Saturday, November 19, 2011

#230: Taking More Than You Give is OK

---SSL Broadcast #68---

With the Christmas season coming up (and some would argue it's already been here awhile...), it's time to talk about taking more than you give. When you're a hockey team.

Now that the 2011-2012 NHL season is about a quarter of the way done, it's time to take a look at the almighty Shots-On-Goal Differential (SOGD) statistic and try to determine which teams are going to stay near the top, which teams are going to surge to the top, and which teams are going to splatter against the statistical plexiglass.

Entering today's play (November 19, 2011), none of the teams in first place of their respective divisions are in the top 6 in SOGD. Current Central Division leader Chicago is 7th with a +4.2.

For those of you who don't have a clue what this is about, Shots on Goal Differential is calculated by taking the average number of shots taken in a game (in Chicago's case, they have averaged 33.3 shots per game) and subtracting the number of shots given up (Chicago gives up 29.1). By season's end, most playoff teams have a positive SOGD, and those that don't often find themselves exiting the playoffs early. Read this article to see how the playoff teams shaped up. The only "rule" for winning the Stanley Cup is that a team have a positive SOGD at season's end. Only two teams since 1991 have won the Cup with a negative SOGD (the '91 and '09 Pittsburgh Penguins), and both had extenuating circumstances. In the case of the first team, they picked up face-off wizard Ron Francis and bruising defenseman Ulf Samuelsson at the trade deadline after their SOGD number was well in the negative (meaning there wasn't enough time for their presence to turn the number to a positive). In the latter instance, coach Michel Therrien was replaced with 3 months to go in the season by Dan Bylsma, who worked at incorporating a puck possession system. Again, not enough time in the season for the statistic to reverse.

This year's Penguins are the best team in the Eastern Conference in SOGD (and this is without captain Sidney Crosby) at +5.4. Next best in the conference, the surging (and defending Stanley Cup champion) Boston Bruins with +4.2. Detroit is the best overall with +8.6, which is par for the course for them, so they will be surging sooner rather than later. Also set to rise from the depths are Montreal (+4.1), Colorado (+4.3), and - believe it or not - Columbus (+2.8) if they can just get some average goaltending.

The biggest mirage in the pack is the first place Minnesota Wild. They have the 3rd worst SOGD in the league at -6.1, but are being bailed out by a save percentage around 94%. This will not hold. Also, the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators, who are not only in second place in their respective divisions, but are also the only two teams worse than Minnesota in SOGD (-7.2 and -7.4, respectively) figure to fall out of their perches soon.

So, puck shooters, this holiday season (and beyond), it's all about take, take, take.

On today's show:

- My producer (and Penn State alumnus) Jerome Shell joins in with his experience from last Saturday's game at Happy Valley.

- Steelers sit atop the AFC North heading into the bye week.

- Pitt basketball - defense needs a bunch of work.

- Pirates possibly pursing a championship-winning shortstop.

- For the second straight week, Mike goes 2-0 in his NFL picks last week (10-10 overall), including pegging the Steelers/Bengals score.



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