasons to implement the stat.

      From a statistical standpoint, the advantage you give to a goalie by giving him credit for a save in the same situation that you do not penalize him for allowing a goal is less significant than the other way around. Last season, Hank made 1813 saves. He allowed 152 goals. Obviously a goal is more heavily weighted in the calculation than an individual save. You would have to eliminate more than 10 saves to equal 1 goal. I would absolutely entertain the argument for a results-neutral application, but I think the “advantage” the goalie would receive is far less than the current disadvantage of not having own-goals applied.

      From the logistical standpoint, since goals are a finite event, it is easier for a stats keeper to isolate and identify the instances in which an own-goal were to occur. It would be a daunting task to say the least if the stats keeper had to go through film of every game and remove a shot on goal every time a goalie made a save on a puck that deflected off one on his own players.

      From a philosophical standpoint, the goalie would indeed be having an inflation of his save %. Although I would argue it is not an “artificial” inflation. As a goalie I can tell you that when a puck deflects off a teammate, it 1.) catches you completely by surprise and 2.) changes direction way too fast for a human being to fully react to it. Most saves in these situations are made by good positioning, instinctive movements and to a certain extent, luck. Many of these types of shots do not change direction all that much, and your positioning for the original shot is sufficient to handle the change in direction. It’s the ones that take extreme angular or height changes that usually end up in the back of the net. So the point of all that was if you remove saves based on deflections off teammates, the presumably dominant percentage of which changed direction minimally and basically acted almost as the original shot would, it would be less fair than not punishing goalies for extreme angular changes, many of which took place less than 6 inches from the goal line.

      The stat has existed in Soccer for a long time, and I don’t believe they try and mitigate the flip side.

      1. You don’t have to explain the nuances of playing goal. I may not be earning a living off it, but I played at various levels for 20+ years.

        A situation like Dan Boyle in SJ the other night, where he actually shot the puck into his own net? Sure, I could see that being credited as an ‘own goal,’ which is the best comparable for the Soccer analogy.

        I just don’t see this being an epidemic that needs solving. I’m tracking scoring chances anyway, I’ll make a note for the rest of the season of goals of this type. I don’t expect to come up with more than 2-3.

        1. Smurf, I didn’t mean to come off as rude with the explaining the goalie perspective. If you have played, you obviously understand, I just know its a very foreign thing to people who haven’t experienced it.

          I never said it was a problem or an epidemic that needed to be fixed. It was a concept that I felt was worth exploring. For me, it’s not so much righting an injustice, but giving ourselves more information when analyzing a player’s ability. A goal like that tells you nothing about a goalie’s ability, and you may erroneously draw conclusions from data that includes it.

          1. Didn’t consider it rude, sorry if my response reads snarky. You obviously have no way of knowing my background, so was just pointing out that I have a decent understanding of what’s going on there.

            My point on the lack of ‘epidemic’ is that changes like this aren’t likely needed when you’re talking about low-event situations. Yes, ~12 saves off a d-stick are needed to offset a goal, but I’d imagine a goal with strong positioning is making at least that many. 1800 saves in a season, I would guess that around 100 come via defensive deflection, give or take.

  2. nah…no need…because there are a ton of blocked shots by defenders..as well…we could say so in theory we could say 1 out of 20 shots blocked could have found the back of the net, or all 20 shots could have gone in. A goal is a goal.

    1. I don’t have the statistical data in front of me at the moment, so I’m going to base this on experience. Most blocked shots come from the perimeter of the ice. Very rarely are shots actually blocked in the “danger area” of the ice. They are often deflected, but from a responsibility standpoint, the defensemen shouldn’t have left that player in a position to take a shot from that area to begin with.

      ‘Cmon leather, even in all your old-schoolness, you really think Hank should be held responsible when the puck is shot wide and it hits a shin pad in front?

  3. Conversely, if someone other than the goalie makes a save that is a shot on goal, who gets the stat? Ryan McDonaugh during the Winter Classic for instance.

    1. Bob, the NHL scores those plays as a blocked shot, not a shot on goal. In my proposal, that system would remain unchanged.

  4. Justin from your goalie perspective, if the hyopthetical defenseman is tying up a guy in front of the net and the puck goes a couple inches the other direction and deflects off the offensive player instead of the D, is there a difference?

    Does it make a difference whether the puck was deflected on a shot vs say a deflected pass?

    1. You make a good point. In that case the statistics take care of themselves. If the puck goes in off the offensive player either the goal will be waived off if he did it unfairly, or it will be that player’s goal.

      Philosophically, it’s a little more complicated and thats your point. From an evaluation perspective it shows us just as little as the own-goal version of the play, but that’s one of the small flaws with requiring a finite way to measure it.

      I take it your second question is assuming the puck still goes off the defenseman. In that case, no it doesn’t matter, it’s simply a puck that is not shot on goal that finds its way there via the defensive player.

  5. Anyone have any thoughts on making the own-goal a subjective standard for the scorekeeper? Maybe he must find some fault in the defensive player’s conduct to justify the call?

    1. How about, if a goal results from a play that otherwise would not be counted as a shot on goal if the defensive player had not interfered, count it as an own-goal. e.g. a pass across the top of the crease deflected by D’s skate

      The scorer is already subjectively determining what is/is not a shot so this wouldn’t be a stretch from the current setup.

      So an attempted shot going wide before the defensive player deflects it would not have resulted in a shot on goal and counts as an own-goal. A puck shot from behind the goal line into a bunch of legs that would otherwise have passed right through and out the other side, same story.

      think Suit’s Quality of Shot metric would be more useful. can’t prove it but guessing having a solid D that keeps all shots to the far perimeter has swayed more Vezina votes with inflated goalie stats than the statistical impact of own-goals.

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