1. 4.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eye of the Hurricane, Head on a Swivel

Thursday, April 2nd finds you recovering from tasty pranks brought to you by the Fool on the First. But if you are set to attend the match-up between two Eastern Conference, Playoff-bound, Atlantic Seaboard hockey clubs at the RBC Center (NY Rangers @ Carolina), you will be rewarded with the most-appropriate of gifts - the Cam Ward bobblehead.

Will someone in NC please snag one of these gems for the Frozen Pill? Post a comment below the post w/your email addy if you are so inclined and gift-oriented, and I'll shoot you a mailing address.

For the love of all that is glorious netminding, I hope they incorporate a two-dimensional 'bob' on this bad boy. Not only the standard up and down, but a side-to-side bobble is required to capture the true likeness of the re-emerging greatness of head-on-a-swivel, Cam Ward.

Say it with me - "Goalie Cam". This shall, henceforth, forthwith be yon new designation in the heart of Hurricane country to redefine the term:


He sees the puck, the picture is clear, no need for review. It's captured with the Goalie Cam.

The NHL named Ward the 3rd Star of the week for the period ending March 29th. Posting a 3-0-0 record with a 1.33GAA (.935 save percentage) in wins against FLA, OTT and NJD, it marks the 4th time in the 2008/09 NHL season Cam Ward has been named one of the NHL's 3 Stars of the week. He was named the first star the week prior (March 22nd).

Just a few short weeks ago, On Goal Analysis was closely monitoring the Carolina Hurricanes' play to evaluate their performance against our Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) -would they snag that elusive, remaining playoff berth in our IN/OUT calls for the East? Or would they continue to ride the line along the Curve, flirting with the 'Sharpen Skates' designation (just shy of an OGA IN Call) or would they remain In the Curve?

But the 'Canes worked a little trade-deadline magic to swippy-swap around and bring Erik Cole back into the fold - rescuing him from the wild North of EdmonFun - returning the prodigal son to the path of the Hurricane. In the meantime, GOALIE-CAM was constructing his own Category 5 safe house in the net and the Hurricanes, unlike the previous couple seasons, found themselves with a relatively healthy team.

Since early February, Ward has started all of the Hurricanes' previous 24 games going 16-6-2 with a 2.31GAA. The Hurricanes, as a result, have climbed from 'just out of playoff contention' to their current home in the 5th seed with 91 points.

Of course, teams in the East are still jockeying for position with the 8th seed (currently Montreal) sitting at 88 points. But compared to our analysis of team play against the PQC, OGA believes the Carolina Hurricanes have done the work, fought the scoring slumps and hung in there in tough games just enough throughout the earlier and middle parts of the season to ride the momentum they have created for themselves.

A Hurricane often grows in strength as it approaches the point of impact. And for this season, it appears Carolina has secured a date for the Chase of Lord Stanley's Cup.

Didn't see it coming? Should have payed closer attention to the Goalie Cam.

So, please, I beg of thee, residents of the Raleigh-Durham area, somebody score me one of them Cam Ward Bobbleheads. I'd like to conduct a little experiment with how it behaves, stationed on top of my televsion when the 'Canes get a chance to take on those beloved Caps in the second round of the playoffs.

I'll use thermal imaging, like the Ghost Hunters do, to monitor suspicious bobbles during play (when no obvious breeze is present) and post the video on the home page at www.ongoalanalysis.com. Just like in 2006, me wonders if the Eastern race towards the Cup Finals might not be haunted again by the likes of (then-rookie), Conn Smythe-winning MVP, Ward who seems to be gaining strength with each passing game. Watch for it on the Goalie-Cam...

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1. 4.

Why isn't Nat Geo Filming Western Playoff Hunt?

The fine folks at National Geographic are always jetting off to exotic, distant locales to film wildlife in it's natural habitat. In these tough economic times, however, shouldn't they be looking closer to home for examples of wild animals in action? Case in point: This season's Western Conference Playoff Hunt. As of this morning, a mere six points separate 6th place Columbus from 11th place Minnesota. That's six teams, separated by six points, fighting for three playoff berths. If that doesn't call to mind images of a pack of wild jackals fighting over a kill, nothing will. Take a look at the picture below. Is this St. Louis, Columbus and Nashville, or Columbus, Nashville and St. Louis? You be the judge:

This is what happens when there isn't enough food (or in this case, playoff berths) to go around. After dropping two big games to St. Louis over the weekend, tonight Columbus will look to pounce on an injury-weakened Nashville squad, while the Predators - minus Martin Erat, David Legwand, Jason Arnott, Ryan Jones and Wade Belak - will fight desperately to avoid becoming prey. Both teams need two points tonight, but that's not going to happen.

