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NHL 2012 Playoffs Round 1 Con’t: STL Versus SJS


This is On Goal Analysis‘ seventh in the series and third Western Conference pairing comparison for the NHL’s 2012 Playoff season. This will post along with the CHI versus PHX pairing before tonight’s puck drop. Once more, here is what you get in our first round preview:

The Schedule

The 2012 Series

And finally, Comparative Team Stat Analysis (CTSA) against the Hi, Average and Lo of the previous six, post-Lockout Stanley Cup Champions including: Wins; Losses; Points; Conference Seed; Goals For; Goals Against; Goal Differential; Power Play %; Penalty Kill %; Winning Streak; Longest Winning Streak; Losing Streak; Longest Losing Streak; Home and Away Winning %; Wins and Losses in their Last 10 games played; Closing Game Streak; Average Output Per Game by position; and a total Team Point Value.

We will put these up as fast as we can go from East to West and 1st vs 8th seed to 4th vs 5th pairings. Up seventh is the No.2 seed in the West…

STL vs SJS

One of two, multi-time zone crossing matchups in the Western Conference involves the Blues and Sharks. This is the second, almost-President’s Trophy-winning appearance in the post-Lockout playoffs for STL and the seventh straight but almost out-of-it, post-Lockout visit by the Sharks. Who will triumph here? Let’s consult the numbers…

Schedule

Thur, 12 April, 7:30p (ET) SJS at STL [TSN,CNBC,RDSI,CSN-CA (HD),FS-MW (HD)]

Sat, 14 April, 7:30p (ET) SJS at STL [TSN,CNBC,RDSI,CSN-CA (HD),FS-MW (HD)]

Mon, 16 April, 10p (ET) STL at SJS [TSN,NBCSN,RDS,FS-MW (HD),CSN-CA (HD)]

Thur, 19 April, 10:30p  (ET) STL at SJS [TSN,NBCSN,RDS,FS-MW (HD),CSN-CA (HD)]

Sat, 21 April, 7:30p (ET) STL at SJS [TSN,CNBC,RDS2,CSN-CA (HD),FS-MW (HD) – if required]

Mon, 23 April, TBD STL at SJS [FS-MW (HD),CSN-CA (HD) – if required]

Wed, 25 April, TBD STL at SJS [CSN-CA (HD),FS-MW (HD) – if required]

2012 Series

Sat, 15 October STL 4 @ SJS 2 (St. Louis leads series 1 – 0; Elliott defeats Greiss; STL goals from D’Agostini, Huskins, Steen and Backes; SJS goals from Handzus and Burns; 14 PIMs)

Sat, 10 December SJS 0 @ STL 1 (St. Louis leads series 2 – 0; Elliott defeats Niemi; STL goal from Shattenkirk; 22 PIMs)

Sun, 12 February SJS 0 @ STL 3 (St. Louis leads series 3 – 0; Halak defeats Niemi; STL goals from Pietrangelo (2) and Perron; 30 PIMs)

Sat, 3 March STL 3 @ SJS 1 (St. Louis wins series 4 – 0; Halak defeats Niemi; STL goals from McDonald, Oshie and Shattenkirk; SJS goal from Mitchell; 16 PIMs)

Key Notes: This is the only Round 1 playoff series whose regular season games included a sweep by one team; both Elliott and Halak went 2 – 0, had a shutout and won in both buildings; Niemi is 0 –3 against the Blues this season; leading STL goal scorers in this series are Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo (2 each); STL had three different goal scorers, all with only one goal; and the series ran an average of 20.5 PIMs per game with no majors issued.

STL vs SJS CTSA

There is no change to the leading Hi, Avg and Lo numbers from Stanley Cup Finalist (SCF) values as stated in our last post. STL with the home ice advantage is in blue and white for chart background while the SJS is in black text on white background wherever their stats fall within the average range of the post-Lockout SCF teams.

