From the speed of play to the shape of the puck to the simple fact that the game is played on an unnaturally slippery surface, the nature of the sport of hockey lends itself to see outcomes determined by a fair amount of luck.
For years the stat nerds have tried to quantify the term “puck luck.” The idea is that once we identify what it looks like to be lucky, we can reasonably use the laws of variance to predict when a team will come back down to normal.
Baseball has been using these methods for decades. As the sport at the forefront of keeping and relying upon stats, it’s always been easy to see when a player is hitting .750 for a week, he’s probably going to regress in the near future.
That same idea is where our geeky friends came up with the term PDO. Like all good hockey stats, the name doesn’t make any sense. It literally doesn’t stand for anything as it was just a nickname of a blogger back in the early 2000’s. The stat is basically a measurement of puck luck as it adds shooting percentage and save percentage. The idea is that every shot results in a save or a goal, when you add them up for all teams the league average will always be 100%. So, a team or player with a PDO above 100 is lucky and expected to regress while a number under 100 is unlucky and expected to get better.
Why do I tell you all of this? Well, because the Golden Knights have been on an incredible run of fortunate PDO to start the season. They currently sit at 104.3 at 5-on-5 which is 2nd in the league behind the Vancouver Canucks (108.8). That means regression is coming. Right?
Hold on a second.
In the playoffs last season the Golden Knights won 16 of 22 games en route to winning the Stanley Cup and never faced an elimination game. They did it with an incredibly lucky PDO of 106.5.
Last year, after the All Star break, those same Golden Knights went 22-4-5 to win the Pacific Division and clinch the #1 seed in the Western Conference. They did it with an incredibly lucky PDO of 104.1.
Let’s recap. 104.3 this year. 106.5 in the playoffs. 104.1 in the latter half of the season last year. Some (most) would say this is unsustainably lucky and the team is in for a major regression in the near future. I’m a little more skeptical of that and have been beginning to wonder if maybe this is a trend more so than a blip.
Admittedly, I’m a believer in PDO for the most part. The current Vancouver Canucks, yeah, I think they’re going to regress big time. So typically, I’d see the numbers for Vegas and think the same. But, the numbers have stayed in the “unsustainably lucky” category for far too long to keep fitting this team into the same box as everyone else.
So, I set out on a mission to figure out why, or maybe how, the Golden Knights are doing this, and more importantly, if it’s sustainable.
After digging into the numbers in all sorts of different ways, the first part of the explanation as to how the Golden Knights have maintained a strong PDO is the location of the shots they take compared to the ones they allow.
Let’s start by looking at this year’s numbers. On the season, the Golden Knights have taken 269 shots on goal while allowing 306. Here’s where they’ve come from.