NHL

Cullen: Shots and save pct. into Rd. 2 of NHL playoffs

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Scott Cullen
4/27/2012 2:17:57 PM
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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.

In the first round, it turned out an entirely mediocre 4-4 record, missing on Nashville, Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey. No one said it was a system without flaws!

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, St. Louis has 30.6 shots on goal per game and Los Angeles has allowed 27.8 shots on goal per game; the average of those two numbers is 29.2 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 30.7 27.8 Jonathan Quick 0.931 11.87
St. Louis 30.6 26.8 Brian Elliott 0.941 14.16

Verdict: This series figures to be a low-scoring affair, but that could be an over-simplification because the Kings scored more than three goals per game for the last quarter of the season and the Blues are more capable offensively now that they are healthy up front (which means David Perron, Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen, who all missed long stretches of the season are in the lineup). Nevertheless, the goaltenders played at an extremely high level this season and it carried over to the first round. With Brian Elliott taking over for injured Jaroslav Halak in the Blues' net, St. Louis gets the edge -- tough to beat the best save percentage without dominating the possession game.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Nashville 27.3 30.9 Pekka Rinne 0.924 13.95
Phoenix 29.4 32.2 Mike Smith 0.933 16.04

Verdict: While Los Angeles and St. Louis stifle the opposition's scoring opportunities, both Nashville and Phoenix are more in the vein of a counterpuncher, allowing quite a few shots, yet backed by a top-notch goaltender. Smith was outstanding in the first round against Chicago and probably will need to be similarly outstanding against Nashville in Round Two if the Coyotes are going to advance..

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
Washington 28.1 30.6 Braden Holtby 0.932 13.57
N.Y. Rangers 28.6 28.1 Henrik Lundqvist 0.931 14.09

Verdict: Henrik Lundqvist has years of strong play supporting his impressive work this season, so there is no illusion about his ability to play at an elite level. When it comes to Capitals rookie Braden Holby, however, he doesn't have that same experience and the question is, how long can he keep it up? Maybe Holtby is the real deal and will lock down Rangers shooters like he did against the Bruins in Round One -- after all, the Rangers aren't blessed with a lot of high-end scoring in their own right -- but in a series that projects to be close with Holtby playing well, the edge still goes to the Blueshirts.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF/Series
New Jersey 27.8 27.8 Martin Brodeur 0.909 17.44
Philadelphia 31.9 28.5 Ilya Bryzgalov 0.911 19.01

Verdict: As the other series have excellent goaltending, the Devils and Flyers have more question marks. Martin Brodeur isn't at his peak (the man's closing in on 40, after all), but had a strong first round performance against Florida. Under normal circumstances, the Devils wouldn't have much shot based on Brodeur's save percentages at this stage of his career, but Ilya Bryzgalov isn't the most trustworthy goaltender going either, so if either one of them gets on a roll, that could swing the balance. While the Flyers played well against Pittsburgh in Round One, it will be interesting to see what they do against at least competent goaltending.

 

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.

Brian Elliott and Blues celebrate (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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