by PuckStopsHere on 08/02/13 at 08:53 PM ET
In my summer look at sabermetrics and hockey, I have recently looked at team Corsi ratings. This is the difference between a team's attempted shots (shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots) and those of their opponents in 5 on 5 situations. This number is interesting because it shows team's puck possession ability. A team that has the puck will have a positive Corsi and a team that plays without the puck will have a negative one. The number correlates with the success of each individual team, but it is an imperfect method to rank teams because it neglects several important facets of hockey including special teams, goaltending quality and shot quality.
The NHL's leader in the 2013 season by team Corsi is the Los Angeles Kings. They posted a +495 team Corsi. In a 48 game schedule, this means that they attempted more than ten extra shots than their opponents at even strength per game. That is a significant difference in puck possession.
While doing this, the Kings managed to finish fifth in the West Conference with 59 points. They made their way to the semi-finals before losing to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Los Angeles was the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2013 season. They had a bit of a Stanley Cup hangover, which led to a slow start in the season. This probably kept them below their expected result in the regular season.
Los Angeles had a strong Corsi last season, finishing only 12 points out of first place in the league. Their Stanley Cup run, which was a surprise given their 2012 finish in the standings, may have been foreshadowed by their puck possession numbers. They could not repeat their Stanley Cup success in 2013 despite even better puck possession numbers. The biggest disconnect between their puck possession numbers and their full hockey game is that the Kings are not so good at finishing when they take a shot. The Kings have not been a high scoring team in the last couple years. Last year they showed a strong improvement on the 2011/12 regular season when they finished 7th in goals per game in 2013 (after a second last finish in 2011/12). Since shooting percentages are generally very random in nature, it is reasonable to expect some regression in their goals scored next year. Nevertheless Los Angeles remains a top team and is probably the favorite to win the new Pacific Division. The question is whether or not this will be good enough for another Stanley Cup run.
Potentially the Kings have the talent to win the Stanley Cup, but any deep playoff run requires some luck. There will be two factors that will influence the playoffs that most people will overlook. The Kings will no longer have a Stanley Cup hangover. That should be a big positive. The Olympics will also influence things. Some teams will have a break and other teams will have sigificant portions of their roster playing in the Olympic games. Los Angeles will likely have Jonathan Quick playing as the starting goalie for USA. Drew Doughty will play a significant role on Canada's defence. Anze Kopitar will be the key player on the Slovenian team. Other players roles are less certain. There is considerable uncertainty as to who will make the various teams and how big a role they play. It isn't clear how Los Angeles will be affected.
Los Angeles was the top puck possession team in the 2013 season. They were very close to being the top in the 2011/12 regular season. In 2012 they won the Stanley Cup. In 2013 they made the Stanley Cup semi-finals. They will likely have a good run in the 2014 playoffs as well. It is quite possible they could wind up the Stanley Cup winner - in a league where there is no clear front-runner.
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