Sometimes mathematicians or statisticians have a simple gut intinct about data. In my favorite book 'Against The Gods' written by Peter Bernstein, the gambling addict Girolamo Cardano has a suspicion that a certain play gains him a very slight advantage and is therefore profitable. His instinct proves true upon further investigation by a famous mathematician of his time Blaise Pascal which he has consulted. The hunch I started with but couldn't quite put my finger on until I consulted the statistics was that the Nanooks were improving as a team and in net...
My basic premise was that the team has played much better in the second half of the season and even better in the last 10 games than the first half. Upon further investigation a couple of things stood out and if you are like me it will come as quite a surprise. But enough foreshadowing, lets get to the numbers and figure out the conclusion together.
In the first half of the season (18 games) the 'Nooks scored 55 goals (3.06 GFA)and surrendered 54 goals (3.00 GAA) a very marginal difference for a record of 8-10-4. In the second half 14 games thus far, the Nooks have scored 55 goals (3.92 GFA) and surrendered just 35 goals (2.5 GAA)a statistically significant difference. A wonderful improvement right, wait it gets better. In the last 10 games the Nanooks have scored 46 goals (4.6 GFA) and surrendered only 23 goals (2.3 GAA).
Prior to the final 10 games Keeney was 3-3-2, Jones 4-5-1 and Cahill 1-2-1. In the last 10 games Keeney has gone 1-1-0 and Cahill is 7-1-0. The recent winning streak of 8 of the last 9 games means that the Nanooks are now fighting with their arch rivals for home ice in the playoffs this weekend.
Let's delve deeper into the goaltender statistical archives and tempt fate even further. Since Cahill has gone 7-1-0 in his last 8 starts his GAA has dropped to 2.25 per game. How good is that you say? Well he has continued to climb the Goaltending Leaders list in the WCHA during that stretch and now occupies the number 2 position behind Minnesota State Freshman sensation Cole Huggins at 2.08. The recently dispatched C.J. Motte of Ferris State, resides in third place with a (2.37 GAA). Cahill was certainly the benefiary of the 'Nooks hanging 9 goals on Motte last weekend in two games at the Carlson Center as he passed him on his way to the top. Save Percentage currently has Sean at number 9 and rising. Finally, perhaps the ultimate test of a goaltender is his winning percentage, the WCHA leader is C.J. Motte at 22-7-3 or .734 and yes you probably guessed it by now but sitting in number 2 and heating up is Sean Cahill at .708.
If you attend the games this weekend and Sean is in net, let's let him hear it from the crowd. He and the team in front of him have made quite a run and they are absolutely on fire. So what have we learned from this somewhat long and arduous research project? Well, my business law professor in college was fond of the latin phrase "ipsa loquitor" or "the thing speaks for itself". In other words, the facts (stats) in the case lead to only one logical conclusion. One of my favorite mathematics instructors believed that the "proof was in the pudding". Translation: he felt that it was easy to make profound claims in math but it was a bit more difficult matter to prove them. I had suspected after the Nooks made their recent run from 9th place to a tie for 3rd that they had improved significantly. What I was not expecting to find in the data which Malcolm Gladwell points out in his best selling book of the same name was that Sean Cahill and the Nooks had become statistical 'Outliers' in their league. No team in the conference would want to face the Nanooks if they can maintain their current momentum.
Go Nooks, Math Rocks!
The Stat Guy