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NHL Throws Us Nerds A Bone

Thanks to JavaGeek over at Hockey Numbers for pointing out that the NHL is using a new format for its game report files, starting with last night's exhibition game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.  For hockey stats analysts, this is a bit like Christmas in September; there are some welcome additions to the detailed information presented online after each game, although it will take some work to reconfigure how we pull that data down and bring it into a structured format.
 
Data Center
The Forechecker's in-home data center in action
 
Some of the new items of interest include:
 
Each play-by-play event includes the zone in which it occurs;
Each play-by-play event also notes which players were on the ice at the time;
Penalties include a "Drawn By" designation, that tells which player was on the receiving end of the foul;
Blocked Shots now tell us not just who blocked it, but who shot the puck as well;
 
Now granted, data accuracy appears to remain a concern.  I know this was only a preseason game, but I really doubt that Mike Hoffman scored on a 171-foot backhander early in the third period.  Yes, Dan Cloutier was in goal for L.A. at the time, but still...
 
This should open up some new areas for investigation when it comes to NHL player statistics.  Which skaters draw the most penalties?  Which defensemen are getting more or fewer shots blocked from the point?  Are there differences in effect between a hit in the defensive vs. offensive zone?  The list goes on and on.
 
Anyways, those of us who obsess over such things have some new fodder to chew on in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season.  Kudos to the NHL for taking at least a step in the right direction in adding this extra information.  If we could just be more confident in the accuracy of the data being posted, then we'd really be off to the races.

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