Cullen: Shots and save pct. into the NHL Conference Finals

Scott Cullen
5/14/2012 12:07:15 AM
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Last spring, I started taking a relatively simple mathematical look at each series, using shots on goal and goaltender save percentages to determine which team might be expected to win the series.

Through two rounds, this system is 6-6, not exactly setting records, but this year has brought quite a few upsets to the postseason.

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 expected results in a seven-game series.

The calculations below are rather simple 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 31.5 shots on goal per game and Los Angeles allowed 27.4 shots on goal per game; the average of those two numbers is 29.45 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, but the odds certainly favour the team that scores more.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Los Angeles 30.3 27.7 Jonathan Quick 0.931 14.66
Phoenix 29.3 32.2 Mike Smith 0.933 13.82

Verdict: The two best goaltenders through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith are going to have a big say in which team goes to the Stanley Cup Final. Quick is in the better situation because he has a Kings team that plays better in front of him, outshooting the opposition more consistently and the Kings have more high-end talent, players that are more likely to score on a higher percentage of their shots.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
New Jersey 28.1 27.7 Martin Brodeur 0.910 13.95
N.Y. Rangers 28.7 28.0 Henrik Lundqvist 0.931 17.77

Verdict: There isn't a great deal of difference in the relative talent on the Devils and Rangers, but there is a decided advantage for the Rangers in net, where Henrik Lundqvist has played at a high level all season. Martin Brodeur is a legend and played well in the second half of the season, but if Lundqvist plays at a similar level to what he's established this season, the Devils will have to outrageously dominate the game when it comes to territorial play, unless Brodeur turns back the clock and shuts down the Rangers. It's true, the Rangers don't have the league's most vaunted attack, and they had their trouble with rookie Braden Holtby in the second round, but there are enough skilled players on hand to take advantage against the Devils.

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

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