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Sunday, September 28, 2008


on 28 September 2008

The Wild have participated in the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the last two seasons, losing in the first round both times. In 11 playoff games, however, only two Wild losses of eight were by more than one goal. While many pundits will simply say Minnesota ”…Can’t win in the playoffs,” the issue is actually that in the past they were just missing some, relatively small piece of the puzzle to push past the first round as outcomes indicate.

Over the three years, Minnesota has been relatively easy to predict against the Playoff Qualifying Curve – the PQC. They begin the season an average of +2.5 above the PQC in their first 10 games and then fall an average of – 3.7 in the following 10 games. The Wild are a bit less predictable after Game 20, but are even with the curve at Game 50 and tend to sport another significant performance dip before ending in more of a winning fashion.

The past two years, OGA called them IN the playoffs by the end of OCTOBER. Their ability to compete at that same level given team changes in the off-season bears comparison against the PQC in the Wild’s first 10 games. What did we see last season and what is on the 2008/9 horizon?

The Wild ended the last three years with an average rating of +.667 above the PQC. They finished the 2005/6 season –5 games below the PQC, responded with a +5 the following year, and finished last year a +2. Minnesota fans are hoping this does not signal a further trend downward in wins as they are facing a tougher – if that’s possible – Western Conference this season.

Of note from the 2007/8 season the Wild:
  • Kicked butt in the first 10 games, going 7-1-2 and ending with an overall +3 against The Curve. The Wild pleased fans with a season-opening five straight wins including both their home and road openers. This strong effort satisfied the PQC and led OGA to call them as a lock for the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 25 OCTOBER
  • Were zero-for-two in ‘Bonus Hockey’ (a game progressing into Overtime or a Shootout)
  • Followed up their strong performance in Games 1 – 10 with six losses in Games 11 – 20
We view the Wild as a team whose play against the PQC requires scrutiny on into the season because they tend to start strong and follow up with a performance skid to start the season which may or may not affect their overall fate for the 2009 playoffs.

A measure of the Wild’s performance against the PQC is disaplyed in the graph below. As you can see, Minnesota started and finished the last two seasons strong. The PQC, however, shows that their winning margin decreased from 2006/7 to 2007/8 by a –3. This says last year’s entry into the playoffs was a closer call, so will require hard work on the Wild’s part to secure a return to the playoffs.

The Wild’s first 10 games of the season are played 11 OCTOBER – 1 NOVEMBER. Our comprehensive analysis indicates that in that timeframe, Minnesota earns an average PQC rating of 7.5, the highest in the NHL. They have won all home openers – a potentially nice payback for an 8-minute sellout of that game this season – and are two-for-three in road openers. They also tend to win at a 70% clip in their first 10 games with a significant percentage of those victories on home ice (15-2 / 88.2%).

Some additional, critical statistics to keep in mind for the month of OCTOBER are:
  • The Wild win 82.4% of games in the 10 – 22 OCTOBER time frame.
  • Minnesota then loses 84.6% of games in the 23 OCTOBER – 2 NOVEMBER time frame.
  • Thursdays and Saturdays are good to Minnesota – they tend to win an average of 62.6% on those days.
  • Mondays, on the other hand, produce a losing percentage of 73.33% of games.
  • And the Wild play an average of three ‘Bonus Hockey’ games in OCTOBER with only a 55.2% winning percentage.
During this stretch of play, OGA will carefully review Minnesota’s performance and prepare and forward your Minnesota Wild’s Game 10 Report to season subscribers by 2pm CST on 2 NOVEMBER. It will be available to order from the On Goal Analysis web site by 2pm CST on 3 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

Is Minnesota going to progress to the 2008/9 playoffs like the previous two seasons, or will they be pushed out by other, surging Western Conference teams? Looking ahead into NOVEMBER, it is very important to note the potential skid the Wild have displayed over the last two seasons. If this occurs again, is not too steep a dip below the PQC, AND was preceded by a strong OCTOBER, Wild fans may not have anything worse to face than temporary frustrations in the win column. OGA will be there to make the call, and you can be, too.

More to follow. Until tomorrow and the New Jersey Devils Season Preview Report (SPR), this is The Colonel signing off…


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