Heading into tonight’s game against Florida, the New Jersey Devils have a PDO of 1.013, according to Natural Stat Trick. This is a combination of an 8.84 shooting percentage and a 92.47 save percentage, and it ranks them 7th in the NHL in PDO, meaning they have been a pretty lucky team overall across the first thirty games of the season. It is pretty consistent between shooting and save percentage, as the Devils rank 10th in the NHL in shooting percentage and 8th in save percentage.
So even after this four game skid, the Devils still rank as one of the luckier teams in the league, and still sport top 10 numbers in both shooting and save percentage. And this is despite some unlucky games recently. Let’s go back through each of the four games during this skid. The game Thursday against Philly was very unlucky, the Devils got goalied pretty hard. They crushed Philadelphia in shots and possession, and ended the night with a 66.4% on MoneyPuck’s Deserve To Win O’Meter. That was pretty unlucky, and it was a game that certainly lowered the team shooting percentage considering they only had 1 goal on 49 shots.
The game prior against Dallas saw the Devils still slightly pull off the bigger percentage on the Win O’Meter despite losing the game 4-1, with a 54.7% deserve to win. They threw 36 shots on goal that game as well, and with only 1 goal scored, that also did a number on lowering the team shooting percentage. Only 2 goals were scored against goaltending on 32 shots, so the save percentage really has been solid, but you can imagine what the shooting percentage did to the team PDO across these two games.
Going back further, against New York on Monday, the Devils put up a 64.3% on the Win O’Meter, nearly as high as they got for the Philly game which was dominant despite not scoring any goals. This game was fine for shooting purposes, with 3 goals on 29 shots doing good things for the team shooting percentage. Team save percentage, however, definitely took a hit in this game, with 4 goals allowed on only 23 shots. That is a brutal 82.6% save percentage in this game and it sunk the team to an overtime loss which could have been a regulation win, the team having a two goal lead twice.
And finally, against the Isles, we finally see a game where, at least according to MoneyPuck, the Devils clearly did not deserve to win, hitting only 30.1% on the Deserve To Win O’Meter. The Devils were outshot here, 32-29, and giving up 6 goals on 32 shots is atrocious for save percentage. 4 goals scored on 29 shots is good for shooting percentage, however, so this game might not have taken a huge hit in terms of PDO overall, although I would guess it was a net negative thanks to a team 81.3% save percentage. It is tough to overcome that.
So overall, across the last four losses, the team has had two games where they had a very poor save percentage, and two games where they had a very poor shooting percentage. These both would have been lowered a decent amount overall, even if not by a huge amount considering these are just a couple of games out of 30 overall. But as is, after these four losses, the Devils still have a positive PDO, definitively so at 1.013, and their team shooting and save percentages are solid, top 10 in the NHL. Considering this, there had to be some regression coming at some point. It isn’t ideal that it is all coming at once with four losses in a row, three against divisional opponents and rivals, but it was bound to happen eventually. Luck neutral would state that the team should have a PDO around 1.00 even. Now, usually good teams end with a PDO over 1.00, it just happens when you have great goaltending and quality shooting together. But it is rare that a team remains significantly over 1.00 for a whole 82 games, there has to be some regression back to luck neutral, and this has been happening over the last four games.
Now, is that the only thing that is going on? Of course not, we can discuss the poor goaltending across the two New York games, or the lack of scoring across the Dallas and Philly games. Maybe you want to talk about the lack of a productive fourth line at this point, with nothing really happening outside of three solid lines. Where that fourth line went is a conversation for a different day, but certainly has had an effect on this team’s production recently. Or, maybe you want to bring up the team’s lack of focus across a full 20 minutes in a period, given all of the goals they are giving up near the end of periods, as John discussed yesterday. I don’t want to say that these losses are all simply a regression of luck.
However, I do want to bring that into the conversation and say that it is indeed part of it. There had to be some regression on this front at some point, the Devils could not remain this lucky across 82 games. If for nothing else, this is true because they are the Devils and we root for them, how can we be so lucky? Have you seen the team this past decade? So we needed a dose of reality. But it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to it. If they keep playing like they did against Philadelphia the other night, wins are going to come in buckets, but if this leads to a downward spiral, then we need to have a different discussion altogether. I don’t see that happening, but it isn’t impossible.