On Goal Analysis (OGA) thought we would have a look at the 2013-14 schedules in terms of ‘Division Battles,’ or those periods where teams played a large percentage of games in a 10-game stretch against Division foes. Then we decided that is not holistic enough. Below, we intend to make amends…
Where will you favorite team have trouble this season? Did the scheduling bosses at NHL HQ screw your team over? These are things we’d all like to know.
Below you will see the first of a two-part blog that looks at The Eastern Conference’s schedules in 10-game furlongs, what OGA measures the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) by. (If you have not been initiated to the PQC, it is a melting pot of statistical inputs that aids us in telling you an average of 90 days before the mathematical call who will and will not make it into the Playoffs with about 90% accuracy.) How difficult the schedule may be potentially tells us a lot of things.
Here are the three things we analyzed for an overall team negative schedule rating and how:
1. Average Days (to play each 10-game furlong). The Eastern Conference average is 24.375 days. For every game at 23 or less, the team got a -0.5 rating. For every day above 24, they got a +0.5. This assumes the average is normal, under it makes recovery more difficult, and more than average allows for better rested players.
2. Division Games (played each 10-game furlong). The Eastern Conference averages 3.75 games played within the division every 10-game stretch. The +/-0.5 per game standard is the same here as for Days for under/over four-in-10 games within the division respectively. This assumes these games are a bit more hard fought than others based on the division-centric Playoff format this season.
3. Back-2–Back (played each 10-game furlong). It is reasonable to assume any team can land at least one B2B pair of games each furlong. Teams are awarded a -0.5 rating for each pair more than one in a 10-game stretch, and a +0.5 if they had none. This assumes these games tend to hamper teams’ recovery regimens.
Below in the charts, you will also see some highlighting colors:
1. Dark Red blocks indicate the worst possible 10-game schedule stint in the Conference.
2. Pink indicates a team-worst 10-game schedule block.
3. Light Green indicates a team-best 10-game furlong.
4. And Dark Green blocks indicate the best possible 10-game spread in the Conference.
Without further ado…
The Atlantic Division (Click on the chart to expand it for easier reading)
1. Overall, both Montreal and Toronto tie for the most difficult Atlantic schedules under our criteria. Their -8.5 ratings easily translate into some of the losses they will suffer this season. It will therefore be team character that sees them through to the Playoffs. The rest of the Atlantic in order of hardest to easiest schedules are: Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay just behind the Canadiens and Maple Leafs at a -8; Detroit at -6; Boston at -4 (a bit of a bone thrown for another, long playoff run-season, perhaps); and Buffalo at -3, the ‘easiest’ in the East.
2. Detroit holds a worst possible (12)-game furlong to close out the season. Health and character, health and character…
3. No Atlantic team has an Eastern Conference best-possible 10-game stretch.
4. The Game 41 – 50 run is best for five out of eight teams. For the most part, this is due to a conducive number of days played over the stretch with no teams playing more than four intra-divisional contests.
5. Team hardest runs are: Games 21 through 30 – Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa; Games 31 through 40 – Florida and Toronto; and Games 61 through 70 – Boston, Montreal and Tampa Bay. Your favorite teams may struggle a bit here.
6. Team best runs are: Games 1 through 10 – Florida and Montreal; Games 11 through 20 – Detroit; Games 21 through 30 – Tampa Bay; Games 41 through 50 – Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida and Ottawa; Games 61 through 70 – Toronto; and Games 71 through 82 – Florida. These periods should be more conducive to victory. If not, then your team is facing any number of issues, with injuries being at the top of the list.
The Metropolitan Division
1. Overall, the New Jersey Devils win the sweepstakes for the most difficult schedule in the East under our criteria at a whopping -11.5. First they lose Kovalchuk, then Clarkson; have to rebound with some incoming players; and will likely test the goalie rotation issue in order to secure wins. Their woes are due in largest measure to five out of eight furlongs holding less Days to play 10 games and a large number of B2B’s. If New Jersey had input into the schedule, could they not have avoided some of this to better rest their team? Hmmm… Should be a hoot in Newark. (Yeah, right.)
