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Friday, March 20, 2009

Vancouver, Los Angeles, and the Third Kind of Lie

Mark Twain once quoted Benjamin Disraeli, saying:
"There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I was reminded of this quote while looking at the team statistics for both Vancouver and Los Angeles at the Game 70 mark. As I type this, Vancouver has overtaken Chicago for the 4th spot in the Western Conference, and is just 3 points behind Calgary for the division lead (and with it, the 3rd playoff seed). OGA called the Canucks IN the playoffs way back on November 20th, and their 8-1-1 surge over the last ten games has cemented their place in the postseason.

At the other end of the spectrum, Los Angeles is currently 13th in the West, sitting 7 points out of the 8th, and final, playoff berth. On Goal Analysis called Los Angeles OUT of the playoffs on January 31st, and they would need a hot streak on the magnitude of Pittsburgh, New Jersey, or Vancouver in order to prove OGA wrong.

Based solely on standings and record over the last ten games, the Canucks and Kings would seem worlds apart, and growing further apart with each game. Looking at certain team statistics, however, paints a surprisingly different picture. Consider the season-long performance of both teams, for the following categories:

Power Play...VAN: 18.9%(17th)...LAK: 20.1%(11th)
Penalty Kill...VAN: 80.2%(20th)...LAK: 82.8%(T-7th)
Shots/gm...VAN: 28.5(T-23rd)...LAK: 29.8(14th)
Shots Against/gm...VAN: 29.1(10th)...LAK: 27.6(2nd)
Win % when Scoring 1st...VAN: .683(14th)...LAK: .686(T-11th)
Faceoff win %...VAN: 51.3%(T-7th)...LAK: 52.3%(T-3rd)

Given the current playoff picture for both teams, those statistics are quite surprising. The next logical question is: What, then, has put Vancouver in 4th place in the West and Los Angeles in 13th?

The answer is found by applying Occam's Razor: Goals. Goals, both For and Against, separate these two teams.

GF/gm...VAN: 3.00(10th)...LAK: 2.59(23rd)
GA/gm...VAN: 2.64(6th)...LAK: 2.81(T-13th)

Scoring more and allowing fewer goals gives Vancouver the edge in two other critical categories: Win % when Trailing 1st and Win % when Leading after 2 periods.

Tr 1st...VAN: .345(14th)...LAK: .171(28th)
Ld after 2...VAN: .893(10th)...LAK: .840(24th)

Coming back after allowing the first goal in a game and holding a lead through the 3rd period are critical to overall success. Both of these stats are traced directly back to goals. Vancouver has a goal differential of +22, while Los Angeles is at -20, and that, ultimately, is why the Canucks are CHASING STANLEY, while the Kings are at TEE TIME.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis

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