Lightning Numbers: Games 52-65

By now, you've all heard about most of the statistics that I've been tracking this season. You probably don't want me to keep introducing new ones to you. And to be honest, at this point in the year, we are unlikely to see a drastic shift in the Lightning 's underlying metrics.

However, change is possible. In fact, the Lightning's shot numbers began to dip around this point of last season, so it's worth keeping up to date on these things. This is especially true since the roster began to change around Feb. 14 of this year, which was Dominic Moore's last game in a Lightning sweater.

No one expected these roster changes to make an enormous difference in how the Lightning have been playing, although observers like Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune noted that Boucher has had the opportunity to use the 1-3-1 in the most recent games. That's a change that not only reflects changing game situations but will also (should it continue) be reflected in the changing shot numbers

After the jump: The Lightning's team metrics with some context for added spice, and a brief exploration of the the Lightning's current playoff chances.

Team Stats for games 52-65:

In the following chart, I have divided the data into four sections: since Feb. 25, games 51-65, all of 2012, and the season as a whole. The point is to try to see any trends that may be occuring, but it's possible that all I have discovered is the effect of sample size on statistics. Nonetheless, this is what we have to work with, so work we shall.

A brief note on those dates before we begin. I chose Feb 25 as a cutoff because before that point, the Lightning were still dressing the same players they had been dressing throughout the season, despite losing three guys to trades: Moore and Pavel Kubina after Feb, 14, and Steve Downie after Feb. 18. Until Feb. 25 (Tim Wallace's first game), no new players suited up. Brian Lee, Brandon Segal and Mike Commodore all played starting Feb 28, and Keith Aulie'sfirst game was Mar. 2.

Since Feb. 25 Games 52-65 All of 2012 Full season
5v5 Shot Ratio 0.512 0.455 0.483 0.487
5v5 Goal Ratio 0.435 0.431 0.470 0.478
5v5 SV % 0.870 0.902 0.892 0.898
5v5 SH% 0.095 0.089 0.103 0.098
PDO 0.965 0.991 0.995 0.996

There have only been 5 games since Feb. 25, so those numbers will definitely change with each game. And, quite frankly, giving up eight goals is going to mess up your statistics, especially in the short term. It's hard to say what, if any, real impact the roster changes have had on the team's play without more data. It is possible that losing three players beginning some two weeks before they were replaced had an effect on the February statistics or that gaining three defensemen at the deadline helped produce better puck possession. It is also possible that these numbers show only the variations one would expect from a sample of 5 or 14 games.

As far as longer term trends, maintaining puck possession the way they have over those five games should help them. You will note, though, that the month of February saw a drop in the shot ratio but an increase in save percentage. Over that time, the Lightning went 8-5-1. In short, the Lightning haven't yet been able to string together wins based on both good puck possession and good goaltending. It has been either one or the other, but there are reasons to hope things are getting better.

In another note, the reason that shot metrics are considered so critical among the stats circles is that they are the only repeatable (read: controllable) phenomena that have been shown so far to have significant correlation with winning. However, there has been some recent work on trying to factor in stats like Hits and Faceoffs. It's in it's earliest stages, of course. Part of the issue will be making the recording of Hits more reliable, and this idea will need to be tested out, but it is intriguing. This is especially true since at this point, shot metrics fail to account for a huge amount of what goes on in a game.

Playoff Picture:

Without getting into the concept of "magic/tragic numbers" (the number of wins or points a team must gain in order to clinch a particular playoff spot), we can play with the standings a little bit to see exactly what kind of performance would be necessary for the Bolts to make the postseason. One of our community contributors, Incipient_Senescence, has already shown that if they do so, it will literally be historic.

Nonetheless, this is a weird year in the Eastern Conference, point-wise, and the Southeast Division being as weak as it is means that the division lead and its guaranteed playoff spot is still up for grabs.

Current Standings:

Eastern Standings

New York Rangers 64 42-15-7 91
Boston Bruins 64 38-23-3 79
Florida Panthers 65 31-22-12 74
Pittsburgh Penguins 64 38-21-5 81
Philadelphia Flyers 64 36-21-7 79
New Jersey Devils 65 36-24-5 77
Ottawa Senators 67 34-25-8 76
Winnipeg Jets 66 31-27-8 70
Washington Capitals 65 32-28-5 69
Tampa Bay Lightning 65 31-28-6 68
Buffalo Sabres 65 30-27-8 68
Toronto Maple Leafs 65 30-28-7 67
New York Islanders 66 28-29-9 65
Carolina Hurricanes 65 24-27-14 62
Montreal Canadiens 66 25-31-10 60

Since the lockout, the average minimum number of points needed to qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference has been 92. The Lightning currently have 68 points and have 17 games left (or 34 points maximum).They would need to gain 24 of those 34 points, or 71% of them. In their last 10 games, they have gone 7-3-0 for exactly 70% of their points. So to make that 92 point cut off, they have to gain points at a rate just slightly higher than they have been recently.

But wait, maybe this year is different, you say. The Eastern Conference isn't as tough as it was last season. Okay, maybe it is different. Let's see. Based on the rate that Eastern Conference teams have been gaining points so far this year, and the number of games each team has left, the minimum point total drops to 88. In that case, the Bolts have to gain 20 more points to meet that minimum. That's 58.8% of the remaining points. Much more doable.

But there's another wrinkle. Teams don't win at the same rate all season long. Using the point percentage of each team's last 10 games (as of Sunday afternoon), the minimum is once again 92 points. Averaging those two scenarios (season-long point percentage and last 10 point percentage) makes the minimum 89 points. This weights the last 10 games much more than the rest of the season but doesn't discount earlier trends altogether.

I ran this scenario on the standings all three ways, and the Lightning did best when considering current trends (Last 10 games) alone. In that scenario, not only did they make the playoffs, they actually captured the division lead. All this means, of course is that the Lightning have been out performing their division rivals recently, and if they continue to do so, they could be in good shape. In the average scenario (weighting current trends over season-long results) the Lightning could squeak in, depending on tiebreakers with the Buffalo Sabres.

Est. Lightning Results estimated points Estimated Standings
Full Season point % (.523) 86 10th
Last 10 point % (.70) 92 3rd*
Average Full seas & Last 10 89 T-8th

All in all, it's a moderately more hopeful picture than we were looking at a month ago, but remember, these scenarios depend on all teams performing essentially the way they have in the past. That is to say that teams that have been losing have to continue to lose and the Lightning have to continue to win in order to make this happen.