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Eventually Rangers’ shooting luck will turn around

October 30, 2013, by

Eventually some of Derek Stepan’s shots will find the back of the net

Despite the abominations Rangers fans witnessed earlier this season against San Jose and Anaheim, there have been plenty of reasons to expect a turnaround in the team’s fortunes.  An extremely difficult early-season road schedule, several injuries to key players and an expected adjustment period to a new coach have all contributed to the team’s struggles.  All of those things issues seem to be slowly righting themselves and as a result New York has won two of its last three games.  But there’s another simple reason the team’s 4-7-0 record isn’t indicative of its performance the rest of the way: luck.

Sure, it sounds silly to think that luck can play such a major role in a professional sport where athletes are paid millions of dollars to use their top-notch skills to eliminate such variables, but luck is indeed as much a factor in the NHL as it is in your beer league game, when sometimes your team has 25 scoring chances in a game and still can’t put one by the opposing goaltender.

And any way you look at it, the Rangers have had absolutely miserable luck this season all over the ice.  Well, all except one player – Brad Richards – who, ironically, felt like the team’s unluckiest player a year ago.

New York’s poor luck is apparent in its shooting percentage as a team this year, a combined 5.7%, dead last in the league and nearly a full percentage point behind 29th-ranked Buffalo.  By contrast, Toronto leads the way with a team shooting percentages of 12.4%, and not coincidentally the Leafs are first in the Eastern Conference.  The Senators had the worst team shooting percentage in the league last year, and they were still substantially better than the Rangers at 7%.  The Blueshirts themselves converted 8.5% of their shots last year, nearly 1.5 times as often as they’ve converted this season.

The point is, even if none of the other more publicized issues are rectified, the Rangers should be able to improve significantly just by having slightly better luck.  Scoring at even the Senators’ paltry rate of a year ago would mean four more goals for the Blueshirts this far.  Scoring at New York’s own rate from last year would add eight goals to the season total.  Considering the Rangers have managed just 18 goals all season, that makes a huge, huge difference.


  1. Matt S says:

    It’s always been a pet peeve of mine that shooting percent is considered a measure of luck. The calculation for shooting percent (goals/shots) comes directly from goals. So I like to think about it as: if a team plays well, it scores lots of goals, which leads to a high shot percent. Not a shot percent being determined by luck, which then leads to the amount of goals you score.

    I get that shooting percent tends to even out over time. So whether its ‘luck turning around’ or ‘performance regressing to the mean’, in the end you get the same result.

    • RangerSmurf says:

      Shooting percentage isn’t measuring luck, it’s driven by it.

      When you need a reminder that goal scoring is mostly luck, watch highlights of the 2nd Isles goal last night. Or McDonagh’s 200ft shot on Jonathan Quick, or…..

      Point being, the Rangers 3.2% at ES, or 5.7% overall, is not their true talent level. At some point, hopefully soon, it’s going to start trending up. And when it does, the wins will come in bunches, as long as they’re maintaining a solid possession game.

      • Dave says:

        This. This. This. This.

        • Centerman21 says:

          A solid performance from the entire team on Monday @MSG against the Ducks could IMO acheive retribution for the California trip. At least partially. A nice dominating 4-1 win would ease some of the imbarrassment felt by Ranger fans less than a month ago. I have to think the Rangers will have some pride in themselves and as the teams confidence grows on a game by game basis. They will be up for that game. Anyone else hoping the Rangers improve their S% on the Ducks?

      • Matt S says:

        I agree that shooting percent is an important stat to look at and it tends to trend towards an average. And you’re right, there is some degree of luck involved, like any other stat.

        But it seems like that consensus opinion on shot percent is that it’s used to indicate how lucky a team is. I think of it more of a performance measure that contains some degree of luck.

        • RangerSmurf says:

          PDO (the combination of SH% and SV%) is generally considered the measure for luck of a team.

          If Hank/Talbot were putting up .950 sv% and the team was shooting 5%, you would say that overall the team hasn’t had good or bad luck overall. (unless you broke down the components)

          The Rangers PDO of 94.0 (or whatever it is, didn’t look at the update this morning yet) is extremely unlucky. Chances are the goaltending comes around before the shooting, but the overall picture is that the Rangers have been very unlucky thus far.

          Unlucky + shoddy possession (as they were against SJ/ANA) leads to blow outs. Unlucky + good possession leads to what you’ve seen of late, good performances with hit and miss results.

