Visualising team scoring during the 2021 IIHF Women’s Worlds

The 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship concluded with Team Canada breaking a nine-year drought and winning their 11th championship in the tournament on home ice. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin sniped an all-timer in overtime that no one knew was in except her. Shortly after play continued on the ice, the horn sounded to mark that Poulin’s shot indeed beat American goaltender Nicole Hensley to complete the comeback.

This year’s championship included plenty of action and storylines, from the Canadian-American rivalry, a thrilling overtime Swiss victory over the ROC in the quarterfinals, a resilient German team playing despite having a short bench, and underdogs in Japan and Hungary finishing at all-time best positions in the tournament. The list goes on, and after seeing the 2020 edition cancelled due to the pandemic, the return of best-on-best women’s hockey was welcomed by many.

Team scoring in the 2021 Women’s Worlds

In the 2021 Worlds, ten teams competed against each other, with Canada, USA, Finland, Russia playing as the ROC, and Switzerland playing in Group A; and Japan, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Denmark playing in Group B. Notably, Team Sweden was absent from the tournament.

The final 2021 tournament finishes were as follows:

1 Canada
2 United States
3 Finland
4 Switzerland
6 Japan
7 Czech Republic
8 Germany
9 Hungary
10 Denmark

One way to recap the tournament is to look at how each team got their scoring—whether they had top-end offence up and down their roster or if a few players carried the load instead. In the past, I’ve made data visualisations for the NHL regular season showing exactly this, called NHL Point Share Shells. They present a quick way to compare team scoring depth against one another while still highlighting individual player scoring too.

IIHF Women’s Worlds Point Share Shells

By plotting total player points as a bar chart and wrapping the resulting chart around in a circular manner, it makes a shell shape that enables quick comparisons of team scoring depth. Each radial bar thus represents the point total of a single player, and going clockwise from the top shows the highest scorer on a team through to the lowest scorer.

The use of the circle provides a visual cue of which teams had lots of players that scored, as more of the circle is filled in angularly. USA had 21 unique scorers in the tournament, and their shell thus goes almost all the way around the circle (22 unique scorers would show a plot completing the loop as that was the maximum number of skaters on any roster).

For a full breakdown of the design and intent of the point share shells, you can watch my talk or read my notes from the 2020 Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey Analytics Conference (CBJHAC).

Total points are then listed as well as the games played by each team. In a short tournament, there are discrepancies that exist purely based on total games played alone. Six teams played the maximum seven games, while the Czechs and Germans each played six games and Hungary and Denmark both played four. Comparing two shells to one another is aided with the context of games played, especially since the total games played by any team is relatively small.

Without further ado, here’s how the IIHF Women’s Worlds Point Share Shells turned out.

In the tournament, Team Canada had the top four scoring leaders, led by tournament MVP Mélodie Daoust’s 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists), followed by Brianne Jenner, Natalie Spooner, and Poulin putting up 11, 9, and 9 points, respectively. Following the top-four group were Petra Nieminen (FIN), Alena Mills (CZE), and Lee Stecklein (USA) who all tied with seven points apiece.

Looking at the shells, Canada and USA were by far the most dominant, as expected. Many players on both rosters contributed to the scoresheet at one point or another. Team Canada scored 88 total points among their players, while USA scored 76.

The next highest scoring team was Team Czech Republic, who ended up finishing seventh in the tournament despite having one of the better offences. Following them was Finland, who earned a bronze medal after facing off against Switzerland.

The Swiss’ had one of the poorer offences despite finishing forth in the tournament. In seven games played, their 12 points scored was the third lowest total. They were led by Phoebe Staenz’s three points coming from one goal and two assists. Their finish was highly commendable as they did so despite suffering a huge setback in losing their star player Alina Müller to injury.

Both the ROC and Japan were able to get solid team scoring as well, as both of their shells showcased scoring by committee. Unfortunately for Germany, they were severely shorthanded due to injuries sustained throughout the tournament and played their final game with only 15 skaters. Despite that, they also saw many players get on the scoreboard, albeit to a less frequent extent.

Finally, Hungary and Denmark. It wasn’t until they faced off against each other that Hungary finally saw an offensive outburst, scoring five goals against the Danes. Prior to that, both teams were having hard times finding the back of the net. With Hungary stepping up to close out their tournament experience, they secured a surprise ninth place finish.

Hungary’s scoring lead was held by Fanni Gasparic’s five points, with two of her four goals coming in their final game. Denmark was led by their captain Josefine Jakobsen’s three points, who scored two of her team’s three total goals in the tournament and assisted on the other.

A tournament for the ages

The return of the IIHF Women’s World Championship was much anticipated. In a great outcome of finding a way to successfully plan for it in Calgary after cancelling it in Halifax last year, the tournament showcased top-end talent pitted against each other over the course of ten action-packed days.

Canada taking the win over USA in overtime was a storybook ending—the drama could not have been any more built up with this rivalry. After nearly a decade without a title as well as finishing in third place finish in 2019 and outside the top-two for the first time in IIHF Women’s Worlds history, Canada’s return to the top could not have been any sweeter.

The point share shells offer another way to recall and retell the tournament, as it’ll be one worth remembering for years to come.

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