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Fans Say The Darndest Things - The Luck Edition

Hello, this is the second part of the (as of now) ongoing series of funny/stupid things that fans blame stuff on. You might disagree, but that's what the "comments" section is for. Fire away.

"Oh, he almost didn't score. Darn it, how lucky."
"Oh, he almost didn't score. Darn it, how lucky."
Jonathan Daniel

Bad luck is the funniest excuse for a conceded/scored goal, ever. And it's borderline retarded to blame a loss on luck. Nothing compares to "luck" as an excuse. In pro hockey, luck doesn't exist. At least not in a way that has any influence on the outcome of hockey game.

Let's start with the miraculous "lucky bounces". How some people consider this to be an actual thing in the first place is absurd to me. The puck bounces one way or the other in any given situation, and the only thing that matters is who reacts to the bounce first and executes the following play better.

The fact is that a puck will rarely bounce the same way two times in a row if there's a broken up play or a ricochet from the backboards. The situation is all about reacting accordingly, not about luck deciding who benefits from the bounce. It's about being in the right place at the right time, to know where you are most likely to benefit from a possible bounce.

Guys like Teemu Selanne have the ability to somehow be in the right place at the right time. That's not luck, folks. Those guys read the plays a step before they happen and usually position themselves so that they're more likely to get to the loose puck than the player who is (supposed to be) defending them. To be able to benefit from a bounce, that's another thing completely. The so-called "lucky goal" where the puck ends up near the goal and a forward capitalizes on this chance? That's what happens when training, preparation and opportunity meet.

"But it's lucky if the puck bounces to a forward and doesn't just end up in the corner after a shot from the blue line". Wrong. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I'm 100% certain that when a shot is fired at a crowd in front of a net and you've positioned yourself better than the D-man, you're more likely to get the puck than your opponent. But also, it's statistically impossible to get the puck every time. If the puck ends up at the right side of the net 20% of the time, and to the left side of the net another 20% of the time (hint; I made up those numbers), then that's how it is. The playing field is even. It's not luck, it's statistical probabilities.

And then there's the lucky/unlucky situations on a scoring chance. "Oh, unlucky, he should've scored there", or "They got lucky there, I mean, Colton frickin' Orr scored". This is a constant source of comedy for yours truly.

For starters, let's not pretend like there are any bad hockey players in the NHL. Any single 4th line enforcer could visit your pick-up games and would score a million goals per game with their eyes closed. Sure, there are players who are absolutely horrible when you compare them to top-tier NHL'ers, but no bad hockey player will ever make his way to the NHL. When you give a guy an open net, they can score. Anybody out there can score. But that doesn't mean they will.

So, about that luck then. I wish I had comprehensive stats to support me here, but I'll try to manage with whatever I can come up with.

The most common example of an "unlucky" shooter is when a player is positioned near the goal and gets the puck when there's not a defender right on him and the goalie is scrambling for his life to save the shot that's about to be taken. But the puck hits the post and the chance is gone. Somehow this is sometimes (way too often) labelled as unlucky for the shooter and so so so so lucky for the defending team. And if this happens in a crucial moment of the game when it's a one goal game and the shooter's team loses, the defending team is sometimes (again, way too often) called lucky for winning the game.

Here's the kicker; No player has ever scored on 100% on his shots through his entire career as a hockey player. No player has ever scored on every single one of his "this has to be in" -calibre chances. Players miss on great chances all the time. The better team on the day still always wins the game. If your team doesn't score on those chances? Not unlucky. Not one bit. Just poor execution and that is all.

Let's say it's your team's best scorer taking that shot. He's got a point-blank shot when the goalie seems to be completely out of the play and the D-man covering him is doing his best Sergei Kostitsyn impersonation. He probably scores more often than not, but if he misses, it's not unlucky. That's once again just a statistical probability that he will, sometimes, not score.

"But if he scores like 80% of the time on those chances, and has now missed five in this game, that's unlucky. Right?". Wrong. It means that your favorite player just might not be quite as good as you thought he was.

This whole article would be pointless if fans wouldn't blame stuff on luck. That simply is not a factor in pro hockey. If you can prove me that luck exists, go ahead. I'll be happy to point out how wrong you are.