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Opening Streaks


We are at the launch of the 48-game, shortened season. Speculation is that all teams ‘need to get off to a very strong start,’ that ‘every game counts’ and teams ‘can’t afford to give up any points.’

Is that true when you consider the average distance between 8th and 9th place is right around one win since the last Lockout in 2004/5 every year? Doesn’t every win count, period? And if so, what can we hang our hat on in looking at the 2013 shortened season’s start?

How about a short analysis of opening streaks in both the 1994-5 season and streaks since the 2004-5 Lockout?

1994-5

Playoff Teams’ opening streaks from the in the last, shortened, 48-game season looked like this:

Wins Low – 1; Wins Average – 2.125; Wins High – 7

Loss Low – 1; Loss Average – 1.75; Loss High – 3

Ties Low – 1; Ties Average – 1; Ties High – 1

Non-playoff Teams’ streaks were:

Wins Low – 1; Wins Average – 1.5; Wins High – 2

Loss Low – 1; Loss Average – 1.75; Loss High – 3

Ties Low – 1; Ties Average – 1.25; Ties High – 2

Perhaps of more interest when we are talking about opening the season, only Philadelphia and Florida began the shortened season with three-game losing streaks. Philly went on to the playoffs, and Florida did not.

Since The 2004-5 Lockout

To open the season annually, Playoff teams over the last seven years looked like this:

Wins Low – 1; Wins Average – 2.432; Wins High – 10 (that happened once, and a streak of eight happened once, but streaks of six happened multiple times)

Loss Low – 1; Loss Average – 1.452; Loss High – 3

OTL Low – 1; OTL Average – 1.125; OTL High – 2

Non-playoff teams were:

Wins Low – 1; Wins Average – 2.014; Wins High – 4

Loss Low – 1; Loss Average – 1.578; Loss High – 6

OTL Low – 1; OTL Average – 1.311; OTL High – 3

Wrapping It Up

To summarize, in looking at the 1994-5 season which will be like this one, the two teams who began the season 0 – 3 had a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs.

This season, Philadelphia and Washington have experienced opening 0 – 3 streaks. The Flyers won their game four, and the Capitals’ pulled an OTL in their Game 4. This bodes well because no team in the 1994-5 season or since he 2004-5 Lockout landed in the post-season with greater than a three-game losing streak.

If the average winning streak for teams making the playoffs in our two, historical examples stands true for this year, teams need to win between about 2.2 and 2.5 games. That means from this season, the following teams seem to be lock’-like for play into May and June:

Boston

Ottawa

(and possibly New Jersey depending on tonight’s game which, for added drama, is against the Capitals who need to end their three-game losing streak before it turns into four)

Chicago

and San Jose

And if non-Playoffs teams’ average losing streaks are more than 1.5 games and less than two, and you round up to two-game losing streaks, here are the teams that may be leaning toward no post-season:

Carolina

New York Rangers

Philadelphia

Washington

Calgary

Los Angeles

and Phoenix

(Before these cities panic and fold up tents, I would point out two things: 1) Two each 1994-5 teams with two or three-game losing streaks both made and failed to make the playoffs; and 2) Since the 2004/5 Lockout, 12 of 28 teams / 42.9% with two-game or more losing streaks still made the Playoffs. So, relatively, four – to – five of the above teams will likely still see the post-season.)

Overall from those 12 teams above, we may be looking at an answer to making or not making the Playoffs for one-third of the NHL after just three games.

About 45 more games will tell…

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