BI and the NHL Playoffs

Jun 25, 2011

I find that living in the DC area, one doesn't find a whole lot of hockey fans in your everyday interactions. Most people are into baseball, football, and even soccer. But hockey – not so much – not nearly as much as in my hometown. Living here for almost 20 years now, I've become a Caps fan. This season was promising and the beginning of the post-season even more hopeful of a run at the Stanley Cup. We know how that ended, but more on that in a moment.

When a Canadian friend of mine who happens to work for SAP Business Objects, forwarded a link to me that showcases their BI platform, I was intrigued. It takes full advantage of their analytics and data exploration technologies using hockey statistics. I mostly deal with higher education related data like student enrollment, retention, financial aid, and human resources. This was different and fun!

I took a look at how Washington stacked up against their second round rival Tampa Bay. Hmm. Not such a good picture. Tampa Bay had higher average Goals For and lower Goals Against. Their offense and defense looked better by the numbers. I looked at the goalie save percentages. I compared some key individual players from each team. Everyone thought the Caps would keep winning and go to the finals. After exploring some of the data and visualizations, I wasn't so sure of a spot in the finals. And, in fact, it didn't happen. Sadly, the numbers seemed to support that outcome. Certainly there is more to hockey than just numbers. Passion for play, pure skill, wanting to win, and luck sometimes create amazing upsets. That's what happened in last year's post-season. (And seemingly in every year's March Madness for all of you college basketball fans!)

Of course statistics don't always tell the whole story. Lots of other variables can come into play. And often good analysis includes domain knowledge with the human element to enhance any interpretation. But I can't help thinking that those stats didn't lie, and the results certainly bear that out. Now with Vancouver in the Cup finals and Tampa Bay winning tonight to force a game 6, It's time to go back and do a bit more research and exploration!

Take a look at the site. Play around. Even if you don't know much about hockey, it's a good way to become familiar with some of the great analysis and visualization tools available in Business Objects. Maybe you can improve your chances of winning the office Stanley Cup pool!