Friday, February 22, 2008

Goalpost Luck

I did this back in November as well. The Oilers were being favoured by the goalpost gods then, and immediately after that the pendulum swung the other way and they had a terrible stretch of goalpost luck. The worm has turned again recently though.

Now if goalpost thunderbolts were thrown from the sky at random by the hockey gods, causing the next shot on goal to hit a post, well then obviously the teams that outshoot their opposition a lot are generally going to hit more iron, and be saved by it less.

And because there aren't all that many posts hit in a year, random chance dictates that some teams will be more fortunate than others. Because they have to be, and in the right measure. Which is exactly what you see above.

Now any fool can look back and rationalize why one team hit more or less of their share of goalposts, or were saved by them over or under the odds. In fact a fool is the best choice for that assignment.

If we were to try and predict who will get extra love from the hockey post gods in future weeks ... no person will be able to consistently outperform a monkey.

If you are keen to check for yourself:

Change the variables accordingly. It's a binomial distribution folks, just like the goalpost lightning bolts example.

And though I haven't checked, all the arrows of reason point to goalpost +s and -s landing on the players in random fashion too. Both skaters and goalies.


And the Rangers, Blackhawks and Hurricanes have a genuine beef with the goalpost gods. And Dallas, Colorado and Boston have caught some breaks.


Blogger Oilman said...

Like I've said before on this subject - who cares. Is a puck that nicks the post any different than one that misses it by a millimeter? How many post hits, when moved enough inches to be an actual honest to goodness shot on goal, would've hit the goalie (my guess would be 80%-90% the other 10 %to 20% would probably been deflected away by the defenseman's stick had the shooter changed the relase point enough to hit the net? How many pucks hit the inside of the post and go in as opposed to the ones that hit the outside and miss the net? Is a shot that hits the post before going in scored any differently? Why then would a shot that hits the post and then misses the net be scored differently. Does a team with less post saves get credited for more blocked shots (even though a post hit is not a shot), Does the team with more post saves get less dumb ass luck saves off the ass of an opponent or another players skate?

This post thing to me is akin to saying a Greg Maddux strikeout is not as valuable to a Randy Johnson strikeout because two of the Maddux strikes were foul tips....

2/22/2008 1:54 pm  
Blogger Slipper said...

That analogy makes zero sense. Zero.

Beating the goalie but missing the net by a quarter of an inch for the inside of the post, or half to three quarters for the outside, is way different than shooting a blindshot 3 or 4 feet wide. Is that not obvious?

Hitting a post is pretty indicative of a good scoring chance, and in hockey, scoring chances for vs against is the basic expression who's owning the play.

Observing the benefactors of dumb luck is important, too. A quarter of the goals scored are a result of dumb luck. Things such as hitting the outside of the post, or a puck being shot by Zack Stortini through three defenders and the puck then landing on the open side of the net with another Oiler there for the easy tap in; these things tend to even out in the long run.

A better analogy would have been two pitchers throwing one in nearly an identical spot and grazing the very edge of the strike zone, and having the umpire subjectively decide on what's in and out.

2/22/2008 5:17 pm  
Blogger Oilman said...

I didn't realize there was anything subjective about hitting the post or not - no interpretation is required....I've never yet seen a puck hit the post and goal given as a result. I think you and I interpret this much differently.....and yes obviously, there is a difference between 3 feet wide and hitting the post - the difference is distance from actually hitting the net - the result is exactly the same. I've seen guys miss open nets by three feet - was the scoring chance not better than I guy who blindly spins and rings one off the post?

The point is a miss is a miss...when does the missed shot become equal to a post hit - half an inch, 6 inches? When does a post hit somehow become equal to a goal?

Vic didn't really imply it here, I think this was more a backtrack from his original 'post', but the first one basically said the the Oilers were either the beneficiary of more wins, or the goalies the beneficiary of better numbers because of the post hits...which is absolute non-sense, because a post hit is a missed net and has less bearing on the outcome of a game than a whiffed one timer or a broken stick or a missed penalty just happens that you can count the number of times it happens in a gameobjectively

2/22/2008 8:03 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

You see things from a goalie's perspective, Oilman. Personally I think that most goalies are lost in the magic.

Maybe that's why the CBC keeps hiring them for commentary, and why the fans of the Canadian NHL teams generally see the game much differently than me.

When you're a forward, depending on the game, you'll probably just get one or a couple or a few really good scoring chances in a game, sometimes none. Chances where, if you make your shot, the only way it gets stopped is if the goalie guesses and moves early. Generally you make your shot there and it's a goal.

Of course sometimes you score on wild flukes, or shots that the goalie should have stopped, and some goalies give you more room to shoot than others. But that's not what we're talking about here.

I look at a goalpost as a missed ship, I think most people do. You screw up that and you might not get another.

I can't see why analogies are necessary, but a better one would be darts.

If Dennis and Rivers came around to your house, and they each threw 30 darts at the board, aiming for double bullseyes ... if Dennis hit 4 double bulls and Rivers 3, then he wins on the night.

But if Dennis sprayed the rest of his darts all over the board, and chunked a couple into the drywall, and had only one single bull ... that's not a good sign.

If Rivers has half a dozen single bulls to go with his trio of doubles, then my money is on him in the next game.


Back to hockey:

In a playoff series between closely matched teams, the team that hits less iron usually wins.

The links I provided would enable you to make a compelling argument, if there was one to make. As opposed to trying to drown us in ether :D

There's a list of every player who was on the ice for every post. And if you look at the 50 or 100 players at both extremes (blessed or cursed by the goalpost gods), the staggering majority would see their numbers gravitate towards career averages with neutral goalpost luck.