          When the luck turns around, this team will go on a run, esp. now that the goaltending has cleaned itself up.

          • Dave says:

            Luck will turn itself around as injuries start cleaning themselves up.

            • Frank says:

              Didn’t you guys say the same thing last year, that our shooting % would increase because our luck was bad but our puck possession was good? I get the argument, but its not a guarantee.

              • Dave says:

                We spoke about individual players and their shooting percentages.

                Tough to adjust for a half season, but the guys we spoke about caught fire in March.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      ‘Luck turning around’ IS ‘performance regressing to the mean’. So you get the same result because there is no disconnect. It’s saying the same thing two different ways.

      “The calculation for shooting percent (goals/shots) comes directly from goals”… in ADDITION to shots on goal. Need to take that into consideration in a 3 variable equation.

      So I think we should tweak your notion that, “if a team plays well, it scores lots of goals” to “if a team plays well, it generates lots of shots”. Assuming those shots are on goal all that is needed is a decent shooting percentage to turn those shots into goals.

  2. Walt says:

    I said a few days ago that the team will start scoring, and be it luck, or not, the end results are if you don’t shoot the puck, it can’t go in!! That stated, I’m feeling lucky!!

    • Spozo says:

      I hadta do it….. Checkout extraskater.com. Kreider blocked two shots in the Montreal game.

  3. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    Stats to chew on indeed. Nice post Kevin, more game within the game analysis that makes this the best Rangers blog around. Keep em coming.

  4. Mr. Snrub says:

    Shot percentage will certainly get better with time, no doubt about it. The real concern is whether or not NYR’s recent gains in puck possession are real.

    The four teams that handed NYR their worst losses (SJS, ANA, STL, PHX) are four of the top nine teams in the league in FF% (third, sixth, eighth, and ninth, respectively). NYR did beat the Kings (fifth in FF%), but how much are NYR’s gains in puck possession related to playing teams less competent in keeping the puck? How much is related to having a better feel for the new system? Probably a little bit of column A/column B I suppose, but it’s worth considering.

    Next two games, we should see dominance of the Canes and Sabres, but hopefully the team can keep some of the puck while playing Anaheim and Pitt.

  5. SteveD says:

    I would like to see quality of shots percentages. I see to many pucks with no velocity, or when they have velocity it hits the goaltender square in the chest. All about skill in my opinion, and we lack some of that.

  6. Frank Cerbone says:

    Not playing players where they can succeed is a problem.

    In 2011 MDZ scored 10 goals and played most of the season on the left side with Stralman on his right side. In 2009 MDZ scored 9 goals on the left side.

    In 2012, 2013 MDZ is moved to the right side, mainly because Rangers do not have but 2 right handed guys on defense until McIlrath is brought up….assuming he is the answer on the right side.

    MDZ is an RFA next season and you can be assured that MDZ has sacrificed significant offense by being moved to the right side. Maybe MDZ will move on to where he can return to the left side where he plays a lot better.

    Guess what would happen if Staal was moved to the right side? A recipe for disaster.

  7. RangerSmurf says:

    Not sure how you can see velocity with any accuracy of measurement.

    There’s a link out today (see the one I’m using as my ‘website’) that at least controls for shot distances, which is the best we have as a proxy.

    It’s one team, but you can see that the separation between quality and quantity is small, even in a small sample.

    Moral, an individual shot has a quality component, but the subset of shots a team takes sees that quality dissipate as the set gets larger.

    Phrased another way, every ‘snipe’ in the NHL is offset by goals as mentioned above, random puck bounces that find their way into the net. Maybe not as dramatic as the above, but random nonetheless.

  8. paulronty says:

    To score goals you need goal scorers, it’s that simple. Kreider is a beast and never should have been sent down–he’s not going back down ever again. If we need more goals bring up Kristo or Hrivek and trade Pyatt for a draft choice, even though I like the guy very much

  9. doug peters says:

    Thank you NYR & Islanders for a most entertaining game last nite. NYR showed grit, offense, & character. I hope this display is potential of what may be and we r not even full strength. Looking for consistency now. Hope NYR have turned the corner here.

    Really feel that bad training camp, no camp, and long road trip have not allowed team to learn AV’s system until now.

    Keeping working guys!!!!!

  10. Mikeyyy says:

    It’s a statistical fact. In most cases everyone regresses to the mean.

    I doubted it but its true.