Dr Luck or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Analytics

The Penguins sit at 17-15-3, 2 points out of a playoff position. Seemingly a lackluster effort from a team who suffered a loss of veterans to free agency after the first back to back cup championship in the salary cap era. You’d expect a drop in performance and that appears to be the case with their record.

The numbers at 5 on 5 tell a very different story.

The Penguins currently are 29th in the league in goal for per 60 minutes of play at 1.91 GF/60. However, when you look at expected goals for per 60 minutes of play, the Penguins sit at 2.5 xGF/60, good enough for 11th in the league. That -0.59 goals per 60 differential is the 2nd biggest negative differential in the league only to the San Jose Sharks.

The story is not that dissimilar when it comes to goals against. The Pens are once again the 29th team in GA/60 at 2.88, but their xGA/60 is only 2.45, which is 23rd. Their -0.43 differential is once again the 2nd biggest negative differential, this time with the Florida Panthers being the winner (or loser, however you want to look at it).

To sum all that up into one nice simple term, let’s look at GF%, which is like CF% in that anything over 50, than you’re scoring more than you’re giving up. The Penguins have the 30th GF% in league at 39.84%. That means that for every 4 goals the Penguins score, they give up 6. That seems awful. However, when it comes to xGF%, the Penguins sit 50.53%, meaning that the Penguins should be scoring slightly more than they are giving up at 5 on 5. Now, stop me if this sounds familiar. The Penguins negative differential of 10.69% between expected goals for percentage and their real expected goals for percentage is the highest negative differential in the league by a significant margin.

This is all a result of the Penguins having a league worst 5 on 5 shooting percentage of 5.56% and a league worst 5 on 5 save percentage of .905%.

Now if we compare this to the previous 2 years, the Penguins had better xGF% in both years, but their differential between expected and actual goals for percentage in 15-16 was -0.75% and in 16-17 was +2.75%. The Penguins also shot at 7.54% and 8.6% at 5 on 5 in those respective years. If we take the conservative shooting% of 15-16 at 7.54% and apply it to the Penguins at 5 on 5 in 17-18, the Penguins would have scored 69 goals at 5 on 5 through 35 games, compared to the 51 goals they currently have. This would put the Penguins at 2.58 GF/60, a far cry from their current predicament and good enough for 7th in the league.

What does this mean? Well, the Penguins are unfortunately unlucky. I think we’ve done enough number crunching for one article, but the Penguins 5 on 5 save percentage averaged between 15-16 and 16-17 at .928%. It currently is .905%. While you can make an argument about blowouts skewing the 17-18 GA stats, the Penguins goal scoring issues are very much a result of awful luck.

Huge shoutout to Corsica.Hockey for the statistics.

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