Waiting for the regression... the mean, that is.

Editor's Note: This is a good, short analysis and has a proper perspective. The comments have been interesting too, so check them out.

TG posted two quotations, from Lou and MacLean that piqued my interest.

First, from Lou yesterday (emphasis mine):

"Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello is understandably disappointed in his team’s 1-4-1 start, but believes things would look a lot better if it had capitalized on more of its chances in the first six games.

"If we would have taken advantage of a couple of opportunities we’ve had at different times, our record would be the other way," he said today.

"...if we weren’t getting chances and we weren’t getting opportunities, that’s a different story. We’re getting them and the right people are getting them, so they have to go in."

And from Johnny Mac this afternoon (again, emphasis mine):

"As far as scoring chances, we are getting some quality chances," MacLean said after today’s practice. "We are definitely getting quality chances and I’m confident with this group if we keep getting those chances, the puck is going to go in."

What struck me about these quotes - besides how well the new head coach stays on-message - is the implication that a significant part of the Devils' recent apocalypse struggles is due essentially to luck - the bad kind, clearly, but luck nonetheless. The games against Buffalo, Colorado, and Boston saw the Devils outshoot their opponents 110-81, but they were outscored 4-7. Extending out to all 6 games, the Devils have outshot their opponents 204-169, but have been outscored 10-21. So what if a few more of those shots went in? Should we really expect them to? My thoughts after the jump.

UPDATE: I did a quick-and-dirty simulation last night to see what the probability might be for the Devils shooting 4.9% over the 204 shots they've taken this season. Based on the established mean (which I STILL contend is a big enough sample - 12,000-13,000 shots is a LOT of chance events), we can expect the Devils to shoot 4.9% over 204 shots 60 times out of 1000, or about 6%. The vast majority of results have the Devils shooting between 6.5-10% over that span.

Fair warning: I'm focusing solely on the offense here. 3.5 Goals Against/game is an atrocious average and clearly defensive lapses play a major part in the 1-4-1 record thus far, but for the purposes of this FanPost I'm ignoring the D.

Fair warning 2: I am NOT an advanced-stat guy - working on it, but not quite there - so I'm working purely from the team stats available on

It's been demonstrated that one of the more stable/reliable predictive statistics (in terms of scoring talent) is shot percentage and that, statistically speaking, teams who tend to outshoot their opponents on average also tend to win more games. I decided to look at team shot % rather than individual because the sample sizes are just too small.

Thus far this season, the Devils average 34 shots/game (6th in the NHL) and their team S% is 4.9, the lowest among the top 10 teams in the NHL for shots/game. Contrast that with the Lightning (3rd) and Avs' (10th) 9.3% or Nashville's (5th) 9.5% and it paints a pretty good picture of the Devils' offensive season so far: plenty of shots, not enough goals.

As a 'baseline' reading, since the lockout the Devils have averaged 29.2, 28.7, 28.8, 32.9, and 30 S/G in 2005-2009, with S% of 9.7(!), 8.74, 8.4, 8.8, and 8.76 in each year. See? Pretty stable.

Applying this season's averages to that reading, we see a team that is grossly underperforming relative to its established goalscoring talent. The shots per game are close to the mean, but that 4.9 S% is the difference-maker. Consider this:

If the Devils scored this season at their team average since the lockout (8.88%) with the same shots/game, they'd have 18 goals, or an average of 3.01 goals per game. That's nearly a goal and a half better on average than their current, abysmal 1.667 G/G. Truncating the decimal, let's add those goals to the Devils' scorelines for each game, changing only that variable:

Devils 4-4 Dallas (OT)

Devils 3-7 Washington

Devils 2-3 Pittsburgh

Devils 2-0 Buffalo

Devils 3-3 Colorado

Devils 2-4 Boston

Clearly, the Caps game is an outlier, but *ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL EXCEPT* that the Devils shoot at a similar percentage to their established mean, those games look considerably closer. If the Devils scored 4 in regular time against Dallas, they would've won that game. Scoring a second against Pittsburgh negates the empty-net goal and most likely sends that game to overtime, as does scoring the extra goal against Colorado. At that point, flip a coin and the Devils are 3-1-1 at worst and are third in the division with a game in hand against the Penguins.

Now, I'm not saying that's how those games would have gone if the Devils shot closer to their true mean, but I am saying they could have. And before we storm the Rock with torches and pitchforks or burn our Kovalchuk jerseys or whatever else fans do when they panic (Cry? Drink Heavily? Write FanPosts on ILWT?), let's all take a deep breath and wait patiently for the pro-gression to the mean.

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