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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The NHL At The 5-Game Mark: A Status Report

It is important for understanding why your favorite team sits where they are in the standings to gauge play the strategic, On Goal Analysis way. In that vein, here is a status report on NHL teams on the date they hit the 5-Game mark (MIN was last on 23 Oct).

Over the three complete seasons since the NHL suffered the Lockout, the league stood at an average Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) rating of 2.753 at Game 5. As of all 30 teams’ Game 5, the NHL has a PQC rating of 2.893. This difference is partially reflected in the 21 games that have already progressed into Bonus Hockey, an increase that places the League on track for approximately 42 games extending into OT or a Shootout in OCTOBER. This is a gain of 6.5 more times a team earned that ‘third point’ over the previous OCTOBER record since the Lockout. And the gain in OGA’s opinion is quite likely a reflection of greater NHL parity which will be borne out by how close playoff races actually end.

The PQC when comparing Divisions at Game 5 indicates the East was leading the West in PQC rating by almost one-half of a game. If this trend remains unchanged, a very early, league-wide analysis of the difference in PQC from history to now indicates Eastern Conference teams may need to win as much as one game more than normal / attain 95 points in order to secure a seed in the playoffs. In the West, it would take 92 points / 46 wins.

Individual organization comparisons indicate a total of eight Eastern teams are playing above their normal Game 5 average while the West only has five. Seven of those above-average Eastern teams, if the regular season ended at Game 5, would meet the criteria to enter the playoffs based on the standings versus only four of the five Western clubs. A team can be playing below their historical average and still be on track for a 'Game 5 Playoff Spot' because the Division as a whole is playing below average. Last years’ two Stanley Cup Finals teams are examples who would be 'in the playoffs' at Game 5 but were playing below their historical average. Three teams are even with their historical, Game-5 mark, while 14 of them are playing below their post-Lockout average. Additionally, five teams (STL, EDM, CAR, BUF, and VAN) would have been new entrants into the playoff picture, a statistic that is not abnormal based on playoff-team turnover from season to season.

In summary, several PQC-related facts show:

  • There is an increase in Overtime and Shootout games, quite possibly linked to greater parity
  • Based on play at Game 5 remaining at the same level throughout the season, it would take:
  • As much as one more win / 95 points to make the playoffs in the East
  • One less win / 92 points for a playoff seed in the West
  • Eight teams are playing above their historical average at the Game 5 mark
  • Fourteen teams are playing below average at Game 5
  • If the playoffs came at Game 5, the standings would indicate five new teams would participate in the post-season

It is, of course, VERY early in the season. The only way a team could be called IN or OUT of the playoffs at Game 5 would be because five was the final number of regular season games and the standings dictated the post-season lineup. It does stand, however, as an indicator of where teams are now when compared to their historically average level of play. It also is a gauge of how well teams spent their money in the off-season to bring together their current team. At OGA, we know what was done between the end of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup and the first regulation puck drop does the most to get a team into the playoffs. So stand by for more play from your favorite NHL teams. Despite an exciting first 100 or so games, chemistry is just now beginning to settle in and the game is on!

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