SJS, suffering with a below –Sharks’–average effort this season, was below average but higher than the Lo norm for Losses this season. (STL 0; SJS –.5)

Both STL and SJS were both below average and Lo norms in terms of Goals For. (STL –1; SJS –1.5)

STL is the only other team to join the LAK with a below average but above Lo norm number of Goals Against. In fact, of all Playoff teams, STL has the lowest total this season. This is our first occurrence where a positive stat category earns a negative mark per our Ten Pound Bag Theory about playing effort. (STL –2; SJS –1.5)

STL’s special teams are a mixed bag with below average but above Lo norms for their Power Play % and above both average and norms for their Penalty Kill %. At the same time, SJS is below both average and Lo norm for their PK %, a fact that may work in favor of the Blues who can smother with their defense but sometimes do not score at the tempo needed.  (STL –3.5; SJS –2.5)

Both STL and SJS’ Longest Winning Streak is five games, a number below average but above Lo norm compared to SCF teams. SJS’ Average Losing Streak is longer than average and Hi norms (STL –4; SJS –4)

In terms of Winning % both Home and Away, STL ties DET at home for the Playoff team high at .793, a number above both average and Hi norm. Both STL and SJS are below average but above Lo norms on the Road hovering somewhere just above .500. The combination of Home and Away records suggests STL comes out ahead of SJS, winning the series by Game 6. (STL –5.5; SJS –4.5)

SJS had a better Last 10 Games’ Wins record than STL, but was above average / below Hi norm. Both STL and SJS’ season-ending win streaks were above both average and Hi norms (STL –6.5; SJS –6)

In terms of the average, by–position output per player in 16 statistical categories, the comparison breaks down as follows:

  • STL is above both average and Hi norm at Left and Right Wing on a player–per–game basis (STL –8.5; SJS –6)
  • SJS is below average / above Lo norm at Center. And like STL, they are above average / Hi norm at Right Wing (STL –8.5; SJS –7.5)
  • Both teams join the majority with Goaltenders above both average and Hi norms (STL –9.5; SJS –8.5)

If you add up the by–position, per–game averages, STL leads SJS at every position except Defense with an overall 28.234 to 26.637.

Both teams also get and overall grade of a “Low C.” The key point here is that, while both are below SCF average and Lo norm, they are in the same boat with every other Western playoff team except VAN who meets the average numbers. On average, the difference between the lower and next higher, Western teams’ grades are under two total points for all categories. In contrast, the Eastern conference differential is approximately 3.3 points. The West is more competitive in terms of statistical output this past regular season. (STL –10.5; SJS –9.5)

If the negative effort subtraction throws you off from our prediction of the series victor being STL, keep this in mind: STL lost Ten Pound Bucket Theory points in 5.5 stat categories above average and/or norms; SJS lost only 3. That relative STL –5 to SJS –6.5, plus Winning Percentages plus average, by–position points gives STL the nod here.

Summary

Between these two clubs, the stats and 2011-12 history mean STL stands the best chance of progressing to further Playoff rounds. If VAN loses to LAK as we predict, that puts the Blues squarely in the hunt for the Western Conference championship and possibly onward to the Finals.

How does STL ensure they win this series? Simply up their game one Playoff gear from how they performed in the regular season.

How does SJS pull off the upset? Start by winning Game 1. That erases the regular season, we–can’t–beat–you demons and may be an indicator this series is not going to be what everyone expects. Lean hard into it and score on the Power Play which would put a huge ding in the Blues’ overall confidence. If those two things can happen, an assault can be launched on the Blues’ winning psychology. For the Sharks, this is an elephant – they can eat it, but will have to do so one bite at a time.

Our overall call is STL wins the series in six games. The tell for this outcome is Blues’ wins in Games 1 and 2 to open the series.

Up next is our last Western Conference call for PHX versus CHI…

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  • ...This suggests that the LAK will defeat CHI in Game 6 to play the NYR for the Stanley Cup 3 years ago
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