Shooting percentages and PDO are things that I have been monitoring this year because there’s a lot of Canes players who have fallen on some rotten luck this season (Eric Staal comes to mind) while others have been much more fortunate. I know saying a player has been “unlucky” is a lazy way to dismiss their shortcomings, but sometimes that’s just what happens. Take a player like Alexander Ovechkin last year. He is normally an elite goal-scorer, a terrific possession driver and can be counted on for at least 40 goals per season. Last year, he netted only 32 but was still posting great possession numbers and appeared to be no worse than he was last season at driving the play. The fact is he was shooting the puck at a much lower percentage than his career average and simply just fell on some bad luck. That has carried over into this year, too.
When determining how lucky a player is, we normally look at their on-ice shooting percentage and PDO. An average shooting percentage is about 8-9 percent and an average PDO (which is just a player’s shooting + save percentage) is 1000. A player with a low PDO is said to be very unlucky and it’s the other way around for a player who has a PDO of over 1000. However, this isn’t a tell-all stat as it only states how lucky a player is and things like corsi, scoring chances, etc. need to be taken into consideration. If a player is getting drowned in corsi, then he will have a low PDO because he isn’t doing much. There are also some player who rarely shoot the puck and have a low shooting percentage as a result.
Let’s see who has been lucky and unlucky on the Canes so far this year.
Data from Behindthenet.ca
Notice how Eric Staal is at the bottom of the list here. He hasn’t been himself this year but he certainly isn’t having any bounces going in his favor either. I actually think he has been playing better in some recent games and if he keeps it up that abysmal on-ice shooting percentage will improve. Also note how his terrible PDO indicates that the goalies are not stopping the puck at all when he is on the ice. Staal has been getting plenty of shots on net and normally shoots at around 8-9%, so I have no doubt that his numbers will improve soon enough. He isn’t playing as badly as his numbers indicate but I do think we can all agree that he hasn’t completely looked like himself this year.
LaRose is another player who hasn’t had the dice rolling in his favor at even strength and yet, he is one of the top scorers on the team thanks to some good powerplay performances, and he is also creating a lot of chances at even strength. It might just be a hot start boosted by special teams, but there could be a good chance that LaRose pushes towards 20 goals this season. He is shooting the puck more, getting top-six minutes and the team is outshooting opponent’s efficiently when he is on the ice. The problem is that LaRose has never shot at a high rate and his career shooting percentage is only about 7-8% if I remember correctly. Still, it’s great to see him off to this kind of a start.
Alexei Ponikarovsky may have the worst luck out of all of them as the team is shooting at an abysmal rate when he is on the ice. He’s been going back and fourth between the first, second and third lines, so I don’t think we can use the “he played with garbage linemates like he did in L.A.” exuse for this one. Ponikarovsky’s problem is a combination of terrible luck, him not shooting the puck enough and possibly age. That and his offensive skillset is pretty limited.
I’ve been a big defender of Tomas Kaberle and he is another victim of bad luck but I have to think that part of it has to do with his age as most players are expected to decline after they reach 30. However, Kaberle has been one of the better defensemen in terms of creating scoring chances and he’s gotten plenty with the man advantage so the points will come to him soon.
Then there’s players have gotten somewhat lucky this year and one of them is Jussi Jokinen. He’s benefiting from a very high shooting percentage and his PDO jolted as a result. The difference with him is that he is producing chances at even strength and playing well territorially, so it wasn’t all just luck for him. Still, a shooting rate of over 13% is difficult to maintain.
Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer also have been seeing some good fortune this season but it’s mainly coming at the other end of the ice as their strong PDO is due to high save percentages. Dwyer does not shoot the puck much at all and has always had a low shooting percentage because of that, but he is on ice for a lot of chances and shots against, but Ward/Boucher are stopping most of them, evidently. The same goes for Sutter only the team is shooting about average when he is on the ice. Tim Brent has a similar case only his shot metrics are awful and he has been able to keep his head above water due to a strong shooting and save percentage. That and he only plays 5-8 minutes a game so there isn’t much to go by here.
Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason were riding the PDO train earlier in the year as their rating was over 1100 at one time. There was a time period when these two weren’t on-ice for a goal against at even strength when paired together but that ended in the last couple of weeks. While both have been great this season (more-so Gleason than Allen) you can’t deny the fact that they were very lucky early on. Defenseman who take as many defensive zone starts and are on-ice for as many chances as they are simply can’t keep up that kind of streak for a long time. They have had some very strong games together, though. It’s also helping that the team is shooting at a higher rate when both of them are on the ice. Meanwhile, Joni Pitkanen has played pretty well but is shooting a lower rate than his career and isn’t getting much help from the goalies either.
I think this gives an overview of everything pretty well. It’s kind of a difficult idea to accept but the fact is that randomness and luck play a big role in hockey along with skill and it can have a pretty big effect on a team. It’s certainly been that way for the Canes on both sides of the spectrum.