The 2020-2021 NHL season is underway (although it’s really just the 2021 season) and I wanted to look at the standings of the league and see how each team is playing thus far.
Obviously this season is unlike anything we have seen. 56 games, Covid-19 outbreaks causing games to be postponed, and playing the same teams over and over again – it all makes for some great hockey.
To start, lets look at the current standings:
As of Sunday, February 14th the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vegas Golden Knights lead their respective divisions by point percentage. No surprises here as all of these teams were among the favorites to win the cup.
The Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and San Jose Sharks are last in their divisions. The only surprise here might be the New York Rangers. This is a young team that made some noise at the end of the season last year. However, the East division is without a doubt the best division, so their competition is much harder than the others.
Next, the 5 vs. 5 xGoal breakdown by team:
The Montreal Canadians and the Carolina Hurricanes are the two teams that really stick out in the “Good” section, which makes sense considering they are 2nd and 3rd in their respective divisions.
If you want to watch some fun hockey, I’d suggest tuning into a Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks game. The only real “Bad” team is the LA Kings, who currently sit in 2nd to last place in the West. The Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings are “Boring” – they both just do not generate a lot of xGoals and do not allow a lot either.
To analyze each team’s offense, I graphed their expected goals per game and compared them to their actual goals per game in 5 vs. 5 situations.
The Montreal Canadians are the best offense in 5 vs. 5 play. Them and the Maple Leafs are scoring almost exactly as many goals as the advance stats say they should be scoring.
The Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, and Philadelphia Flyers are vastly outperforming their expected goals number, while the Ottawa Senators are under performing. The Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators are just bad offenses in 5 vs. 5 play.
The same can be done for defense by looking at expected goals against compared to their actual goals against.
Dallas Stars lead the league with less than 1.5 expected goals against per game in 5 vs. 5 situations. The Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators are the worst defensive teams in the league.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils are outperforming their expected goal metrics on defense. Keep in mind though that the New Jersey Devils have not played a game in some time due to Covid-19.
A table summarizing all the stats above, as well as the PDO statistics (Shooting and Save Percent) can be seen below. Red means the team is worse than average while blue means they are better.
Even though there are some teams in the NHL which have not played in a few weeks due to Covid-19, I think the current standings pretty much will remain throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs. The only potential change I see happening is the Calgary Flames may jump the Edmonton Oilers in the North Division. Other than that I don’t see a lot of changes happening.
I’ve been a huge fan of the set opponents for the entire season. I think playing a team 7-8 times in a season, often back to back, makes for a very competitive environment and some really good games. I think the NHL needs to think of a way to adopt something similar next season to keep the series type of competitiveness.