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Outperforming xG Is The Secret To Success

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A mystery surrounding the Golden Knights, since Bruce Cassidy became the head coach, has been the correlation between expected and actual results.

Last year in the playoffs, Vegas was expected to score 73 goals while allowing 72. In reality, they scored 88 while allowing just 57. Thus, they outplayed the expected results by 30 goals in 22 games.

The numbers haven’t been as staggering this year, but the Golden Knights remain an outlier to the expected goals system.’s expected goals have VGK at +6 (150-144) while their actual goal differential is +25 (157-132).

There are all sorts of reasons why the Golden Knights’ numbers skew this way, but it’s all somewhat hypothetical and there’s not one clear reason, so we’re going to leave that alone for today. Instead, we’re going to focus on areas in which the numbers have shown some significance.

We’ll start super simple. When the Golden Knights finish a game with more expected goals than their opponent, they are 14-5-2, when they finish with fewer, they are 14-9-4. It’s definitely an indicator of success on a game-to-game basis, but not nearly as much as you might expect. There’s a .122-point percentage difference for the Golden Knights. The Oilers are much more indicative with a difference of .202 (22-9-1 when win xG, 6-6-0 when lose xG).

Where it’s mattered a little more is when the Golden Knights win the xG battle by a significant margin. When VGK post at least a 60% expected goals percentage, they are 6-2-1, while when they are at 40% or less, they are 3-2-2. A difference of .151 points percentage, a bit more than the .122.

The biggest difference for the Golden Knights is how they perform compared to their expected goals. In theory, the more expected goals you rack up, the more likely you are to score. However, for Vegas, that hasn’t always been the case. They’ve generated at least three expected goals in 18 games this season, but they are just 9-7-2 in those games. When they’ve actually scored three or more, they are 24-2-4.

On the flip side, it has worked the same. When VGK allow fewer than three expected goals against they are 19-6-3. When they allow fewer than three actual goals, they are 20-1-2.

What has shown to be the biggest difference maker for the Golden Knights has been their ability to outshine expected goals, both offensively and defensively.

When the Golden Knights score more than they are expected to they are 19-2-4. When they don’t, they are 9-12-2. That’s a massive points percentage difference of .405.

The same goes when they keep the puck out of their net at a better-than-expected rate. VGK are 22-3-3 when they allow fewer goals than expected while they are 6-11-3 when they don’t. An even bigger points percentage difference of .464.

That’s a lot of numbers, I know, so let me show you them in a simpler fashion.

VGK have more xG than opponent
14-5-2 (.714)
VGK have fewer xG than opponent
14-9-4 (.593)
Difference: .122

VGK have at least 60% xG
6-2-1 (.722)
VGK have at less than 40% xG
3-2-2 (.571)
Difference: .151

VGK outscore xG
19-2-4 (.840)
VGK don’t outscore xG
9-12-2 (.435)
Difference: .405

VGK allow fewer than expected
22-3-3 (.839)
VGK allow more than expected
6-11-3 (.375)
Difference: .464

This is where the Golden Knights are not abnormal against their divisional foes. When the Oilers stop more pucks than expected, they are 22-0-0 this season. The Canucks are 23-3-2 and the Kings are 18-4-6.

When the Kings outscore their expected goals total, they are 16-0-3. The Oilers are 17-2-0 and the Canucks are 23-3-2.

So, it really is simple. It doesn’t matter how many expected goals you generate or how many you allow, you just have to either outscore or out-defend one of them. Score more than expected, or stop more than expected, and you pretty much always win the game.

**All stats for this article were sourced from**






  1. JB

    So, score more than expected and stop more than expected, you win. THAT takes a bunch of computer stuff to tell us that? It’s just common sense,isn’t it? Anyway,
    let’s go out and win this game tonight. Just do more than the computer says! Ha

  2. Emmanuel

    Im a big fan of analytics but I think they are more accurate with set piece sports like Baseball & Football. When the game is more fluid like Basketball & Hockey there are HUGE outliers.

  3. JB

    LT is like a box of chocolates, on the road. You never know what you are going to get.

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