Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.
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One of the greatest parts of hockey is the ebb and flow of a season and the good and bad bounces that come with it. Every time a team steps on the ice some measure of luck is involved in their success.
For instance, if a player dumps the puck into the zone and it takes a wild bounce off a rough patch of ice and past the goaltender, the opposition will end up with a “minus” in the plus/minus category; but could they really have prevented such a bizarre bounce from ending up in their own net?
Well, advanced metrics has luck covered via a statistic called PDO.
PDO is the sum of a player’s on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage. It attempts to account for the lucky bounces of the game and serves as a sort of measuring stick to gauge the ebb and flow of a player’s season. The key with PDO is to understand where a given player stands in the ups and downs of a season. It always reverts to a mean of 1000.
Trends in hockey always seem to normalize. Take Alex Steen (St. Louis) as an example. Steen started the season with the highest PDO in the NHL. He’d scored 11 goals in his first 10 games. In his last 10 games, Steen has only lit the lamp twice. His PDO has dropped, and that was predictable given how well he’d been playing to start and the positive situations he’d found himself in.
Heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs with momentum is key. So with the Penguins seemingly struggling the last few games, what does PDO tell us about the Penguins stretch run?
Let’s start with defensemen Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi, both of whom have found themselves in some less-than-fortunate situations this month. Orpik finds himself at a recent low of 991 and Scuderi coming in at the mean of 1000. The study of PDO tells us that these numbers might continue to drop some, but should level out and begin to increase again in the near future.
Winger Lee Stempniak is a great case study on this number. When he was traded to the Penguins on March 5, Stempniak rang in at a team low of 867 – a testament to the struggles the Calgary Flames this season. Over the course of the month, his PDO has increased to 952 and continues to increase. Playing with center Sidney Crosby is enough to turn any player’s situation around, but we can expect Stempniak to level off a bit as the playoffs approach.
On a big picture level, the Penguins have seen their team PDO drop significantly this month. Crosby and defenseman Matt Niskanen, both of whom held PDO numbers above 1100 throughout this season, have dropped to 1003 and 1000 respectively. In fact, the Penguins currently have several players who find themselves right at the mean of 1000 for PDO: Olli Maatta, Brandon Sutter, Joe Vitale, Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin, and Scuderi are all experiencing regressions to the mean of 1000.
If the history of PDO is accurate whatsoever, and we have plenty of evidence to believe it is, the Penguins slump should level off right as the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. In fact, as a team, the Penguins PDO has dropped to 1004. As a club who generally operates above the league average, we might just see the Penguins heat up at exactly the right time.
Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at www.faceoff-factor.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof