The Winnipeg Jets have not had the puck much this season, but have kept it out of their net and put it in their opposition’s.
When adjusting for blowouts and different arenas, the Jets are 20th and 21st in the major possession metrics (corsi and fenwick, respectively), according to Puck on Net. Despite that, they’ve allowed the sixth-fewest and scored the eighth-most, and are second in the Central Division.
The San Jose Sharks, meanwhile, are one of the three best possession teams by both metrics when adjusting for score and venue. They’ve allowed the fewest goals per game in the league, but have only scored the second-fewest, and are five points back in the Pacific Division.
That’s a pretty stark difference, and much of it comes down to luck.
One way to measure luck is with a statistic known as PDO, which sums a team’s save and shooting percentages. The “Mendoza line” is 100, with teams standing above the line considered lucky and teams sitting below unlucky.
The Jets’ PDO during five-on-five play, which comprises the vast majority of a team’s minutes, is 102.67, the second-highest in the league, according to Corsica Hockey. The Sharkss is 98.04, the sixth-lowest.
In some ways, the Jets are making their own luck. They boast one of the most skilled forward groups, and it’s reasonable to expect a team led by Patrik Laine to be one of the league’s best at finishing. Connor Hellebuyck, who’s seized the starting goalie job from free agent signing Steve Mason, has a history of success in college and the AHL.
Expecting 11 players to convert on over 10 percent of their chances and Hellebuyck to exceed his career averages, as has happened in Winnipeg this season, is another matter entirely.
Similarly, the Sharks are at least somewhat responsible for their own misfortune. The team’s too talented to continue scoring on only 6.01 percent of their five-on-five shots, but it’d be unrealistic to expect them to convert at the same level as a much more offensively gifted club like Winnipeg.
Both teams are likely due for some amount of regression to the mean. The Sharks’ strong possession game bodes well when they’re luckier, while the Jets’ lesser numbers do not when they hit a bump in the road.
The cliche holds that it’s better to be lucky than good. The Sharks and Jets have shown, however, that a team can’t be good without being a little lucky.