Tag Archives: shoot outs

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

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Time for shootouts to go?

Here’s a fun fact. NHL first round winners were 45-54 in shootouts in the regular season. First round losers were 63-43.  Here are the match ups (higher regular season point total first, shootout record in parentheses, winner in bold):

  • Rangers (4-5)  vs. Ottawa (6-4)
  • Bruins (9-3) vs. Capitals (4-4)
  • Devils (12-4) vs. Panthers (6-11)
  • Penguins (9-3) vs. Flyers (4-7)
  • Canucks (8-7) vs. Kings (6-9)
  • Blues (4-10) vs. Sharks (9-5)
  • Blackhawks (7-7) vs. Coyotes (6-10)
  • Predators (5-5) vs. Red Wings (9-3)

So, the team with the lower shootout win percentage won seven out of eight series. The team with the higher point total only won four out of eight (Rangers, Blues, and Predators), in part because good shootout records inflated some teams’ point totals. Why do we still have shootouts again?