Cullen: Shots and save percentages into Round Two

Scott Cullen

4/28/2011 11:49:37 AM

With the puck ready to drop on the second round of the NHL playoffs, it's time for another look at some expected results using shots on goal and save percentages.

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 has averaged 31.9 shots on goal per game (regular season plus Round One) and Nashville has allowed 30.4 shots on goal per game (regular season plus Round One); the average of those two numbers is 31.15 shots, so that's the number that is then multiplied by (1 - the opposing goaltenders' save percentage in the regular season and playoffs) 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, in the land of probability, the team that scores more is more likely to win the series.

It's no guarantee, however. In the first round, Chicago lost the series despite scoring more than Vancouver, while Los Angeles and Montreal both scored the same amount as the series winners, San Jose and Boston, respectively. Obviously, how the goals are distributed over the games in the series makes a difference.

Nevertheless, here are the second round expectations:

Team SF SA Goalie SV% Expected GF
Vancouver 31.9 30.3 Roberto Luongo 0.926 16.14
Nashville 29.0 30.4 Pekka Rinne 0.926 15.36

Verdict: Two elite goaltenders, both nominated for the Vezina Trophy this year, could make the series close, but the Canucks would appear to have more firepower at their disposal. Of course, it looked like Vancouver might have held a goaltending advantage going into Round One, but Chicago's Corey Crawford matched Luongo, so maybe Rinne can do the same for Nashville.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF
San Jose 34.8 28.8 Antti Niemi 0.915 20.83
Detroit 33.7 30.6 Jimmy Howard 0.909 18.59

Verdict: Detroit made short work of Phoenix in the first round, in a series that looked like Phoenix would have an advantage between the pipes. Going into Round Two, the Sharks would appear to hold the edge due to more shots for and fewer against, but if the Red Wings could get Ilya Bryzgalov off his game, it would stand to reason that they might be able to pull the same feat against Antti Niemi, particularly now that leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg is due back in the Red Wings lineup.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF
Washington 31.3 29.1 Michal Neuvirth 0.924 17.00
Tampa Bay 31.3 29.4 Dwayne Roloson 0.920 16.07

Verdict: Among the starting goaltenders in the first round, Dwayne Roloson (.949) and Michael Neuvirth (.946) posted the best save percentages. While some of that is a reflection on the Penguins and Rangers, respectively, it's safe to say that both are playing well. The edge goes to Washington, though their ongoing run of injuries (notably Dennis Wideman and Mike Knuble) figures to make an already tight margin even tighter.

Team SF SA Goaltender SV% Expected GF
Philadelphia 32.1 30.1 Brian Boucher 0.918 14.29
Boston 33.0 32.7 Tim Thomas 0.937 18.11

Verdict: It's easy to project a goaltending advantage for the Bruins over the Flyers, as one might expect when the likely Vezina winner goes up against a team that is rolling the dice to the point that they started three different goaltenders in the first round. But, Brian Boucher seemed to settle into the role, particularly in the last couple games against Buffalo, when he stopped 50 of 53 shots. With defenceman Chris Pronger more of a factor, the Flyers may be able to cut into the Bruins' expected goaltending advantage.

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