Puck Luck??? I don’t think so

I don’t believe in Puck Luck, never have.

I put it up there right beside the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Gregor’s ability to play hockey.

I am not sure where this term started but it should just go back there. So often it is used to explain how team A beat team B. That team A simply got the lucky bounces and not through consistent effort. There are lucky bounces in hockey but a team earns them. They are not predetermined by destiny.

The Rangers and the Kings have both been playing hard and well to get to the Stanley Cup finals. They earned the opportunity to compete for hockey’s ultimate prize. After two close game the Kings had a nice cushion of victory last night, 3-0. To the casual observer, the highlights would show the Kings getting the lucky bounces. Those bounces got them the win. I don’t see it that way at all.

What I saw last night was a King’s team that was consistent in its style of play and focus. Never getting outside of what makes them successful as a team. I saw a Rangers team playing hard — the effort was not lacking. The Rangers were trying too hard to create chances that were not there. They were over aggressive to the point of being out of position. The Rangers effort led to the Kings goals, not puck luck.

Here is goal number 1:

Not a super first by either team but if you’re the Rangers, being tied at home after one is something you can live with. Under ten seconds to go in the first period. Kings get a fast break opportunity. Nash back checks hard on Williams as he should. The D, Moore, needs to read that play by Nash and fold back underneath him to protect the middle of the ice. Moore doesn’t do that and the space needed for a two on one opens up.

Williams makes a nice pace and Carter is off. Carter’s shot seems to go off Girardi judging by the King’s reaction. Puck Luck? Not a chance. The Rangers gave the Kings this chance, no luck there.

Here is goal number 2:

Kings on the PP. Their PP is quite simple. Work the puck from low to high and shoot the puck. They haven’t reinvented the PP! They do just that on this PP. Muzzin jumps to the middle with the puck and gets off a  quick shot. St Louis tries to block the shot, instead it redirects off him past the King. St Louis is trying to make a difference, trying to do the right thing. He is better off to let the puck go through to the King. He is quite low as a forward to block.

Puck luck? It is a good bounce for the Kings but they do the right thing. Sooner or later you are rewarded.

Here is goal number 3:

By this point in the game the Rangers are pressing, needing a goal to get back into it and the series. They are cheating on the offensive side of the puck. Girardi pinches down to keep the play alive. Both St Louis and Richards are in decent position to support the pinch. Neither one gets above the Kings players. St Louis dives into the pile along the wall to help. As soon as he does the puck goes by him and boom….two-on-one.

Richards tries to make a pass for a back door tap in. McDonagh breaks up the pass but it goes right back to Richards. The King has slid over already, empty net for Richards.

Puck Luck? The bounce off McDonaugh was a good break for the Kings. But the entire play is very avoidable if either St. Louis or Richards back off in the O-zone. No puck luck, not today.

So often we blame the player right beside the guy who scored for a goal against (or the goal tender). Try this: after a goal is scored rewind a little and see if you can determine the real cause. I know that AV was not blaming Girardi on either the first or third goals. McDonaugh wasn’t taking any heat for the third goal. I am sure they feel badly but they were not to blame nor should puck luck get the credit!

  • ubermiguel

    You say there is no such thing as puck luck, but then at least twice in the article you say the Kings got a good break. A good break IS puck luck. The bounce back to Richards on #3 was all luck.

  • ubermiguel

    Struds, any comments on the impact of luck on Sidney Crosby’s poor performance this year or on slumps in general? By my eye Crosby was playing his normal game but nothing was happening on the score sheet for him.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Years ago (it might have even been in the Champions book that Kevin Lowe and Stan Fischler co-authored), Wayne Gretzky was quoted as saying that hard work creates luck. You only get the bounces by working hard and by using good habits – and that applies to teams and individuals.

  • Spoils

    Dustin Brown refers to the Kings 2014 playoff as Zombie Mode. They absolutely had some fortunate bounces, and Quick was ridonkulous, but let’s pretend it is 3-1 Rangers after the 2nd period – I would NOT bet against the kings gnawing their way to the win.

    Rangers are DONE.

    • Johnnydapunk

      Whichever one it is just moved Bucky away from the players bench to a “player personnel ” position which is I guess the formal name for being one of Katz’s BFF’s

      Now if they can get Steve Smith and Chabot off the coaching staff, there may be a bit of hope, not a lot but a flicker-ish …

  • Jason, we need to know the reference where you are hearing this term “puck luck” used.

    Your blog doesn’t do anything to critique how advanced stats guys use the term, and probably reinforces the concept:

    From Hockey Prospectus:


    Created by Vic Ferrari, PDO is the sum of a player’s
    on-ice save percentage and on-ice shooting percentage.
    PDO is an excellent way to measure “puck luck”
    or good fortune as it regresses heavily to the mean of
    100 (sometimes shown as 1000). For example, a player
    with a PDO of 103.4 is likely to see his luck drop
    next year, affecting his plus-minus or point totals. A
    player with a PDO of 97.1 will likely have a “bounceback”
    year purely by getting a few more bounces go
    his way.

    Carter’s PDO in this game is 1 goal on 4 shots, 200 (.200) and Quick’s save pct 1000. Carter playoff PDO is high and he’s been running with some “puck luck”. He’ll regress to mean over the course of next season.

    But this doesn’t mean the Kings were lucky to win. That is a different use of the term “lucky” which what I take it you were writing about.

  • Kodiak

    When something happens that isn’t planned, there is luck involved for it to take place, good or bad. Shooting the puck and having it deflect off a defender into the net is a good bounce and its lucky. There’s your puck luck. Good bounce and puck luck are the same thing, it’s really just semantics.

  • crabman

    I totally agree with your last comments about looking for what really created the scoring chance. But regardless if it is created by a poor play by the other team or a good play by the scoring team there are still lucky bounces in hockey. It is true that those lucky bounces tend to happen for teams and players that consistently do the right things but good players also hit cold streaks where they continue to do all the right things that have made them successful and just can’t seem to get a break. call it what you will but there is some luck involved in all sports.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    “Puck luck? It is a good bounce for the Kings but they do the right thing. Sooner or later you are rewarded.”

    Uh. What?

    You’re contradicting yourself. Or something. I don’t know what your definition of “puck luck” is.

    You say, “Sooner or later you are rewarded.” but that’s not true at all. There’s only so many minutes in a game and only so many games in a series. If this series was the best 10,000 and not the best of 7 then sure, The Law of Large Numbers would assure us that the team that did “the right thing” more often came out on top. But no. This is a best of 7, which is a very small sample size. So small that the crappier team could easily end up winning this thing if it got a “good bounce” (i.e. puck luck) here and there.

    Not to say that LA has been the crappier team. I don’t think so. They’re deserving champions. But to say that they have not been luckier than the Rangers is probably wrong.