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October 8, 2009
One Goal Games
by Richard Pollock
In baseball, many times teams that lose a lot of one-run games attribute the result to bad luck and, as a result, expect their luck to turnaround the following campaign. Is the same belief applicable to the game of hockey?
It is an interesting question because in hockey, unlike baseball, you can directly change your style of play depending on the score of the game. So, perhaps teams that lose a plethora of one-goal games fall behind and are unable to put everything together in order to make comeback after comeback. On the other hand, maybe we can just chalk it up to sheer bad luck.
Letís take a glance at the past four post-lockout seasons to get a better look at whether teams that win/lose one-goal games see those results continue season after season.
Here are the five worst teams in terms of one-goal game winning percentage from 2005 through 2009.
2005/2006 Percentage of Final points Ranking in the NHL one-goal game victories In NHL standings in percentage of one-goal game victories Chicago .341 65 26 Minnesota .333 84 27 St. Louis .333 57 28 Boston .304 74 29 Pittsburgh 263 58 30
How do the same teams fare the following season?
2006/07 Percentage of Final points Ranking in the NHL one-goal game victories In NHL standings in percentage of one-goal game victories Chicago . 415 71 24 Minnesota .568 104 8 St. Louis .436 81 22 Boston .606 76 6 Pittsburgh .568 105 9
Well, as you can tell by the numbers, every team that finished in the bottom five in percentage of one-goal game victories, improved upon their prior seasonís percentage, points and NHL ranking. Admittedly some improve far more than others but, nonetheless, there was improvement across the board.
Does that stand up the following season?
2006/07 Percentage of Final points Ranking in the NHL one-goal game victories In NHL standings in percentage of one-goal games won Florida .361 86 26 Philadelphia .324 56 27 Los Angeles .314 68 28 Ottawa .313 105 29 Washington .273 70 30
2007/08 Percentage of Final points Ranking in the NHL one-goal game victories In NHL standings in percentage of one-goal games won Florida .468 85 19 Philadelphia .459 95 21 Los Angeles .333 71 30 Ottawa .516 94 10 Washington .512 94 13
Again, we see improvement across the board for NHL ranking. Granted the Kings improved slightly and still finished last in the NHL standings in 2007/08, but every other team saw improvement, with Ottawa and Washington showing the most substantial improvement.
The final standings paint somewhat of a different picture though, as Ottawa was eleven points worse and the Panthers a negligible one point worse. That said, those teamís one-goal game success, relative to the rest of the league, improved upon the prior season.
Will the overall improvements hold up?
2007/08 Percentage of Final points Ranking in the NHL one-goal game victories In NHL standings in percentage of one-goal games won Columbus .412 80 26 Toronto .395 83 27 St. Louis .385 79 28 Tampa Bay .375 71 29 Los Angeles .333 71 30
2008/09 Percentage of Final points Ranking in the NHL one-goal game victories In NHL standings in percentage of one-goal games won Columbus .556 - 9 Toronto .471 - 21 St. Louis .486 - 16 Tampa Bay .256 - 30 Los Angeles .465 - 22
This time, we see our first team from the bottom five of one-goal game winning percentages actually having an even worse one-goal winning percentage the following season. Now, it is not overly surprising that this team was Tampa Bay, as the Bolts had a messy 2008/09, which included copious transactions, the hiring of a new head coach over the summer (Barry Melrose) and then the firing of Melrose and the hiring of another new coach (Rick Tocchet) to take over during the course of the season.
So, of the fifteen teams that finished in the bottom five of the standings in percentage of one-goal game victories, only two of those teams managed to find themselves in the bottom five of the NHL in that same category the following season.
What is most encouraging for the teams that fare so poorly in that respect, is that only one of the fifteen teams actually saw its percentage decrease the following season. So, baseball may be onto something, as one-goal results do have a way of changing year-to-year.
The question is: What is in store for the teams in the chart below for the 2009/10 season?
2008/09 Percentage of one-goal game victories Final points In NHL standings Ottawa .447 83 Atlanta .429 76 Chicago .387 104 NY Islanders .297 61 Tampa Bay .256 66
Richard Pollock is Editor for the hockey website Illegal Curve.
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