Yesterday there was a post on the Behind the Net Blog which discussed the Washington Capital’s 2009-10 even strength shooting percentage of 11.0% and the conclusion was that it must be mostly luck which resulted in a shooting percentage that high. But was it? It was noted in the article that in 2007-08 the Capitals shot at 8.1%, in 2008-09 they shot at 8.2% and this season they are shooting at 8.2% again. So clearly 2009-10 appears to be an anomaly, but was it a luck driven anomaly or something else?

Most people in the hockey analysis world have been using a simple binomial distribution to simulate luck so I’ll do that here too. The thing is, if the Washington Capitals were really a 8.2% shooting team last year, the chances of them shooting 11.0% or better on 2045 shots is a mere 0.0042%. That kind of luck we should expect once every 8000 NHL seasons. In short, we can be pretty confident that the Capitals 11.0% shooting percentage wasn’t all luck driven.

So the next question is, how much of it is luck, and how much can we attribute to other factors? Well, let’s assume that their good luck was significant to the point where there would only be a 5% chance they could have experienced even more luck. We can do this by constructing a binomial distribution using centered on a shooting percentage where the chance of producing a shooting percentage of >11.0% is 5%. The result is shown in the following chart:

The far left vertical line is the number of goals that Washington would produce if they had an 8.2% shooting percentage and the far right line is their actual shooting percentage. The center vertical line is the theoretical shooting percentage we would need to meet the 5% luck conditions outlined above. Under this scenario one could suggest of the extra 57 goals that Washington scored above what they would get if they shot at 8.2%, 22 of those goals can be attributed to luck and 35 can be attributed to skill.

But what if we assumed the Capitals were extremely lucky and there was only 1% chance of having greater luck. Under that scenario their true talent level would be 9.49% shooting percentage and 26 goals would be due to skill and 31 would be due to luck.

Regardless of how you want to look at it, a significant portion of the Capitals elevated shooting percentage was likely due to non-luck factors, be they actual talent, playing style, score effects, etc.