Analyzing clutch: goal scoring

We usually count goals equally. The truth is, though, that goals are not equal in value. Goals impact the final outcome of the game differently by the state of the game of the goal was scored in. This calculation is called WPA, win probability added.

WPA is calculated as the win probability for the scoring team after the goal was scored subtracted by the win probability before the goal was scored. I added up all of the WPA added from his goals to calculate the total amount of win probability a player added to his team with his goals. Here are our leaders.



If we really want to talk about being an impact goal scorer, this statistic is going to do a much better job then just their goal totals. This statistic is telling us what each players goals have meant to his team.

WPA is a combination of his goal scoring and the impact of those individual goals in aggregate. Here is the leaderboard for average WPA added for goal scorers this year, minimum 15 goals scored.



  ” …we play for the thrill of being that clutch player in key situations.” – Devon Setoguchi 

It’s always fun to look at the top of a list like this and squint hard enough until you start to see the kind of intangibles that might lead to this player being able to score in big moments. The truth is though, that there is largely nothing to it. There are some interesting players here though. Eric Fehr has punched above his weight in goal production with his timeliness this season, including a big game winner versus the New York Rangers in December.  T.J. Oshie has been the third most ‘clutch’ player this year, an eyebrow raiser when considered in tandem with his heroic performance at this years Olympics.

Our least clutch goal scorers list:



Devin Setoguchi’s goals have been 221% more important then Martin Hanzal’s this year.


What can we learn about a player from his clutchness in scoring? Very little, as no player seems to have any reasonable capacity to sustain any significant deviation from the mean ‘clutchness’ in large sample sizes. I think these kind of statistics have value though in their ability to tell us what has happened, and how a player has provided value to his team, as opposed to giving us any real information about his future.

You can find WPA and clutch, defined as the average WPA of a player’s goals above or below the mean in our player stats page.

About Matt Pfeffer

Matt Pfeffer is a contributor to The Hockey News and Hockey Prospectus, where he also manages the statistics on the site. He is the statistical analyst of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League, and has consulted for several pro hockey teams.

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