This morning I heard an interesting question posed on XM Homeice: What is the trend for teams coming out of the All Star Game Break (ASGB) in terms of playing better or worse?
The hypothesis would seem to point to an answer that teams play better after the break based on the extra rest all but a few of the players received during the break period. With that as our going-in theory, we measured post-Lockout performance of teams in terms of average points per game (PPG) for both the two weeks before and the two weeks after the four ASGBs played prior to this season’s. Measuring overall, by conference, playoff teams and Stanley Cup finalists, below is what we found, led by the numbers.
The NHL As A Whole
There have been five ASGBs since the Lockout. Since we do not have the data for the two weeks after the break for this year, we analyzed teams for the 2007. 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons. (There was no All Star game in 2006 or 2010 as the Olympics replaced that game.)
The Average PPG for the two weeks prior to the ASGB is 1.099.
The Average PPG for the two weeks after the ASGB is 1.098.
The Average Difference is, you guessed it, -0.001, a relative wash.
And the trend is for 57 teams to improve, 57 teams to take a step backwards and 6 teams had no change between the before and after periods. You might stop here and say the ASGB has no effect upon teams, then.
There is a variance between before and after the ASGB, difference between before and after and trends between the two conferences.
Back East, here are the four figures:
PPG Average Before the ASGB 1.094
PPG Average After the ASGB 1.070
PPG Average Difference -0.024
PPG Trend is 23 improve, 33 decline, and 4 remaining unchanged. There are also four Eastern Conference teams (BUF, NYI, PIT and TOR) with a positive PPG trend following the ASGB with one, TOR, who has had a positive trend all four times. MTL and TBL, both of whom need to pick up their game measurably, have declined in PPG after the ASGB all four seasons of this study.
So as a whole, the Eastern Conference is below the NHL average all the way around and tends to win less following the ASGB.
Figures out West are:
PPG Average Before the ASGB 1.111
PPG Average After the ASGB 1.146
PPG Average Difference 0.035
The PPG Trend is 34 improve, 24 decline, and 2 remained unchanged.
For this analysis, the Western Conference out-performs the NHL average and tends to win more after the ASGB than before it when compared to Eastern Conference averages. There are nine Western Conference teams (ANA, CHI, DAL, LAK, MIN, NSH, PHX, STL and VAN) holding a positive PPG trend following the ASGB with ANA and MIN earning the perfect positive trend for all four, previous ASGB seasons. Only CGY has declined in PPG after the ASGB all four seasons out West.
We would be remiss if we did not put some analytical thought to the averages for teams that do and do not make the playoffs in ASGB seasons. So here we go:
The Hi PPG Average before the ASGB is 1.750
The Lo PPG Average before the ASGB is 0.167
The Average PPG before the ASGB is 1.206
The Hi PPG average after the ASGB is 2.0
The Lo PPG average after the ASGB is 0.0
The Average PPG after the ASGB is 1.207
The Average PPG difference is 0.001, or relatively unchanged between the two periods. This gives credence to the theory Playoff teams are relatively consistent winners throughout the season.
But what about the two Stanley Cup Finalists each year?
The Hi PPG average before the ASGB is 1.714
The Lo PPG average before the ASGB is 0.857
Average PPG before the ASGB is 1.178
The Hi PPG average after the ASGB is 1.286
The Lo PPG average after the ASGB is 1.167
Average PPG after the ASGB is 1.242
Average PPG difference is 0.064. The conclusion drawn here between mere Playoff makers and finalists is a rather simple one: Stanley Cup Finalist teams tend to out-perform the average going-to-the-Playoffs team in the two weeks following the ASGB. It may not be a ‘Moneyball’ moment, but can stand as an indicator as we travel two more weeks down the road.
The overall NHL Average PPG does not provide an indicator as to whether or not the NHL as a whole plays better after the ASGB than before it.
The Western Conference is the stronger conference in terms of PPG both before and after the ASGB, but more so after the five-day halt. More teams in the Western Conference should increase their PPG over the next two weeks.
And finally, Playoff teams may have a maximum (2.000) or minimum (0.000) PPG in the next two weeks, but none of those teams are likely one of the two Stanley Cup Finalists. You are instead looking for teams that win between 1-in-2 and 3-in-4 games in the next 14 days as your indicator.