Crunching the Numbers...

It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a season for the Washington Stealth, who finished the regular season with an 8-8 record.  As they head to the playoffs on April 30, the Stealth is looking for some consistency in its game; the team has yet to string together more than two wins all season long.  In order to win a second National Lacrosse League Championship, the Stealth will need to win three in a row.

There’s no question the Stealth has the talent to go the distance.  Individually, Stealth players are littered throughout the NLL leader boards in a number of categories.  The two of the top three scorers in the league don the Red & Black, Lewis Ratcliff (92 points) and Rhys Duch (90 points).  Duch and Ratcliff are also ranked in the NLL’s top five in goals and assists, Paul Rabil is third in looseballs (153), Mike Grimes leads all defensemen in scoring (21 points) and is second in forced turnovers (27), Eric Martin is third in defenseman scoring (17 points), Bob Snider leads the NLL in face-off percentage for regular face-off men at over 71% and Tyler Richards is fifth in save percentage (.781).  And those are just the Stealth players ranked among the top five in those categories.

While those individual statistics are impressive, lacrosse is a team game.  The Stealth boasts the league’s top-ranked offense at 12.69 goals per game.  The Stealth also has the league’s top-ranked power play unit at 49.4%.  Defensively, the Stealth is at the other end of the league standings, ranked ninth out of ten in both goals against (12.38/gm) and penalty kill (55.7%).

Those statistics might make it easy to point the finger at the Stealth defense, but numbers can be deceiving.  When the Stealth is firing on all cylinders, it is a tough team to beat. Take a look at the table below and to see how the Stealth has been a different team in its eight wins versus its eight losses.





1a. Home Record



1b. Away Record



2. Goals Per Game



3. Goals Against Avg



4. Power Play



5. Penalty Kill



6. LB Differential*



7. Shot Differential



8. SOG Differential



9. TO Differential




* LB minus Face-Off Wins

Those nine statistics provide some insight into the differences in the Stealth in its eight wins versus its eight losses.  But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Let’s take a look at each one individually.

1. Home & Away Record
There’s no question that the Stealth would rather be playing at the Comcast Arena in the playoffs.  Dorothy said it best: “There’s no place like home.”  The Stealth is 12-7 at the Comcast Arena all-time, including 3-0 in the postseason.  But this year, the team holds a better record on the road.

2. Goals Per Game 
This one’s pretty simple.  The Stealth offense has scored nearly three more goals per game in wins than losses.  Only once this season did the Stealth lose a game in which it scored 14 or more goals this season.  Score more goals; win more games.

3. Goals Against Avgerage
Again, pretty simple.  The Stealth has allowed 4.5 more goals per game in its eight losses this season.  When the Stealth defense holds its opposition to ten goals or less, the team is 6-0 this season.  

4. Power Play
With the Stealth holding the league’s top-ranked offense and power play unit, it’s no surprise that the team’s power play efficiency was consistent all season long.  However, that 3.8% difference between wins and losses could have been a goal or two that didn’t get scored and could have changed the outcome of some games. The Stealth has also allowed 12 shorthanded goals this season, tied for second-most in the NLL.  Ten of those shorthanded goals occurred in Stealth losses.

5. Penalty Kill
A stat that the boys at preach regularly: teams that rank in the top three in power play and penalty kill are most successful in the postseason.  Last year the Stealth ranked among the top three in both.  This year, the penalty kill unit ranks ninth at 55.7%.  The top ranked penalty kill unit in the NLL belongs to the Toronto Rock at 65.2%.

6. Loose Ball Differential
Loose balls are a hugely underrated stat.  The more loose balls your team collects, the more possessions for its offense.  For this exercise, we’ve removed the loose balls collected as a result of face-off wins.  With one of the league’s best draw men in Bob Snider, the Stealth regularly dominates the face-off battle, adding that total to the loose balls.  So, in regular game play the Stealth still holds an edge in loose balls, but in wins it grabbed more loose balls than the opposition 29 more times than in losses.  That’s a lot more possessions for the NLL’s highest-scoring offense.

7. Shot Differential
Measuring shots not only gives an adequate assessment of the offense’s efficiency, but also the defense’s ability to keep the opposing offense in check.  Not a huge disparity between the Stealth’s wins and losses in this category, but the more telling stat might be:

8. Shots on Goal Differential
In eight wins, the Stealth has 18 more shots on goal than its opponents.  In eight losses, the Stealth has 21 less than its opponents.  More shots on goal equal more opportunities for goals to be scored.  It also means the defense has created more difficult chances for the opposing offense to get quality looks at the net.

9. Turnover Differential
Looking at this stat might make you scratch your head.  How can the Stealth have a larger turnover differential in wins than losses?  Turnover differential is as big of an indication on the type of play for the Stealth than anything else.  In a fast-paced, run-and-gun style of game that the Stealth plays, it gets more possessions on offense.  When the Stealth pushes the ball up the floor and is more aggressive, turnovers are more apt to occur.  

Bonus Stats
- The Stealth is 5-2 after a loss this season.  

- The Stealth has only lost two games by more than five goals this year, 1/14 vs. Minnesota and 4/16 vs. Rochester.  Following the loss to Minnesota, the Stealth rebounded with a 19-14 victory over Calgary.  The game after the loss to Rochester will take place this weekend in the Stealth’s playoff matchup against the Minnesota Swarm.

While it’s all good and fun to break down the regular season numbers, the bottom line is that none of this matters once the playoffs begin.  It’s win or go home in the NLL postseason and the games aren’t played on paper; teams settle it on the floor.



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