The Noon Number: 41.3

41.3.

In the midst of this long streak with no Vancouver Canucks game and therefore fewer oddities left to discuss, I'd like to point you out to an odd discrepancy in the NHL standings, specifically, the Northwest Division.

This one has already been covered in part by our friends in Winnipeg over at Arctic Ice Hockey. It has a bit to do with the Minnesota Wild's apparent turn-around this season (getting Second City Hockey fans griping at me is going out of style. I'm on to Hockey Wilderness now) even though they have, seemingly, failed to improve except in one key aspect:

Save percentage. 

Save percentage makes up one half of PDO, the most important statistic in modern hockey analysis. Right now, Minnesota have a .413 Fenwick percentage, which means that only 41.3% of all shots and missed shots with the score tied are directed at the other team's net. Fenwick percentage is regarded as a key stat for predicting future events.

Let's first look at the standings in the Northwest Division right now:

GP Wins OT Pts
Minnesota 20 12 3 27
Edmonton 20 10 2 22
Vancouver 20 10 1 21
Colorado 21 9 1 19
Calgary 19 8 1 17

(all data collected via the wonderful scripts of Timeonice.com.)

So, Minnesota are the best team, right?

Well...

FenTied SV% Sh% PDO (SV% + Sh%)
Vancouver 0.539 90.9 6.6 97.5
Colorado 0.519 93.1 6.6 99.7
Calgary 0.500 91.4 6.6 98.0
Edmonton 0.490 93.4 6.8 100.2
Minnesota 0.413 95.6 9.0 104.6

Minnesota's PDO with the score-tied is still pretty high, while Edmonton's has come back down to earth. With the score-tied, Minnesota are getting better-than-Tim-Thomas-last-year goaltending, which isn't likely to continue. Clutch? No. Lucky? Yes. Here is Niklas Backstrom's save percentage at even strength since he became the starting goalie: .925 - .923 - .912 - .928 - .953. The last one is from this season.

By the pure FenTied measure, Vancouver should be a much better team. So why aren't they? Check that PDO, still the lowest in the division. The Canucks, unlike the Wild, cannot buy a save at even strength this season. Is that goaltender ability or luck? Well, I'm more ripe to make judgment on the Canucks goalies looking at a bigger sample size than a smaller one, and we can find those numbers from last season:

Here are last season's Northwest Division standings:

GP Wins OT Pts
Vancouver 82 54 9 117
Calgary 82 41 12 94
Minnesota 82 39 8 86
Colorado 82 30 8 68
Edmonton 82 25 12 62

And the advanced stats:

FenTied SV% Sh% PDO (SV% + Sh%)
Vancouver 0.539 93.9 8.2 102.1
Calgary 0.520 91.0 7.1 98.1
Colorado 0.460 91.2 7.5 98.7
Edmonton 0.437 91.3 7.5 98.8
Minnesota 0.437 92.0 8.4 100.4

You can see that winning percentage lines up more with FenTied than with PDO once 82 games are played.

Perhaps the Canucks were lucky last season. They had a very high EV SV% in score-tied situations and a strong shooting percentage to boot. A bit of regression was to be expected, but not like the luck they've been getting so far. People ask me often how long it takes for the luck to turn around, and the answer truly is "I don't know". We have no way of predicting individual games and it can take sometimes two years for the luck to even out.

But where I'm sitting, I'm at least feeling good thinking that Mike Gillis is probably aware of these numbers as much as any General Manager in the league is and isn't about to do anything drastic with the roster and will instead let his team play out of their funk. Who knows about Chuck Fletcher in Minnesota. Luckily for him, he doesn't have the assets like Joe Nieuwendyk had in Dallas last season. Remember when Nieuwendyk held on to Brad Richards at the trade deadline to keep him aboard for a playoff run, despite the team having poor underlying numbers and being much worse than their position in the Western Conference standings? How did that season turn out anyway?

Also, another nugget from AIH, pertaining to the comment section of this post. I am, thankfully, well-stocked with a six-pack of Granville Island Winter Ale.

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