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2012 Stanley Cup Finals: NJD v LAK Analysis


On Goal Analysis is here to provide you our 2012 Stanley Cup Finals analysis of the NJD versus LAK matchup that begins on Wednesday, 30 May. So far, we are 9 – 5 / 64.3% with post-season series’ winner predictions (after a terrible Round 2). And during Round 3, we predicted who would win each game and went 7 – 4 / 63.6%. Sure in this case you can just flip a coin and have a 50/50 chance of predicting the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion, but we like our 63%+ odds better after analyzing the patterns.

So for this review, we begin with the same analysis formula we used in our last Round 3 blog:

The Schedule

The teams’ 2012 Series

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; and Goal Differential.

We also provide CTSA on team performance as a combined average from regular season and through Round 2 of the Playoffs in terms of: Power Play %; Penalty Kill %; Winning Streak; Longest Winning Streak; Losing Streak; Longest Losing Streak; Home and Away Winning %; odds of Wins and Losses of Round 2, Game 1 and the series as a whole from historical patterns; Round 1 Closing Win Streak; Average Output Per Game by position; and a total Team Point Value. We combine these numbers because Playoff figures are inflated by as much as 1.5 times taken by themselves when compared to the regular season and depending on the category.

After a long layoff for the LAK and what should have been a decent rest period for NJD, what does our pattern analysis say about this series?

NJD vs LAK

On its face, many will tell you LAK looks like a juggernaut coming into this series. It is practically over – just write it in the books and call it a done deal. But what does our pattern analysis tell us?

Schedule

Wed, 30 May, 8p (ET) LAK at NJD [NBC, CBC, RDS]

Sat, 2 Jun, 8p (ET) LAK at NJD [NBC, CBC, RDS]

Mon, 4 Jun, 8p (ET) NJD at LAK [NBCSN, CBC, RDS]

Wed, 6 Jun, 8p (ET) NJD at LAK [NBCSN, CBC, RDS]

Sat, 9 Jun, 8p (ET) LAK at NJD [NBC, CBC, RDS – if required]

Mon, 11 Jun, 8p (ET) NJD at LAK [NBC, CBC, RDS – if required]

Wed, 13 Jun, 8p (ET) LAK at NJD [NBC, CBC, RDS – if required]

2012 Matchup

Under the current scheduling system, most teams do not get a home-and-away pair against teams from the opposite conference. (When the NHL finally reorganizes under a new CBA for 2012-13, this will be rectified.) In the case of NJD versus LAK, we got the pair, however, both of which were done before Halloween 2011.

Thur, 13 October LAK 1 @ NJD 2 SO (New Jersey leads series 1 – 0; Hedberg (w/some Brodeur) defeats Quick; NJD goals from Elias (and Kovalchuk in the SO); LAK goal from Gagne; 6 PIMs)

Tue, 25 October NJD 3 @ LAK 0 (New Jersey wins series 2 – 0; Hedberg defeats Bernier; NJD goals from Zubrus (2) and Elias; 6 PIMs)

Key Notes: LAK dropped both games home and away so has no muscle memory of beating the Devils this season; Hedberg is 2 – 0 versus Quick with Bernier, a misleading statistic at best – the stat of note as long as he stays healthy is Brodeur going 10-for-11 after a 1st Period early goal and minor injury versus Quick going 14-for-15 head-to-head in the same period because that is what we are most likely to see; leading NJD goal scorers are Elias and Zubrus (2); leading LAK goal scorer was Gagne (1) who has not yet played in the playoffs; and the series ran a miniscule average of only six PIMs per game, a low number that might be higher in this round but closer to the truth, especially if NJD maintains it’s turn-the-other-cheek mentality.

NYR vs LAK Combined CTSA

Between the two teams, NJD is the most likely team to win the Stanley Cup. That is based on statistical averages of teams playing for the Stanley Cup since the Lockout. In effect, they are closer to the average, statistical Stanley Cup winner than Los Angeles is. (NJD – 1; LAK –2)

Special teams are a mixed bag. In the Playoffs only, LAK has the worst PP and best PK while NJD is at a Hi average for its PP and Lo average for its PK. Keep in mind the lack of PP production for the Kings has not harmed them to date here. And add to that a combination of NJD’s Lo average PK with the potential ability of LAK to find the net with the man advantage – surely after several days off to work on the problem they have come up with some way to improve that area. Give LAK the advantage on special teams despite the minuses indicated. (NJD – 1.5; LAK –3)

For winning and losing streaks, both NJD and LAK are even. Both teams sport: average Winning Streaks; a four-game winning streak during the course of the playoffs which is above Hi average and norm; above average Losing streaks; and average Longest Losing Streaks. (NJD – 3; LAK –4.5)

There is something of a tradeoff in terms of Playoff Home and Road records between these clubs. For winning series this 2012 Playoff season, the Devils’ Home record is the best (.750, down .05 from Round 2) of the Stanley Cup Finalists and above both Hi average and norm (where our Ten Pound Bag Theory kicks in making too much of a good thing a negative). The Kings’ home record is on average (.667). NJD’s away record is both below Lo average and norm (.600) while LAK’s ready-to-pop perfect road record is above both Hi average and norm. The Home and Away records head-to-head suggest the LAK win in five games, but we believe they will drop one of the first two games in NJ and see the series carry out closer to the 6.333 games post-Lockout finals average. (NJD – 5; LAK –5.5)

