Cullen: Shots and save percentages into Cup Final

Scott Cullen

5/30/2011 11:51:21 AM

While the look at shots on goal and save percentages didn't provide a great indication in the first round (5-3), it's been on the right side of each series since, leaving just the Stanley Cup Final matchup to measure.

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 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, including the first two rounds of the playoffs, and splitting the difference.

Vancouver has averaged 31.9 shots on goal per game and Boston has allowed 32.9 shots on goal per game; the average of those two numbers is 32.4 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 expectations for the Cup Final:

Team SF SA Goalie SV% Expected GF
Vancouver 31.9 30.5 Roberto Luongo 0.927 14.52
Boston 32.7 32.9 Tim Thomas 0.936 16.15

Verdict: While Vancouver is the series favourite, by more than two-to-one odds (-235 to -240) depending on where you're grabbing the line, the Bruins have a chance as long as Tim Thomas is kicking.

The shots on goal numbers don't offer a significant difference between teams, with the averages suggesting that Vancouver might outshoot Boston by less than one shot per game (32.4 to 31.6), while Thomas would hold an advantage over Luongo, preventing nine more goals per 1000 based on save percentages to this point in the season, which comes down to the difference noted above over a seven-game series when the total shots on goal per team might be expected to be in the 220-230 range.

What remains problematic for the Bruins is that their power play continues to fire blanks -- 1-for-24 (4.2%) in the series against Tampa Bay -- and if the power play isn't generating quality shots, it's entirely possible that Roberto Luongo will be able to stop an even higher percentage than he has to this point in the season.

On the other hand, Vancouver's power play destroyed San Jose, going 9-for-24 (37.5%) in the series, and if the Canucks' power play is clicking, it will be awfully difficult for Thomas to maintain his exceptional save percentage.

Vancouver is expected to have centre Manny Malhotra back in the lineup, for his first action since suffering a serious eye injury March 16, as well as defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who missed the last two games of the San Jose series after suffering a shoulder injury. Both should help Vancouver's special teams, Malhotra on the penalty kill and Ehrhoff on the power play.

Both teams have been relatively top-heavy in their goal production. Vancouver's top three goal-scorers -- Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows -- have scored 22 of Vancouver's 50 playoff goals (44%). Boston's top three goal-scorers -- David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand -- have tallied 24 of the Bruins' 58 goals (41.4%).

In Vancouver's case, that is actually quite similar to their goal distribution from the regular season, whereas Boston had a much more balanced attack. Perhaps the most notable difference for the Bruins is that, to this point in the playoffs, Milan Lucic has scored just three goals, after tallying a team-high 30 during the regular season. The Bruins would obviously have a better chance if Lucic starts producing like linemates Krejci and Horton offensively.

If Boston's special teams don't improve, it's hard to like their chances, but it also seems like they're in a decidedly better position than a team considered such a prohibitive underdog.

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