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NHL Predictive Playoff Analysis – 30 April


It’s the 2013 Playoffs! Man, the season just flew by! Oh, yeah – only 48 games. But does that matter?

Not one bit past weeding out the 14 teams who are hitting the links early.

So how does OGA do this? If you read the 29 April version of “Right Wing Conspiracy”, you got Big Tex’s calls for the post-season. I am going about this just a bit differently.

Tonight, I give you my predictions rising like a Phoenix (not like a Coyote this season) up out the statistics from this season. For 30 April, and since they lead off with the opening night games, I work over the Western Conference for you. For 1 May, I will have the Eastern Conference calls.

And remember – statistically speaking – it’s the chase for “3.” The first team to it wins the vast majority of the time.

No. 1 Chicago Versus No. 8 Minnesota

I pick Chicago over Minny in 5 games. Here is the Chicago versus Minnesota Chart:

CHIvMIN

As you can see, the Blackhawks outdistanced the Wild in seven of 10 categories. Of note going into the Playoffs:

  1. Chicago out distances Minnesota in terms of goalie and defensive performance. So why/how does it stretch to six games? Ray Emery is not the backup in Game 1 tonight. The ‘Hawks have 31 flavors of confidence in Corey Crawford, but if there is an issue and he is pulled, Carter Hutton is coming in with one game, one loss, and three GA’s. Crawford has a target on his jersey for some close contact tonight. (Who to watch: Emery/Crawford and Seabrook for Chicago)
  2. And if Crawford is pulled, the team will fall back on more team defense and, correspondingly, less scoring. With Jonathan Toews as the West’s second-highest rated offensive player in terms of total contribution in 15 different statistical categories, the ‘Hawks also get the statistical nod at the Center position even down one Centerman (Dave Bolland). But Minnesota carries both the LW and RW positions, even without Jason Pominville. (Who to watch: Parise and Clutterbuck/Setoguchi for Minnesota)
  3. The overall statistical output of the forwards and defensemen combined also goes to Minnesota.
  4. The combination of all players is a stats advantage to Chicago which, based on the above obviously comes from the inclusion of the Crawford/Emery duo – without the duo, the advantage is a little suspect.
  5. But Chicago pulls this out also based on their ability to score more than Minnesota, the fact they only had one SO loss against the Wild in three meetings this year and for more momentum off of a better, Last 10 games of the season. It’s just going to take some OT to get it done in a closer-than-expected series in the box scores.

No. 2 Anaheim Versus No. 7 Detroit

Anaheim takes down Detroit in 7 games. Here is the Ducks versus Red Wings Chart:

ANAvDET

Anaheim bests Detroit in six of 10 categories. My notes here:

  1. As with Chicago, Anaheim has the best numbers in terms of goalie and defensive performance. (Who to watch: Hiller/Fasth and Souray/Beauchemin for Chicago)
  2. The exact same stats performance lead at Center and not at LW or RW Chicago had is the lack of advantage for the Ducks against Detroit. (Who to watch: Zetterberg and Franzen for Detroit and Getzlaf for Chicago)
  3. But the overall statistical output of the forwards and defensemen combined rests in Anaheim’s favor. Their Goals (Scored) Per Game and Team Total stats numbers are also a plus for Anaheim.
  4. This series goes seven games, however, because of a couple of other factors. Firstly, the Ducks only won one of the three contests against Detroit. Also, the Red Wings come into the playoffs with the best close-out winning streak (four games) in the West. And there is always the Red Wing pride to contend with.
  5. You can always flip a coin for a Game 7. But you can usually count on the best goaltender, and the defensive play in front of him, to carry that last game. And those numbers belong to the Ducks.

No. 3 Vancouver Versus No. 6 San Jose

Vancouver ousts San Jose in 7 games. The Canucks versus Sharks Chart looks like this:

VANvSJS

Vancouver is better than San Jose by a scant five of nine categories. (No one gets the nod for the Last 10 games as both were just about equal.) Notes:

  1. Vancouver gets the nod for the best goalie and defensive performance stats. Here Schneider and Niemi are neck-in-neck. But if you have to go to the Number 2 netminder, it’s hands down for Luongo. (Who to watch: Luongo and Edler for Vancouver)
  2. As with the other top seeds, Vancouver only tops the list for one position. It happens to be at RW in terms of total statistical output while San Jose holds court at Center and LW. (Who to watch: Marleau and Couture for San Jose and Burrows for Vancouver)
  3. San Jose also leads in terms of overall skater average by a SLIM margin.
  4. Goals Per Game and Total Team stats – based in large measure on goaltending figures – rests with Vancouver.
  5. But interestingly, the Canucks did not take a single game from the Sharks all season, pulling one point in six for the standings. It could be the Sharks had the Canucks number in the shortened regular season.
  6. I still like Vancouver, however, in a long series based on either goaltender in net or team defense. And I predict with the loss, next season may see a new coach in San Jose.

No. 4 St. Louis Versus No. 5 Los Angeles

It’s Los Angeles over St. Louis in 6 games. The Canucks versus Sharks Chart looks like this:

STLvLAK

The reigning Stanley Cup champions are ahead of the Blues in six of 10 categories. Here are the notes of the breakdown:

  1. Los Angeles gets the nod for the best goalie and defensive corps. Goalie is a bit tenuous here – this is neither last year’s Quick nor Elliott/Halak, regular-season duo. So the Goalie call is based on team goaltending. And it seems Voynov and Doughty are the top defensemen in this contest, stats-wise. But the Blues have four defenders (Polak, Jackman, Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk) who are relatively interchangeable. So a slim nod here goes to L.A.
  2. Unlike the other top seeds, the Blues statistically carry two of three forward positions with better numbers at LW and Center. One reason is David Backes who is the highest rated forward in the West in terms of the combined, 15 stats categories compared. This helps carry over to the highest averages for those skating forward of the crease. (Who to watch: Sobotka for St. Louis and Brown for Los Angeles)
  3. St. Louis – largely on the back of a seemingly transformed Brian Elliott – hold the second best Last 10 games winning percentage behind Chicago and the second best winning streak (three games) behind Detroit. So momentum is on their side.
  4. But Goals Per Game, total team stats and a 2 – 0 – 1 series advantage help push the Kings over the top here. St. Louis needs one more year to outdo a team like L.A.

So How Does The Rest Play Out?

If the above come true, Round 2 will be:

Los Angeles at Chicago, and

Vancouver at Anaheim

I will run the numbers later this week and tell you how that plays out. Tonight, enjoy the opening 2013 Playoff games and come back tomorrow for my Eastern Conference picks.

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