Two other games with Western playoff implications:

Vancouver at Minnesota (8:00pm ET) - Simply put, this is a must-win for the Wild, but not for the Canucks. Anything less than a Minnesota win will virtually doom their dwindling playoff hopes. Come on, B.G.O. (Backstrom Gaborik Overdrive)!

Anaheim at Edmonton (9:30pm ET) - Edmonton is only in slightly better shape than Minnesota, standings-wise, so a W at home would both slow a red-hot Ducks team and vault the Oilers over the Ducks and into a virtual tie with St. Louis for 8th. A win for Anaheim, on the other hand, puts them ahead of St. Louis.

Six jackals, and there's only enough food for three: That's what the Western Conference playoff hunt has become. Message to National Geographic: It's not too late to get some primo footage for your next documentary!

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1. 4.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How Does It Look, Really? (Part West)

It is Monday, 30 March and closer to season’s end than on Saturday when we said this would be posted one day later (see “How Does It Look, Really? (Part East)” here). It took extra time because this post-season is likely to introduce new organizations this year that are beyond the group of 10 who have been one of the Western Playoff teams since the Lockout. This is, of course, great for NHL fans because it is giving teams, fans, cities, the League, etc., etc. high drama each and every night as we close in on 82. You see, the Western Conference is a big, prickly thorn in the side of any prognosticator’s noggin.

So how does THIS group of teams look as of Monday morning against their post-Lockout average? As on Saturday, we will look at each team as they stand in the hunt for Stanley this season. Again, our numbers for each team are in relation to total Wins, and two OTLs equal one ‘W.’ Here is a look – with a suspicious, jaundiced eye – at the West…

The Western Conference

ANAHEIM – Case #1 of thorn in paw rests right here before we alphabetically proceed past “A”. Currently, the DUCKS have 41 Wins. Last year at this point they had 48. Their best season at this point was 2006/7 (the year they won THE Cup) when they had 52 Wins. This season, however, OGA called them at Tee Time – OUT of the Playoffs – on 18 February 2009. From Game 31-60, their play has been at or below .500 Hockey which, combined with their slow start, has combined to cause them the kind of problems that could see them at home in front of the HD TV after April 11th. There’s just one, small problem… They, like NASHVILLE and ST. LOUIS, have become resilient of late and are threatening to slide in the Playoff door before it shuts.

CALGARY – Right now, they possess 46 Wins. Last year they were at 45 Wins. In 2006/7, they were holding 47 wins, so this is all just about normal for the FLAMES. OGA called them Chasing Stanley – IN of the Playoffs – on 3 January 2009. One more win between now and 11 April should seal the deal although it would harm their confidence going into the Playoffs.

CHICAGO – CONGRATULATIONS, WINDY CITY! Holding 45.5 Wins, this is their best season since the Lockout by an average improvement of 28.2%. With an end-of-season surge, they were at 40 Wins this time last season. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 22 November. They have been pretty solidly set in the #3 or #4 seed for weeks now, and will make their first Playoff appearance since the 2001-2002 season.

COLORADO – Currently holding an un-Avalanche-like 32 Wins, last season they had 45 which was their best effort since the Lockout. This injury-riddled crew was called at Tee Time by OGA on 27 January 2009. Reinforcing a pattern since the Lockout, they will miss the post-season this year for an in-one-and-out-the-other performance.

COLUMBUS – As with Chicago, congratulations are in order. The ‘JACKETS’ 43 Wins stand as their best performance since the Lockout and will see them in post-season play for the first time in franchise history. Last year they held 39.5 Wins at this point but were not in contention due to the strong play of the teams to their front. Just how far they can go on the hot glove and paddle of Steve Mason is history yet to be written.

DALLAS – Right now at 37.5 Wins, injuries to key personnel and the confusion that was Sean Avery in the Stars’ locker room have sunk this team’s battleship. Their previous best was 2005/6 where they sported 50.5 Wins at this point in the season. But OGA called them at Tee Time on 21 March. This season was undone in Games 11-20 when they only provided 3-in-10 Wins and Game 61-70 when they went 4.5-for-10. That, ladies and gentlemen, is all it takes, most especially when the West sits so close upon each other at the 7th – 11th positions.

DETROIT – Right now they have 53.5 Wins. Last year was their best at this point with 56.5 Wins. ‘Yawn’ – they were called Chasing Stanley by OGA on 29 October 2008 and have won 6.5 of their last 10 games. Are they not a little boring at this point in the season? It seems to non-Red Wing fans that they are at their most exciting once mid-April arrives. The interesting thing to watch at this point is whether or not they get through the second round of the 2009 Playoffs, the traditional time finalists from the previous season are knocked off.

