Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend wrap: Are you feeling lucky?

A look back at the biggest games and emerging story lines of the NHL weekend.

Theme of the Week: As Luck Would Have It

Let’s check in on everyone’s favorite stat: PDO, which adds up a team’s shooting and save percentages to come up with a number that settles in around 100, give or take a few points. Both shooting and save percentage are heavily luck-driven, so a PDO that’s significantly above or below 100 can be an indication that a player or team’s performance is being influenced by random chance, meaning it’s less likely to continue. PDO outliers aren’t always the result of luck and luck only — there’s some evidence that talent level and playing style could sustainably boost a team a point or two over 100, for example — but that explanation goes a long way.1

So who have been the NHL’s luckiest and unluckiest teams? The five top PDOs belong to the Predators (103.5), Penguins (102.8), Flames (102.3), Devils (101.6), and Canadiens (101.2).2 That pours some cold water on two of the Western Conference’s best early-season stories in Nashville and Calgary, and the numbers look especially glum for the Flames, a bad possession team shooting a league-leading 10.26 percent that can’t possibly continue. On the other hand, the Predators, Habs, and Devils are seeing their PDO driven more by strong save percentages, and all of those teams have All-Star-caliber goalies. Still, Nashville’s in for a drop — since 2007-08, only one team has stayed over 103 for an entire season.3

At the other end of the PDO scale, five teams are sitting below 98.5. Not surprisingly, three are having lousy seasons: the Oilers (96.4), Blue Jackets (96.9), and Hurricanes (97.5). That tells us those teams should expect at least some improvement as the season goes on. That’s not much consolation, since all three are basically already out of playoff contention, but it’s worth keeping in mind when deciding how hard to lean on the panic button. The Capitals (98.2) have been another disappointment, but they’re still in the Metro mix and are worth keeping an eye on once their luck starts to even out.

That fifth low-PDO team is a weird one: It’s the Vancouver Canucks, who’ve actually been overachieving based on preseason expectations. Their shooting has been fine, but their .901 save percentage is second-worst in the league.4 That doesn’t reflect well on big-money free agent Ryan Miller’s play, but if he drifts up closer to his career average, the surprising Canucks could turn out to be for real.

Cup Watch: The League’s Five Best

The five teams that seem most likely to earn the league’s top prize: the Stanley Cup.

5. Chicago Blackhawks (12-8-1, plus-19) Hey, look who finally decided to join us. The record still isn’t much to look at, especially when you factor in the three shootout wins, and they lost to Vancouver last night. But the goal differential and the league’s second-best possession numbers earn them a spot, albeit just barely ahead of the Canucks and Ducks.

4. Montreal Canadiens (16-6-1, plus-4) I was all ready to give their spot to Boston if the Bruins had won their showdown on Saturday night. Instead, the Habs looked great while earning a road shutout. You keep finding new ways to make me sad, Bruins.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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