A probabilistic breakdown of the NHL’s remaining undefeated teams

At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s set of games, the NHL had five undefeated teams remaining: The Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, and St. Louis Blues. The Blues differ from the other four in that they are currently 1–0–0. The other four? All 3–0–0.

No one probably would have selected these four teams to have this shared moment of victories only. Yet, here they are. What were the chances that it’d be these for teams? Let’s take a look at some probabilities.

Teams deserving of their win streaks

Using MoneyPuck.com’s Deserve To Win O’Meter (DTWOM), we’ll look at each team’s set of three games to see how things came to be. The DTWOM simulates a game outcome based on each game’s events, except replaces actual goaltending performances with average goaltending for both teams. A full explanation of the Deserve To Win O’Meter can be found here.

As seen below, based on the game events that transpired in the Calgary Flames match versus the Vegas Golden Knights on October 18, the Flames won 914 times out of 1,000 game simulations. Using these numbers, we can string together the probabilities for every three-game set for each undefeated team to see which team had the most expected outcome and which had the least expected.

Note that the DTWOM re-simulates the results on every refresh, so numbers shown in this post will differ if the values were re-ran.

To avoid repetition, the DTWOM images won’t be included for every game. Further, we’ll compare it to MoneyPuck’s pre-game predictions as well. The total probability for each team is then calculated by multiply the percentages together.

Using a coin toss as an example, the odds of getting three heads in a row is:

50% x 50% x 50% = 12.5%

The odds of winning three games in a row can be calculated similarly.

Dallas Stars

The Stars had a home-and-home versus the Nashville Predators, followed by a home game against the Winnipeg Jets. Based on pre-game predictions, the Stars were underdogs against the Predators, but favourites against the Jets.

From the DTWOM, the Stars played two excellent games in their first and third contests, but were worse than the Predators in their second showing.

GamePre-game win predictionDTWOM
@ NSH43.4%78.4%
vs NSH48.7%44.4%
vs WPG61.7%71.1%
Total Probability13.0%24.7%

The total odds of the Stars winning all three games was 13.0% based on predictions, but based on their on-ice product, those odds increased to 24.7%—nearly double the odds of three heads in a row, which is completely random.

In other words, the Stars played great hockey in two games and weren’t that bad in their off-game, leading to a well-earned win streak.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes started their season off with a home-opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’re now two games into a five-game Pacific Division road trip, matching up against the San Jose Sharks and Seattle Kraken so far.

GamePre-game win predictionDTWOM
vs CBJ75.3%72.1%
@ SJS67.7%69.3%
@ SEA62.7%71.9%
Total Probability32.0%35.9%

By all accounts, they had the easiest schedule out of the four teams and earning six points in their situation was basically expected. The pre-game predictions had them slotted at 32.0%, but their on-ice product bumped it up higher to 35.9%.

Out of the four teams, this three-game win streak was the most expected, and the Hurricanes backed that up with three dominant games.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers had a two-game homestand to open their season against middle-of-the-pack teams in the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks, followed by a visit to the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning.

GamePre-game win predictionDTWOM
vs NJD39.9%39.4%
vs VAN41.3%73.1%
@ TBL31.5%32.5%
Total Probability5.2%9.4%

Philadelphia came into the season expected to be a bottom-feeder. And based on the DTWOM, they are lucky to be a part of this group. They weren’t favoured in any of the three games in the predictions, and only outplayed the Canucks.

They had the lowest probability of stringing together three wins to open their season, and even in the DTWOM, they were only at 9.4%—the lowest of the bunch.

Calgary Flames

The Flames had a gauntlet of sorts to open their season. They were tasked with facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Colorado Avalanche, then facing the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year in the Edmonton Oilers, then finally the unpredictable Vegas Golden Knights.

GamePre-game win predictionDTWOM
vs COL53.6%30.2%
@ EDM47.9%69.5%
vs VGK62.0%91.4%
Total Probability15.9%19.2%

Heading into the games, the Flames were first close favourites and then close underdogs in their first two contests, and were heavy favourites against Vegas.

The Avalanche were in fact the better team on the ice in the first game. The Flames improved with each passing game; however, as they increased their DTWOM to 69.5% versus Edmonton and then the most dominant display of any team in any game here, with a whopping 91.4% against the Golden Knights.

The Flames had moderately low odds of winning three games in a row here, but their on-ice performance bumped it up to nearly one in five.

Total outcomes and probabilities

Overall, here’s how the teams compare. The numbers below are the same total probabilities as seen for each team above. For fun, we can combine each team’s individual total probabilities to see the total probability of these four teams aligning their win streaks.

TeamPre-game totalDTWOM total
Total Probability0.035%0.16%

So there you have it, 35 times out of 10,000, these teams would have been predicted to simultaneously hold three-game win streaks to start their seasons. However, their on-ice performances—in which all four teams saw a total increase, each to their credit—led to a result of 16 times out of 1,000.

For reference, tossing 12 heads in a row comes in at 0.024%, or 24 times out 10,000. So the NHL getting off to this exact start? Slightly more likely based on predictions; much more likely based on on-ice results.

May the victors keep winning.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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