Game of the Week: Wild at Nashville (6pm Sunday, FSN Plus)
Advanced statistical analysis is becoming part of every sport, but the thing that strikes me is how forehead-smackingly simple some of the conclusions turn out to be. In baseball, one of the great conclusions was that outs -- wait for it -- are bad, because after three of them your team has to start over from scratch.
Hockey, too, has seen an expansion of advanced analysis. Allow me to sum most of the advanced stats up in three sentences: A team must score more than its opponent to win. The team that does not possess the puck cannot score. The number of shots a team takes in a game -- including the ones that are blocked or miss the net (depending on the stat) -- is a pretty good representation of how often they had the puck.
Got that? The conclusion is that having the puck is good. Forehead-smacking, right?
I bring all of this up because I want to direct you to the excellent extraskater.com page for the Wild, which contains handy charts that show off a graphical look at the Wild's season. On that page, you can also find the most telling stat for Minnesota: over the past three games before playing Colorado on Saturday, at even strength, Minnesota was getting out-shot more than two to one by their opponents. Winning streak or no, that does not bode well for the Wild.
What else to watch
Sunday, noon: Niners at Panthers (FOX)
3:30pm: Chargers at Broncos (CBS)
There is one reason that football, brain injuries and shortened lifespan aside, will never die, and here's that expressed in one number: 47,100,000. That's the number of people who tuned in to the Packers-49ers game last Sunday, the most-watched wild-card game ever. Or another number: 22, the number of NFL regular-season games that drew more than 25 million viewers, up from eight last year.
This is why ESPN has turned itself into a 24/7 NFL pregame show. This is why NFL talk is inescapable in any scenario. This is why football will never go away; it's America's favorite game and has the eyeballs to match.
6pm Sunday: Wolves at San Antonio (FSN). The Wolves are having one of the weirdest seasons I've ever seen. They are second in the NBA in offense and seventh in defense, and any ranking based on those two stats has them among the top six or seven teams in the league. Yet they're tenth in the West and 18-18 overall, all because they either lose by two (0-10, famously, in close games) or win by 27, like they did Friday night. This game will likely be close. 0-11 or 1-10?