Cullen: Looking at shots, save pct. heading into Rd. 1

Scott Cullen
4/13/2011 11:31:57 AM
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As the NHL playoffs get underway this evening, I'm taking a relatively simple look at each series, using shots on goal and goaltender save percentages to determine which team might be expected to win the series.

Since I'm the first one to emphasize that overall statistics (or standings) are not necessarily representative of the current value for a team, especially with respect to injuries, these statistics merely provide a baseline for the series, perhaps providing an idea what a team needs to do in order to emerge victorious.

In some cases, teams will simply need to keep doing what they've been doing throughout the regular season; in others, they might need better goaltending, or fewer shots against, or more shots for -- just something -- to provide better results in a seven-game series.

So, the calculations below are rather simple, at least when compared to the spreadsheets used for the Power Rankings, and the expected goals for each team in the series are determined by taking each team's shots for and against over the course of the season and splitting the difference.

So, Vancouver had 32.0 shots on goal per game and Chicago allowed 28.7 shots on goal per game; the average of those two numbers is 30.35 shots, so that's the number that is then multiplied by (1 - the opposing goaltenders' save percentage) to determine an expected goals per game.

Finally, the number is multiplied by seven to indicate an expected goal total for a seven-game series. There's no guarantee that scoring more goals in a series will result in winning four games first (see Detroit vs. San Jose last year as one example), but the odds certainly favour the team that scores more.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Vancouver 32.0 30.1 Roberto Luongo 0.928 17.63
Chicago 32.2 28.7 Corey Crawford 0.917 15.70

Verdict: If Crawford outduels Luongo, or the Blackhawks turn in a stifling defensive performance -- maybe if they can get David Bolland back at some point in the series -- they could upset the Canucks, but these numbers (which don't reflect strength of division) suggest Vancouver deserves their favourite status.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
San Jose 34.5 28.9 Antti Niemi 0.920 17.91
Los Angeles 28.8 27.9 Jonathan Quick 0.918 16.16

Verdict: San Jose is a significant favourite even using the Kings' overall numbers, which doesn't account for the absence of leading scorer Anze Kopitar or the potentially-limited status of RW Justin Williams, who may play with a harness on his recently dislocated shoulder.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Detroit 33.6 30.7 Jimmy Howard 0.908 18.30
Phoenix 30.3 32.6 Ilya Bryzgalov 0.921 19.64

Verdict: The Wings will have their hands full, which isn't surprising considering they went seven games with the Coyotes last year. Take Henrik Zetterberg out of the lineup and these numbers favour the Coyotes even more, so the Wings will need Jimmy Howard to be better than he's been for most of the regular season, or hope that Ilya Bryzgalov isn't on top of his game. If only the Wings had someone who would stand in front of the net and aggravate the goaltender to take away his edge. Paging Tomas Holmstrom!

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Anaheim 28.5 32.3 Dan Ellis 0.917 14.48
Nashville 28.8 30.6 Pekka Rinne 0.930 17.75

Verdict: Anaheim has reaped the rewards of strong goaltending from Jonas Hiller and Ray Emery for much of the season, but it appears that Dan Ellis will get the start since Hiller and Emery aren't ready to play. Ellis has been better in Anaheim (his Ducks save percentage is the one used, giving him a major pass for his results in Tampa Bay) but, like most others in the league, he hasn't been as good as Rinne during the regular season. Can Ellis close the gap in a short series?

It's also worth noting that the Ducks allowed fewer shots from February on -- the addition of Francois Beauchemin likely helped -- so maybe they can tighten the projected margin by allowing something closer to the 28.5 shots per game that they've surrendered in February, March and April.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Washington 31.3 29.0 Michal Neuvirth 0.914 16.36
N.Y. Rangers 29.9 29.4 Henrik Lundqvist 0.923 17.73

Verdict: The numbers indicate that the Rangers hold an advantage in goal, but that's no surprise. If the Blueshirts are going to knock off the top-seeded Capitals, they'll need strong play from Henrik Lundqvsist, while hoping that the return of Mike Green doesn't ignite the Capitals' offensively.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Philadelphia 31.8 30.1 Sergei Bobrovsky 0.915 18.38
Buffalo 32.8 30.7 Ryan Miller 0.916 18.71

Verdict: Indications are that this will be a close series, but as long as Philadelphia is missing D Chris Pronger, they're not the same team that generated these stats. Since Pronger was injured on March 8, the Flyers have five regulation wins in 16 games and only one came against a playoff team, so their momentum is nearly the opposite of the Sabres, who lost once in regulation in the last dozen games to get into the playoffs.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Boston 32.9 32.7 Tim Thomas 0.938 17.22
Montreal 31.7 31.0 Carey Price 0.923 13.97

Verdict: It's no secret that the Canadiens need Carey Price to win the goaltending battle with Tim Thomas for the Habs to pull off the upset, but when Thomas set the record for save percentage this season, these numbers naturally favour the Bruins.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Pittsburgh 31.5 28.7 Marc-Andre Fleury 0.918 18.54
Tampa Bay 31.8 28.7 Dwayne Roloson 0.912 17.36

Verdict: The numbers slightly favour the Penguins, though it's fair to suggest that Pittsburgh might not be as offensively dangerous so long as Sidney Crosby is limited to practice and not playing.

If Pittsburgh is going to win the series, they'll need Marc-Andre Fleury who, aside from some bumps in the road in February, has been really strong when the Penguins have needed him, to perform better than Roloson.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.

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