There's a reason for that. Shit happens.

2/22/2008 10:09 pm  
Blogger PDO said...


Love it.

How much goal differential equals a point in the standings?

2/22/2008 10:47 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

About three. And of course they come at the expense of other teams.

2/22/2008 11:20 pm  
Blogger Oilman said...

Vic, the problem I have is that you're assuming that the team with fewer post hits are missing the net by a wider margin than the team with more, where they might be just hitting the goalie with a higher percentage of their shots. I'd like to see a breakdown of the number of posts hit compared to the number of shots directed toward the net over a season....I'd imagine the ratio to be very similar for each team.

BTW, maybe it's the perspective of having the play always going toward or away from from a goalie that gives us the different perspective on the game instead of going left to right all the time....I just know that most shots that hit the post miss my pad/glove/whatever by less than the width of the post - which to me would make it impossible for that shot to go in if it was actually on the net.

2/22/2008 11:45 pm  
Blogger Tyler said...

Good stuff Vic. I find the teams intersting - it's like a list of teams that are doing surprisingly well/poorly. I really like the Rangers as a darkhorse in the playoffs out of the East.

2/23/2008 12:19 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Oilman said

I just know that most shots that hit the post miss my pad/glove/whatever by less than the width of the post - which to me would make it impossible for that shot to go in if it was actually on the net.

I think that almost all goalies believe that, Oilman. Whenever I hear a commentator say "he beat the goalie but not the post", I imagine Hrudey, Millen, Ranford, Healey, etc. all cringing collectively. Which warms my heart :)

As for your theory, I provided you with links so that you could refute this sort of thing yourself. It's simple to do.

Fan boards are full of people throwing up meandering thoughts with no compelling information to support it whatsoever. And that's fine. I'd like to think that the bar is set a little higher on the Oiler blogs.

Back to point: Obviously the Rangers outplay and outshoot the opposition a lot more than the Oilers do. The Oilers are terrible at this. Because the Oilers are a poor team and the Rangers are a good team, and the Oilers have the much tougher schedule to boot.

So, as I said in the original post, teams that shoot more should expect to hit more posts. But the Rangers have hit more than their share (and been saved by fewer), and the Oilers the opposite.

And when you've been outshot on the whole, and still have been hurt by the posts more than they've helped you. Like the Blackhawks. Well that's harsh, they are a better team than the points in the standings suggests.

FYI: USAToday lists the total shots for and against by team, if you're struggling with the links provided in the original post.

2/23/2008 9:49 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Yeah, I like the Rangers as well. The defense is a bit suspect, though I think that Roszival and Malik are both under-rated.

Shedding Nylander and adding Drury was a big step forward in terms of helping them win I think. Gomez is a good player too.

Plus, in the playoffs, they won't be playing the development game with young Staal. That's hurt them this year. I would imagine that Sather will be trying to get a solid veteran defender, or two, before the deadline passes.

A whack of guys well below their career average shooting percentages as well. And it's not like Renney is a "just shoot it!" coach. Not at all imo.

As you say, a team to watch in the playoffs. The bookies are going to like them too.

2/23/2008 9:55 am  
Blogger mc79hockey said...

Just a comment on Dallas too - their run has been amazing. I've commented on Mike Ribeiro a few times - at the time he got his fat new deal, he was shooting 38% or so. I'd taken a look at the leaders for the past five years or so and it was all around 20-22%. He's fallen off dramatically since then - down to 27.3% which is still outrageous but a hell of a lot more normal than that.

I suppose that the way to disprove Oilman's suppositioning would be to look at the teams that hit a lot of posts and see what happens to their shooting percentages. As I understand his position, it's that those shots are just shots that missed the net differently. IF that's true, I would expect teams that had a run on posts to be have bad shooting percentages. I know that I've paid attention to a few teams - namely the Rangers and Bruins, and, to a lesser extent, Dallas, and they look to be having unusual seasons with the percentages - Boston's save percentage has been great.

2/23/2008 2:08 pm  
Blogger Oilman said...

MC - I don't know if you could say that with much certainty, as I've said before - and I'm sticking to it:o), a miss is a miss (like a strike is a strike - foul tip or not - at least on the first 2), as a teams shooting percentage would ignore post hits in the calculation. A percentage of shots vs. shot attempts might be interesting to see if the percentage of good team that hits few posts would be much different than a good team that hits alot?

But wouldn't anyone agree that if you diagram a net with a goaltender in the middle and cutting down the angle, there will be places along the posts that can be seen, but no net seen beside it - so a puck that hits that part of the post is at least "different" than one that hits the post where net can be seen - one that would have at least had a chance of going in with a more accurate shot.

Vic - I've gotta be honest - I didn't read your links.

2/23/2008 5:46 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Fuckin goalies.

Nut jobs.

Every last one of you.

2/23/2008 11:54 pm  
Blogger Oilman said...

Nut Jobs....explains the "standing in front of slapshots" part of the position doesn't it.

2/25/2008 8:52 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I hope I'm not alienating goalies here. I'm sure that most goaltenders are, in fact, perfectly sane.

Having said that, if the NHL instituted mandatory CAT scans, and reported that they found half a dozen players with benign tumours in their brains, tangerine sized. Well my money would be on Sean Avery and five goalies. :D

2/25/2008 9:50 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Vic: I don't know how you found out about my dart playing abilites but I applaud you for that piece of advance scouting:)

Ahh, remember the good old days of us discussing the goalpost metric at Oilfans?;)

3/07/2008 8:47 pm  

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