2014 Playoffs: Puck Possession Numbers So Far
One thing you’ll hear incessantly from statistically-inclined folk like myself – and yes I watch games too – is that there is a very strong correlation over the long-term between a hockey team maintaining good possession numbers and winning. Who are the best performers and worst culprits when it comes to puck possession so far in this year’s playoffs, and by extension, who has been riding the luck-train and who fell off before it left the station?
- The Minnesota Wild were outstanding at even-strength play during their series with the Colorado Avalanche, despite the fact the series went seven games. Colorado relied almost entirely on a hugely inflated shooting percentage. They find themselves up against one of the league’s best puck possession teams in Chicago, and they didn’t perform so well in Game 2, but put on a fine display in Game 1 despite the final (powerplay inflated) scoreline. Their shortcomings aren’t in the possession department so far, but rather in the awful goaltending they’ve received at even-strength from Ilya Bryzgalov.
- Dallas put up a very strong showing in their first round series versus Anaheim, and were unlucky not to come away with the win having handily outplayed the Ducks during much of the series. That series came down to the wire, but the Stars suffered from inferior poor goaltending going up against a team that has had an inflated shooting percentage all season long.
- Kudos to Marc-Andre Fleury, while this post-season dance hasn’t been without his usual hilarious gaffes in net, he has on the whole been very good for Pittsburgh following years of ineptness. History suggests that this high standard won’t sustain, though that’s not to suggest he’ll suddenly become awful again, merely that the Penguins are currently enjoying some stronger-than-usual goaltending. Given the perceived weakness of their blueline, and the failure (until recently) of their stars to score, that and some strong possession play has kept the team going.
- Boston have much the same story, with Tuukka Rask playing out-of-this-world hockey and the team playing a marvelous two-way game. They will need to improve on their awful shooting percentage, but a number that low suggests luck has not been their friend of late. This is a definite contender, though will need to improve on their 5v5 scoring – their powerplay has been great, but that can change in a hurry.
- Detroit are many things, but a team that shoots 2.7%? Given they shot at 8.8% during the regular season, and given the immense talent of many of their players, I think the answer may be a resounding, “no”. Many predicted that Gustav Nyquist’s incredible run would slow down, but as opposed to a gradual return to the mean he – along with several of his team-mates – crashed back to Earth. Players talk about “not getting the bounces”, well this was that multiplied ten-fold. Despite Jimmy Howard’s best efforts, Lady Luck was not looking kindly on Detroit.
- Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Tampa and Philadelphia, as they both struggled to score AND couldn’t stop pucks at even-strength. Not only that, but they were thoroughly outplayed by their opponents (Montreal and the Rangers respectively) in the puck possession game too.
- Montreal is a prime candidate for regression. Their PDO of 108 consists of both the league’s highest save percentage and shooting percentage, numbers that are highly unlikely to be sustainable. Carey Price isn’t superhuman, and the team is not the 1987 Edmonton Oilers. This doesn’t mean they are bad, it means that Boston is not relying on an unholy amount of goals being scored, and likely to improve.
- It’s not just a coincidence that the teams with the worst possession numbers are also some of the teams now on the outside looking in.