Tag Archives: save percentage

Why are the hockey playoffs so unpredictable?

The NHL playoffs have many more upsets than the NBA. Adrian the Canadian tells me that this is ruining their product, since the most exciting teams often get unlucky and bow out early. I can’t help but agree — I stopped watching this year after my favorite team (the Red Wings), my local team (the Bruins), and probably the best team (the Penguins) got bounced. The NHL wasn’t always so unpredictable — the Canadiens, Islanders, and Oilers won 13 of 15 cups between 1975-76 and 1989-90. Adrian’s theory is that the the rise of the butterfly goalie has increased save percentages, which makes outcomes more random.

It’s pretty easy to show that increased save percentages do indeed muddy up the result. I generated 1,000 simulated games for three sets of parameters. First, the 1980s (before the butterfly):

  • Both teams: 89% save percentage
  • Team A: 32 shots per game on average
  • Team B: 28 shots per game on average

Then, for the late 90s/early 2000s (butterfly goalies, slightly fewer shots on average perhaps due to popularity of the neutral zone trap): Continue reading

The shootout: worth the publicity?

My beer brewing partner and long-time rugby teammate Luke sent me a New York Times article about shootouts in the NHL (he’s also a former hockey player). I’ve been playing ice hockey consistently for the first time this fall/winter and following the Red Wings a bit more. Even at my crappy level, the speed of the game is intoxicating. The old argument is that it’s a bad TV sport, though, because of blind spots against the boards and difficulty finding the tiny puck (with bigger TVs and HD, this is changing).

The NHL instituted shootouts to get people watching hockey again following the 2004-2005 lockout (along with smaller goalie pads and less restrictive passing rules). Lots of NHL games used to finish in unsatisfying ties, even with overtime. Shootouts resolve things quickly without dragging players through endless OT periods.

However, shootouts reward individual skill in a fundamentally team-oriented game. The article above explains Continue reading