Teams of the Decade: Shooting and PDO

We've seen in numerous contexts that the key to winning hockey games is outshooting your opponents: in the long-run (like a decade), your shooting percentage will converge to near the league-average, as will your goalie's save percentage, making shot differential and goal differential one-and-the-same. So it should come as no surprise that four of the top five teams in outshooting their opponents were also at the top of the leaderboard in wins:

WIN% GP SF/G SA/G DELTA
DET 645 738 32.6 26.3 6.3
NJD 572 738 30.6 26.2 4.4
OTT 589 738 30.8 27.2 3.6
STL 507 738 28.2 25.9 2.2
DAL 566 738 27.6 25.6 2.0

The Blues are the only outlier here, and it's because they were simply unable to put together a good goaltending tandem before this season. For nearly a decade, they could barely find a league-average starter, but still managed to make the playoffs six times. Given their dominance in shot counts, it was an egregious oversight in the team-building department.

What about the opposite end of the spectrum?

WIN% GP SF/G SA/G DELTA
MIN 489 656 26.1 29.1 -3.0
CBJ 399 656 27.2 30.2 -3.0
PIT 458 738 27.3 30.6 -3.3
FLA 455 738 29.1 32.5 -3.4
ATL 390 738 27.2 31.9 -4.7

There aren't many surprises down here either: three expansion teams, a Panthers team that made the playoffs three times in 16 years, and a Penguins team that was bad enough to be able to draft Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in the span of three seasons. Well, there is one exception on that list, the Jacques Lemaire-led Minnesota Wild:

PDO SH%F SH%A
MIN 1011 9.7 8.5
OTT 1009 10.4 9.5
COL 1008 10.2 9.5
MTL 1008 9.9 9.0
SJS 1007 10.0 9.3

PDO is the sum of shooting percentage and save percentage. At a team-level, over nine seasons, with changing personnel, it gets pulled very strongly towards 1000. Clearly, some teams, like Ottawa, Colorado and San Jose, are able to exceed it, usually by having a very good offensive team that gets more power-plays than its opponents. But Minnesota is a clear outlier, pushing its PDO to the top of the league through exceptional defense and suppression of shots in the slot. Montreal's story isn't quite as clear since the Habs cycled through six coaches in less than a decade, but they appear to have had tremendous goaltending as opposed to an exceptional defensive strategy like Lemaire does.

As for the other end:

PDO SH%F SH%A
NYI 992 9.2 10.0
CHI 991 9.5 10.4
CAR 990 9.2 10.2
CBJ 990 8.9 9.9
TBL 989 9.5 10.7

I don't think anybody's surprised to see Tampa at the bottom of this list given their goaltending and defensive woes. Chicago and the Islanders have iced some very bad teams too. Columbus plays adequate defense but has always had trouble putting any goals on the board. But what about Carolina? The Hurricanes have simply had really bad goaltending during the season but have turned it up in the playoffs - Cam Ward has posted .915 and .920 save percentages in the post-season, while an Arturs Irbe/Kevin Weekes tandem hit .938 on the way to a Stanley Cup loss in 2002. We tend to remember Carolina's strong finishes, but they've frequently been very, very bad during this decade.

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