OK. Everybody freeze!
Using statistics and other computations from games ending on 2 March / on average at Game 64 for teams, we rolled all of these figures into our calculator and compared them to the average profile of post-Lockout, Stanley Cup Finals teams. Armed with these numbers, we are making our early predictions for the 2012 NHL Playoffs below.
Hang on, fans – this is not what you might think.
The Calculations, Please
For statistics, we used the following:
Current Standings Position (This is as if we were at Game 82 right now. Note here that only two of 12 teams / 16.7% to make the finals since 2006 were the President’s Trophy winner. DET won the ’07 Finals and VAN lost the ’11 Finals. All and all, we think the President’s Trophy is a negative thing, possibly because the team has spent themselves in their efforts to be No. 1 in the regular season.)
Wins Per Game Played (We do the ‘per game’ calculation because we are not yet at an even comparison of 82 games for all teams – the BEST number in each range is underlined. The Hi here is .659 and the Lo is .500.)
Losses Per Game Played (The Hi here is .427 and the Lo is .232.)
Standings Points Per Game Played (The Hi here is 1.427 and the Lo is 1.073.)
Goals For Per Game Played (The Hi here is 3.598 and the Lo is 2.878.)
Goals Against Per Game Played (The Hi here is 3.171 and the Lo is 2.244.)
On Goal Analysis’ Playoff Point Predictor Standings (A standings projection based on all points that can be scored in the season for each team by conference. Again here, being No.1 is a bad thing)
On Goal Analysis’ Player Analysis Versus The Stanley Cup Winning Baseline (SCWB) (This is a per team evaluation based on 16 Forward or Defenseman and six Goalie statistics and how the numbers stack up against the teams that have won the Stanley Cup since the Lockout)
And finally, On Goal Analysis’ Playoff Point Projections (A final points projection based on all points that can be scored in the season for each team by conference.)
Quick knowledge question here – how many teams does any NHL club have to beat to get into the Playoffs each year? How many of you said seven? The answer is four because a team only has to be the best in their Division to secure a one, two or three seed. For those of you who have a problem with that, it is likely because you believe the worst of the top three may have less points that the No.8 seed overall. That has not happened yet since the Lockout with WSH at No.3 and OTT and BOS at Nos. 7 and 8 respectively in 2008 all having 94 points. We say this because we want to assuage your fears this season – our projections are for both Conferences’ No.3 seeds to have more points than the No.8 team.
That out of the way, here is what our calculator determined were matchups in the first Round of the Playoffs:
In the East, you would think WSH would be thrilled to start off the post-season against NYR. Since the Lockout, they are 2-0 against the Rangers in Round 1 matchups. The thing here is all of the numbers and results so far on the ice point toward NYR going deep. The Rangers’ only negatives in this matchup are for being in the No.1 seed. NYR defeats WSH.
The easy to say statement is this is not last year’s BOS team. “Why?” you ask. “Don’t you remember November?” In terms of measuring them against the SCWB, their average statistical output is up at the Center and Goalie position, but down in all others. Their per-game team stats are also down on all fronts from last season’s totals. But while our end-of-season projections have these two teams only separated by eight points, the gap is more significant than that. Despite the intangible of Marty Brodeur maybe having his last shot at a Cup, BOS will prevail. BOS defeats NJD.
It will be good to see the Panthers back in the post-season this year after their long drought. And while some will argue that ‘have-to-have-them-because-they-won-the-Southeast’ mentality, they will give Ottawa a run for their money on the adrenaline of Seeing Red. OTT should prevail, however, as they lead in statistical output for all positions on the ice except at Defense. OTT defeats FLA.
The No.4/5, PIT/PHI, Keystone State matchup has all the trappings of the rivalry brouhaha we have come to expect from these two teams. In almost all respects, these two teams are pretty much equal and this series is a virtual toss-up. Interestingly, PHI has the advantage in the SCWB. This means their team’s statistical output more closely matches up to the previous six Stanley Cup winning clubs. The Flyers underscore this, having gone 2-1 against the Pens so far including a win in Pittsburgh. But their ability to execute under adversity and in goal says PIT prevails. PIT defeats PHI.
Would a VAN v. DAL Round 1 go seven games like it did in 2007? This VAN is a better team than that one was. But if it did go seven, it would be because DAL could persevere beyond expectations. When the Stars overcome, it will be because statistically their Left Wing, Right Wing and Defenseman advantage in SCWB numbers rests in their top-end players versus throughout the depth of the organization. The Canucks should prevail this post-season, but it will be good to see DAL back to playing on into late April. VAN defeats DAL.
If STL drew CHI in Round 1 in 2009 – their last appearance in the post-season – it likely would have ended as it did against VAN. But neither this STL nor this CHI are those 2009 teams. Statistically, the Blues are THE top team against the SCWB. They are in fact the only club that exceeds the Baseline’s averages at every position on the ice. They also out-perform CHI in every statistical category we measured for this blog. The numbers point toward a Blues victory. STL defeats CHI.
Coyotes fans deserve a good playoff run. But we admit to being so traumatized from last season we accidentally and with horror initially made the mistake of writing in their opponent as DET again. It would seem the option is not much better as they draw SJS under our calculations. But follow us here. PHX scores a bit fewer goals per game. They also bow to SJS’s better numbers against the SCWB. But every round has at least one surprise. We say this is it. The Coyotes win based on the winning rhythm Coach Tippet has them in. A new coach ensues in San Jose, and a minor blow-up of the team at free agency follows. PHX upsets SJS.
And finally here, we have another great No.4/5 pairing as DET has home ice advantage versus NSH. Oh, sure, you can talk to the Red Wings’ statistical superiority against the Stanley Cup Finalist averages. NSH holds none save the Goals Per Game Against stat. And it does not go unnoticed that versus the SCWB DET’s combined, team numbers are better than the Predators’. But what NSH has that DET does not is the fact that in comparison with the post-Trade Deadline Day SCWB averages, their players’ depth is seamless in terms of player capability from top-end to role player. And they are also not going into the playoffs with a group of very talented players who nonetheless have declined in capability since their last trip to the Finals. In this round, we say NSH’s work by GM Poile is rewarded. NSH upsets DET.
Following our first set of pairings, Round 2 will look like this:
While teams in Round 2 will not be the same team that entered the playoffs in terms of how they are statistically playing, we will maintain their current output for comparison purposes in the next two rounds.
In the next blog, we cover Round 2 and 3 in detail, closing with the Finals’ matchup in our final blog in this series.