2. The rest of the Metro Division falls out after New Jersey in line of hardest to most favorable as follows: Islanders at a Playoff appearance disadvantageous -11.5; Carolina at -11; Pittsburgh at -9.5; Columbus and Rangers at -9; Washington at -8.5; and Philadelphia at -7.5. A conspiracy to see Ovechkin and Giroux back into the post-season? Naaahhh. The schedule is not drafted that way. Besides, in Hockey you still have to play each game to get an outcome, probably the best thing going for our favorite sport.
3. The New York Islanders tie Detroit for a worst possible 10-game furlong in their Games 11-20 stretch. This is difficult because in three of the last, full, 82-Game seasons, they have received their “Tee Time” PQC call by Game 20. If they do not get the same call this year based in part on the above, this team just may have taken ‘the next step’ toward more regular Playoff contention.
4. The New York Rangers hold the Eastern Conference’s best-possible 10-game stretch. When? During their season-opening, nine-game road march to a late October MSG opening. The have more than the average days between games, no divisional matchups and no B2B pairs to play in this opening furlong. Can they lose an inordinate amount of games out on this swing and blow their season? Potentially, yes, especially in light of a new system in place, some injury recovery issues and some signings still to complete. They key here is to jell and win or suffer the slings and arrows…
5. Unlike in the Atlantic, the Game 1 through 10 run is best for five out of eight Metro teams. You would think this potentially puts Columbus, the ‘The N’s’ (NJD, NYI and NYR) and Washington in line for hard chargin’ out of the gate. But while not their best furlongs, Carolina and the ‘Two P’s’ (PHI and PIT) have conducive opening schedules as well. Expect to see Eastern standings that have five Metro and three Atlantic teams in the Top 8 come the closing of October.
6. Team hardest runs are: Games 11 through 20 – Islanders, Rangers and Pittsburgh; Games 31 through 40 – New Jersey; Games 41 through 50 – Philadelphia; Games 61 through 70 – Carolina, Rangers and Washington; and Games 71 through 82 – Carolina (again) and Columbus. Predictions here? Likely Carolina out of the Playoffs depending on overall team health and momentum going into the final 22 games. And if Columbus is on the bubble, they may fall just short again.
7. Team best runs are: Games 1 through 10 – See No. 5 above; Games 31 through 40 – Carolina; Games 41 through 50 – Pittsburgh; and Games 51 through 60 – Carolina, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. The only way Carolina remains in the hunt for a Playoff position in our opinion is of they capitalize on their more-conducive Games 31 through 60 stretch. Otherwise, there’s always next year for the ‘Canes.
So what did we learn, chronologically speaking, about the Eastern Conference this upcoming year?
1. Expect the Metropolitan Division to hog the standings out of the gate with a likely five of eight top seeds. Expect the Atlantic to attempt to even the keel in January.
2. How will the Rangers fare under new Coach Vignault on the road in October? Western Conference home owners will see as the first four games are in the Phoenix or Pacific time zones. (Week two of October will be bleary-eyed in New York, a potentially great time for a short-term investment in coffee futures.)
3. November may make or break the Islanders’ season.
4. Ottawa may struggle in November, followed, like the flu, by Toronto in December. Grab some tissues and brace yourselves…
5. Les Canadiens will have a difficult December and late January stretch leading up to the Olympic break. I hear calls for the head of Price and ‘trade Subban’ rants that dissipate in early March…
6. Goalie dependent, look for a Pittsburgh PQC call of Chasing Stanley by the end of January.
7. And Detroit will need good health and a whole lot of character to close out the final 12 games of the season in good order. Worried, oh Wing-ed Wheel wearers? If the past is an indication of the future, they likely will have sewn-up their Playoff spot by then already…
And that is the East and how the shedge-wuhl may influence your teams’ fortunes. Keep an eye out for the 2013-14 Schedule Analysis of the Western Conference from OGA in the coming days…