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The Puck Stops Here

The Kings Goals For And Against

One of the best predictors of how good a team will be in their near future is their goals for and against.  It is a better prediction than won-loss records.  In fact every team in the NHL right now that has scored more goals than they have allowed would make the playoffs if the season ended now except for the Los Angeles Kings.  The Kings currently have 56 points, which is two back of the playoffs.  This places them in eleventh place in the West Conference.  They are barely out of the playoffs right now, but in a multi-team playoff race.

Los Angeles has 18 more goals than they have allowed.  That is the fourth best team +/- in the West Conference.  So why is Los Angeles under-performing their team +/-?

A big part of the answer is that they do not lose in overtime and shootouts.  They have only done so twice so far this season.  That is the fewest regulation tie points given to any team in the league so far this season. 

This points out an important aspect of the current NHL point system.  Regulation tie points skew the standings significantly.  If you don’t get them and your opponents do, you will fall in the standings. 

Los Angeles has been a good young team in the recent past.  They were predicted by many to win the Pacific Division this season.  It doesn’t look like may happen, but they clearly are a good team.  They are better than their current position in the standings and will likely see a second half improvement.  In all likelihood part of that “improvement” will be a few more regulation tie points.  Right now, Los Angeles is the team that has been most hurt by the NHL’s ridiculous point scheme.  If we merely remove regulation tie points, the Kings would be tied for fifth in the West Conference with Nashville.  I think that position would be much closer to their performance so far this season.

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Comments

Paul From Cali's avatar

While I certainly understand your point about the NHL points system being messed up, and I agree that I’d like to see a more sensible system, the problem with the Kings is that they can’t score goals.  They’re 16th in the NHL in goal scoring.  The only reason they’re contending for the playoffs is that they’re 5th in goals allowed.  You can’t win games if you can’t score goals.

Posted by Paul From Cali on 02/02/11 at 12:30 PM ET

Avatar

PSH, I’m curious about what kind of OT/point system you would advocate as being the most fair. Would you keep the shootout but ditch the regulation tie point? Would you go back to the W-L-T system? Would you make every game 3 points like they do in the Olympics?

The reason I ask is because your opinion about what the standings calculation SHOULD be makes a big difference as to WHICH teams are having their positions in the standings “skewed.”

You write “A big part of the answer is that they do not lose in overtime and shootouts”; but you cannot possibly mean that the Kings would benefit by losing more shootouts. Once you get to a shootout, there are only two options: win (2 points) or lose (1 points). The Kings are 5-1 in shootouts, meaning they have earned 11 out of a possible 12 points in games that go to shootouts. Obviously, if they lost more games in which they went to the shootout, they would lose even more standings points than they currently have.

Fans complain about the “loser point,” but I think it’s more accurate to think about the “extra point.” I prefer the W-L-T system, so I ask myself: where do the “extra points” come from under the current system.

The extra points come from these scenarios:

1) Losing in the 5-minute OT period (because under the old system, the winner would get the same 2 points but the loser would get 0 instead of 1).

2) WINNING shootouts (because under the old system, the game would have ended as a tie. Under the current system, the winner gets an extra point that they wouldn’t have gotten.)

Therefore, I think it’s simplistic to simply blame the standings skewing on the “regulation tie.” Despite the fact that they only have a “2” in the OT column, Los Angeles is actually benefiting from 6 “extra” points, because they have 5 shootout wins and 1 loss in the OT period. Meanwhile, take the case of Minnesota, one of Los Angeles’ main competitors. The Wild have a “5” in the OT column, but they have accumulated only 2 “extra” points—one for a shootout win and one for an OT-period loss. Four out of their five regulation ties are games shootout losses than would have been ties under the W-L-T system, making them a wash from a standings perspective.

As a stats aficionado, I’m genuinely interested to hear your take on this.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 02/02/11 at 05:14 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Technically the problem is not that the Kings do not lose enough in the shootout/overtime.  It is that their opponents do.  While their opponents have three point games, the Kings have 2 point games.

In a perfect world what point system would I use?  I would kill the shootout entirely and have W-T-L worth 2-1-0 points.  I would not give any points for making overtime and then losing.  If I can’t do that and the shootout stays, the Olympic system makes the most sense.  Having some games worth 3 points and others worth 2 really skews things.  Teams that get into a lot of three point games tend to get more points than teams that do not.  The Kings do not.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 02/02/11 at 05:48 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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