A review of W/L patterns is enlightening as well. For Los Angeles, only one team has carried a 12 – 2 record into the Finals which they lost in six games (PIT in ’08). The Kings’ W,W,W,L,W pattern that closed out the Western Conference finals is also duplicated as a series victory by nine other, post-Lockout teams. But teams with that winning series pattern are only 3 – 9 in their next series, although two of the three winners are CAR ’06 and ANA ’07 who both raised The Cup. Finally, teams who won the previous series with LAK’s pattern hold only a .250 winning percentage in their first game of the next round. Game 1 at The Rock may just be the Kings’ first road loss of the playoffs. (NJD – 6; LAK –5.5)

NJD’s playoff series record of 12-6 on the other hand, replicates three other teams holding a 2 – 1 overall record which includes both CAR ’06 and BOS ‘11 who raised The Cup. Their last series’ L,W,L,W,W,W pattern has occurred five other times with those teams finishing 3 – 2 in their following series, to include both ANA ’07 and CHI ’10 as Stanley Cup Champions. Overall, teams ending a series with that pattern bat .600 in terms of winning their next game. The advantage here goes to the LAK. (NJD – 6; LAK –5.5)

The teams’ records in their Last 10 Games are stellar, with LAK’s above both Hi average and norm at 9 – 1 and NJD above average at 8 – 2. If momentum is indeed a factor, the nod would go to NJD who closed out their series against NYR with three straight W’s versus the Kings’ closing one W streak against PHX and the long layoff they have suffered. (NJD – 7; LAK –6.5)

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

  • NJD leads both clubs at the Left Wing position in terms of the highest, by-game statistical average. The Devils’ Zack Parise tops the Kings’ LW leader, Dustin Penner, in this category.  Both teams as a whole are above the Hi average at this position. (NJD – 7.5; LAK –7)
  • At Center, LAK’s Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis all produce overall, by-game statistical numbers higher than NJD’s Adam Henrique. Those first three Kings also provide a higher percentage of the by-game stats for their team than Henrique does. Center is a position of distinct advantage for LAK here although their numbers fall just above average for Stanley Cup      winners while NJD’s are just below. (NJD – 7.5; LAK –7)
  • Statistically speaking, the single most dominant player coming into this matchup is Los Angeles Right Wing Dustin Brown. This seems to be S.O.P. for the Kings as he has been a leader since the      Playoffs began. The Devils’ David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus are the next two performers at the RW position and stand in front of L.A.’s Justin Williams. The Kings’ RW average is above the Hi average and norm while NJD’s is below Lo average. (NJD – 8; LAK –8)
  • The west coasts’ Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell and Andy Greene all provide greater per-game statistical input into their team’s overall performance than the Devils’ leaders (Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky). With numbers rivaling the 2010 Blackhawks’ defenders, LAK is above both Hi      average and norm while NJD’s is right at average for Stanley Cup winners. (NJD – 8; LAK –9)
  • And at the Goalie position on a per-game basis, L.A.’s Jonathan Quick leads the Devils’ Martin Brodeur in Goalie per-game performance stats. You might think with Quick’s 12-2 record that he is a substantial leader. But, again, on a per-game basis, Brodeur’s Save Percentage is better and his GAA Percentage is also just off Quick’s mark. And for as well as Quick has played, he only leads Brodeur two SO’s to one. What this position comes down to is will the rested new-comer best the wily old veteran? (Oh! And both teams’ Netminder numbers are above both Hi average and norm. (NJD – 9; LAK –10)

If you add up the by–position, per–game averages through Round 3, LAK has the lead in terms of total combined, by-game stats. (NJD – 9.5; LAK –10)

NJD’s grade for all stat categories gives them a “High C” (almost a ‘B”) while the LAK’s have a “Low C” which is still an improvement over their regular season grade coming in to the Playoffs. (NJD – 9.5; LAK –10.5)

Summary

This series is just about a tossup. Straight up Home and Away winning percentages suggest the LAK’s get to a fourth W before NJ, a stat that is enough for most people to hang their hat on. The minuses for performing too high above or too low below stats averages indicate, however, that a slight advantage goes to NJD. So how do we call this one?

NJD wins this series if:

  1. They can check Dustin Brown better than any other team has done so far these Playoffs.
  2. Their forecheck can stymie the speed Los Angeles throws on the ice.
  3. Brodeur is the monster he was the last time the Devils were in the finals.

LAK is the winner if they simply continue to play with the same intensity they have shown so far, although we believe you will see at least one Away loss this round for them and likely tonight in Game 1. (We do wonder how LAK will psychologically take losing their first road game tonight which veterans such as Richards and Carter will need to help overcome in the dressing room.)

In each game, the winning ‘tell’ for both teams is that they are undefeated when leading at the conclusion of the 2nd Period. For the series winner, the closest tells you get are either the Game 4 winner or the old standard of ‘first team to three W’s’.

Our call?

We are without a doubt, conflicted. Likely more so than most people who will straight up go with L.A. based on their dominating, 12 – 2 Playoff record. The W/L record by itself indicates LAK will be the victor. But the statistical pattern analysis says the Devils will be win. We say, more gingerly than most, that the Kings nudge out the Devils in six games, partying with the cup on their trans-continental U.S. flight back home overnight on June 11th.

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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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