As of Wednesday, every NHL team will have played between 10 and 14 games, which means we can start to put quite a bit of stock into their underlying metrics. Some teams have surely been lucky, while others have been unlucky, and modern hockey statistics play a big role in determining which teams are which. Here are four teams that have been helped or victimized by Lady Luck.
The Bruins have been the best team by expected goals for and against, but they’ve played the fewest games and haven’t been getting much luck. The Bruins should be scoring more goals than their opponents on aggregate, but they haven’t been, and it’s tough to point the finger in one direction. The goaltending hasn’t been good, but the scoring hasn’t been there either. I would classify this team as unlucky, but concern definitely exists that regardless of how well they play, they’re always going to struggle to score at a rate that matches their expected goals. On the flip side, uncertainty surrounds both goaltenders and how they will fare the rest of the season. The Bruins will most likely win more games than they lose, but it will be hard to catch the Panthers if they’re underperforming their expected goals at both ends of the ice.
Columbus Blue Jackets
With a 7-3 record, the Blue Jackets are in the thick of the playoff race to start the season, but bettors should be prepared to see the Metropolitan Division standings be put into a blender every other week. There’s just so much parity in the division that it’s tough to see any team staying in the same place for long. As far as the Blue Jackets are concerned, I don’t think they’ll be in the playoff picture at the end of the season. On a per-60-minute basis, the Blue Jackets have scored more goals than they’ve allowed. However, Columbus is 31st by expected goals, as it is regularly outplayed and outchanced. Furthermore, top forward Patrik Laine will be out for four to six weeks. The Blue Jackets have a good starting goaltender in Elvis Merzlikins, and he has been a difference-maker so far, but it’s a lot to ask of a young goaltender on a bad team. The Blue Jackets’ success is mostly driven by shooting and saving luck.
St. Louis Blues
Just like last season, the Blues have been dealing with injuries, so it’s tough to fully get a handle on their performance, but they’re outperforming expectations. It helps that the Avalanche have gotten off to such a rough start, but I think winning the Central Division is still quite a high bar for the Blues. Just about everything has gone right for them on the ice, as they have owned about 61 percent of the goals in all situations. But the Blues don’t dominate play, and their expected goals-for percentage is about even, which suggests they don’t deserve to be winning games at this rate. The betting market seems to be overestimating the Blues’ chances of winning a given game on a regular basis, and that probably will lead me toward betting against them more than I bet on them.
Philadelphia has scored 57 percent of the goals but ranks 30th in expected goals with a 45.9 percent mark. That’s more than a full percentage point worse than the Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers are a bad team, and there’s virtually no chance I will be convinced otherwise. Carter Hart has been good, and last season could be a blip on an otherwise great career, but I’m a lot less likely to buy into whatever Martin Jones is selling. Goaltenders are voodoo, and maybe Jones has one good season in him, but I doubt it. We’re talking about a goaltender who ranked as one of the worst in the league over the last few seasons. The Flyers are probably always going to be good on offense, assuming their forward group stays healthy, but things shouldn’t come as easily to them as they do playing the style they play. There might be some new faces, but this is the same team that was unable to go anywhere in 2020-21. The Flyers might be getting good goaltending this season, but the other teams in the Metropolitan Division are much more structurally sound, and it will be tough for the Flyers to make the playoffs.