Who is generating the most unsustainably positive results in the NHL?
When people ask me what I think the most important stats for the average hockey fan to understand are, I don’t say WAR (Wins Above Replacement) or RAPM (Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus) or Expected Goals. I answer with percentages. Shooting percentage, on-ice shooting percentage, and on-ice save percentages are an extremely revealing stat at the player and team level not because they tell us who’s good or bad but because they allow us to temper our expectations and place other metrics in better context. Goals, assists, points, plus-minus, and even Goals Above Replacement are dramatically influenced by the random bounces of a three-inch frozen rubber disc flying around an ice surface at 100 miles per hour, and the better we get at recognizing the invisible hand of luck the smarter we’ll get at understanding the present and predicting the future.
A small sample like this season is vulnerable to all kinds of outlier luck-based outcomes, and though we may eagerly try to construct elaborate narratives around them, history tells us that it is far more likely that we are seeing good or bad luck than true reflections of player performance.
In this piece I’m going to look at some players who are currently enjoying individual or on-ice percentages that are significantly out of whack with their prior career results, and who can be expected to see at least some degree of regression towards the norm over the remainder of the season.
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