Pytahgorean wins bode well for Senators

Those of you familiar with baseball statistics may be aware of Pythagorean wins. If you hate math, skip to the next paragraph. The idea is as follows: if a team scores as many goals as they let in, chances are they should have exactly a .500 record. If they score more goals than they let in, their winning percentage should move higher according to some mathematical relationship. Bill James determined that the relationship for baseball is runs scored squared divided by runs scored squared less runs allowed squared. Marc Foster and Chris Apple of determined that the same relationship holds true for hockey except that the exponential factor is 2.03. The hockey model usually understates winning percentage by about 4 points due to the awarding of a point for an overtime loss.

Here is the idea without any math. If a team had a lousy winning percentage but scored more goals than they let in, then chances are, all things being equal, they will have more wins the following year. And conversely, if a team lucked out and despite letting in more goals than they scored, had a winning record, it will catch up with them and they will likely win fewer games the next year.

This matters if you are Boston who scored 21 more goals than allowed and won the division. Ottawa scored 75 more than they allowed yet finished third in the division. Ottawa was much better than their win loss record indicated and the Bruins got statistically lucky.

In essence, the Bruins won a lot of close games and the Senators won a lot of blowouts but lost the tight games. Over time, usually that evens out.

The top three teams who got short changed in wins were the Senators, Devils and Wild. The teams who most outperformed their Pythagorean wins were the Bruins, Hurricanes, Penguins, Predators and Blues.

We can argue about intangibles such as clutch wins or superior coaching, but the stats say that Ottawa should trounce the Bruins in the standings this year.

Here is a list of actual and Pythagorean points for the most recent NHL season. The results are not adjusted for overtime loss points awarded.

Atlantic actual Pythagorean diff

Philadelphia Flyers 101 99.1 1.9

New-Jersey Devils 100 103.3 -3.3

New-York Islanders 91 92.0 -1.0

New-York Rangers 69 66.1 2.9

Pittsburgh Penguins 58 45.8 12.2


Detroit Red Wings 109 106.2 2.8

St. Louis Blues 91 79.0 12.0

Nashville Predators 91 81.6 9.4

Blue Jackets 62 58.1 3.9

Chicago Blackhawks 59 56.2 2.8


Boston Bruins 104 90.8 13.2

Toronto Maple Leafs 103 96.1 6.9

Ottawa Senators 102 108.2 -6.2

Montreal Canadiens 93 88.6 4.4

Buffalo Sabres 85 81.6 3.4


Vancouver Canucks 101 97.8 3.2

Colorado Avalanche 100 96.5 3.5

Calgary Flames 94 92.6 1.4

Edmonton Oilers 89 87.0 2.0

Minnesota Wild 83 84.2 -1.2


San Jose Sharks 104 96.8 7.2

Dallas Stars 97 90.5 6.5

Los-Angeles Kings 81 77.3 3.7

Mighty Ducks 76 69.9 6.1

Phoenix Coyotes 68 60.5 7.5


Tampa-Bay Lightning 106 101.9 4.1

Atlanta Thrashers 78 71.5 6.5

Carolina Hurricanes 76 66.0 10.0

Florida Panthers 75 68.7 6.3

Washington Capitals 59 57.2 1.8