Many statheads were probably already aware of this before, but the Los Angeles Kings were particularly unlucky during the regular season, especially when it comes to their league-worst 6.4 shooting percentage at even strength. Jeff Z Klein puts those stats in a digestible format for the New York Times, showing that Los Angeles went from the NHL’s most snake-bitten shooting team to its third “luckiest” once the postseason rolled around.
It strengthens the on-paper-based arguments that the Kings were a much better team than their eighth seed suggested.
What does 1.9 percentage points below the N.H.L. median mean over the course of an 82-game season? Quite a bit, as it happens – 38 goals.
The Kings were taking 30.7 shots per game while skating five-on-five in the regular season. Scoring on 6.4 percent of them translated to an average of 2.0 even-strength goals per 60 minutes. Had they been striking at the median rate, they would have scored not quite 2.5 goals per 60 minutes, or 38 additional goals over the course of the season.
That’s a lot of goals, and probably a fair number of extra victories and regulation ties – worth somewhere in the vicinity of 10 to 19 points. That would have made the Kings not a mediocre 95-point eighth seed, but one of the top three teams in the Western Conference, somewhere next to the 111-point Canucks or the 109-point Blues.
Yup, 38 goals would be a pretty big difference – that’s just a little shy of one goal every other game.
During the playoffs, Klein points out that the Kings’ even strength shooting percentage jumped to 9.3, which was the third-best rate in the postseason. That might not sound like much, but when you consider the fact that one could differentiate a great goalie from a mediocre one by a percent point or two, those numbers really add up.
If nothing else, this study indicates that the Kings might just have the kind of team that could contend for quite some time. Sure, their postseason shooting percentage will “regress to the mean” at some point, yet they survived the worst mark and throttled people with one of the best success rates. If the truth is somewhere in between, Los Angeles could very well become a fixture in the West.