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The Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers are red hot and are getting lucky at the right time. Who will cool off first?

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Photo credit:Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
11 months ago
To be good, you have to be lucky.
To be lucky, you have to be good.
Welcome to the NHL playoffs.
This year’s rendition of the chase for Lord Stanley’s Mug is no different. The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers both are on the precipice of sweeping their foes en route to meeting in the finals.
The Golden Knights are up 3-0 on the Dallas Stars and the Panthers are up 3-0 on the Hurricanes. For both of these teams, their luck has come at the right time.
In hockey analytics, we often can find out if a team is overperforming or underperforming by looking at a few things. First and foremost, PDO. It’s an analytic that combines the team or players shooting percentage and save percentage. That number, over time, averages out to roughly 1.00. The margin of error usually rests around .1, so a .99 PDO or a 1.01 PDO isn’t always out of the norm.
Anything below that 1.00/.99 mark and your team is considered unlucky. There’s probably a scoring slump of sorts, and/or your team’s goaltending hasn’t been good. Anything about that 1.00/1.01 mark and your team is considered lucky. The puck is going in, and/or your team’s goaltending has been out of this world.
The second thing we can look at to see how a team is performing is the difference between a team’s actual goals scored, and their expected goal share — a statistic that measures how many goals a team/player should score when on the ice based off of the quality of shots taken. If a team has more goals than they have expected goals, that means some luck is coming into play.
All of this has come into play in these playoffs looking at both the Golden Knights and the Panthers, who have been on heaters through this postseason in all situations.
GF/60xGF/60GF-xGF DifferentialShooting%Save%PDO
Vegas3.452.51+.9412.23.94581.068
Florida2.082.43-.357.47.94941.024
Vegas is getting lucky in every way shape and form at 5×5. They’re shooting the lights out scoring on roughly 3.23 percent more shots than the norm, and their goaltending has been superb. Their goal to expected goal differential is also off the charts and their PDO 0f 1.068 is without a doubt the largest number I can recall seeing, small sample size be damned.
Florida is having some issues scoring at 5×5, but they’ve been bailed out in these playoffs by Sergei Bobrovsky, who is in the midst of a world-class performance. The oddsmakers over at Betway have Bobrovsky as the odds-on-favourite to win the Conn Smythe as post-season MVP at +200, for what it’s worth.
Both these teams have all but punched their tickets to the finals, and I’m going to be fascinated to see which team comes out on top. Can Vegas continue the all-around heater their on? Will Florida find some offence at 5×5?
Nonetheless, let’s look back at each of the last 10 Stanley Cup champions through the same lens, and see how they fared in their postseason runs in all situations.
GF/60xGF/60GF-xGF DifferentialShooting%Save%PDO
2022 — Avalanche4.133.530.610.88.90141.01
2021 — Lightning3.222.660.5611.03.92011.00
2020 – Lightning2.732.680.058.96.92211.012
2019 — Blues2.812.660.159.59.90681.003
2018 — Capitals3.432.770.6611.29.91171.025
2017 — Penguins2.992.570.4210.71.92821.035
2016 — Penguins2.983.05-0.078.72.91841.006
2015 — Blackhawks2.72.40.39.54.92401.019
2014 — Kings3.152.890.2610.49.91051.015
2013 — Blackhawks2.542.320.228.13.92901.01
Average3.072.750.3159.930.9171.013
Looking at the averages compared to Vegas and Florida, it’s clear the Golden Knights are overperforming by quite a bit in this postseason. As I stated above, they’re shooting the lights out and getting great goaltending, but it’s interesting to note their xGF/60 falls below average. Could they hit some regression in the finals?
Florida, meanwhile, is underperforming in terms of both their goal scoring and expected goal scoring, but are also getting plus goaltending. We’ve seen teams in the last decade win the cup with below-average offence, but great goaltending. I’m looking at you, 2020 Lightning and 2013/2015 Blackhawks, so it’s not out of the question to see them pull it all off this year.
In NHL history, there have only been four teams who have overcome 3-0 series deficits: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who comeback against the Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, the 1975 New York Islanders, who came back to win a quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers who comeback against the Boston Bruins in the semifinals, and the 2014 LA Kings, who overcame the San Jose Sharks in the first round.
I, for one, am fascinated to see who lifts the Stanley Cup this year.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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