EDMONTON – Still in the Playoff hunt with 40.5 Wins, they are not being helped by dropping four of their last five tilts. At this time last year they had 42 W’s, their best effort in both 2007/8 and their Stanley Cup Finals year in 2005/6. OGA has neither called them IN nor OUT of the Playoffs yet as they continue to battle with NASHVILLE, ST. LOUIS and ANAHEIM for the final Western Conference Playoff berths. Overall, this team has only played about 1.5 games below the average required to qualify for the Playoffs. They need to make up those W’s in order to render the PREDS, BLUES and DUCKS moot.

LOS ANGELES – This is a character team with its 36.5 Wins so far this season. This effort has only been surpassed by their 2005/6 season where at this moment in time they had earned 40.5 W’s. A total of 3.5 Wins in their first 10 games and only 4.5 in the Game 61-70 timeframe are the reason we are not talking about their battle for one of the remaining Playoff positions out West. But make no mistake – this team is being grown the hard, long way which will pay off in the next few years.

MINNESOTA – Believe it or not, with 40 Wins this team is in grave danger of losing their Playoff berth. Last year, they had 45.5 W’s, proving injuries to key, franchise players in relation to Capology hurts an entire team. Their best season was 2006/7 when they had 49 Wins but only went on to lose in five games to ANAHEIM in Round 1 of the Playoffs. As is usually the case, the WILD started off a House On Fire, winning 7.5 of their first 10 games and were called as Chasing Stanley on 1 November 2008. But games 21-30 and 61-70 have almost ended their season. They must reach down deep and find a way to be almost perfect the rest of the way to 82 or they are done.

NASHVILLE – “…I will not go quietly into the night…” is this team’s clarion call. Currently an injury-riddled, character driven 42 Wins, this is the lowest number of W’s they have had at this point in any season since the Lockout, but probably their most proud tally. Last year they held 43 Wins at this point, but their best was 52.5 in 2006/7. OGA called them at Tee Time on 6 January 2009, and they are doing everything in their power to have that call ring as a Shot Off The Post, or an incorrect call by OGA.

PHOENIX – This team only has 34.5 Wins and hung in the race for the post-season through Game 50. This time last year, they had 40 W’s which was their best since the Lockout. But a rough Game 11-20 and 51-60 where they only won 7-of-20 games was their undoing. It did not help losing seven games on top of those losses from Game 61-70. OGA called them at Tee Time on 12 February 2009.

SAN JOSE – As of Sunday night, they sat at a league-leading 54.5 Wins, their best since the Lockout. It took until the Game 61-70 period for injuries and other team preparation to catch up to this club where they “only” won 4.5-out-of-10. At this time last year, they had earned 52 Wins. They tend to finish the season strongly with an average of 9.17 Wins in their final 12 games. OGA called them at Chasing Stanley on 28 October 2008. Couple that with the projected return of their injured and this team is most likely to go deep into the Playoffs.

ST. LOUIS – This team has 41.5 Wins, their best since the Lockout and a reason why, despite OGA’s call of Tee Time on 16 December 2008, this team is threatening to earn their first Playoff berth since the 2003/4 post-season. This time last season, they sported 37 Wins but were not in contention because NASHVILLE, the 8th seed, had six more. They must continue to put out the ‘W,’ and it is a distinct possibility.

VANCOUVER – A solid 45.5 Wins, this team has recovered from key injuries and only 3 Wins in the Game 50 period to pull of 16.5 from Game 51-70. Last year they held 43 Wins at this point. Their best season was 2006/7 where they carried their total of 50.5 Wins into a second-Round loss to eventual Stanley Cup winning DUCKS. One man does not make a team in and of themselves, but this team feeds collectively off of the likes of Luongo, Sundin and the Sedin twins to name a few. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 20 November 2008 and is glad they stood their ground with this call.

Keep watching this Conference, however, as the winningest teams are in the lower half of the standings – it remains to be seen who from that group advances and whether or not they are doing so well because they just hit their rhythm, or they are expending all their energy just to make it to mid-April.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

How Does It Look, Really? (Part East)

It is Saturday, 28 March and the season is almost over. How DO the teams look right now against their post-Lockout average? We thought a quick look at each team would be enlightening about where we are in the race for Stanley this season. Keep in mind our numbers for the team are in relation to total Wins and two OTLs equal one ‘W.’ Today will be a look at the East, and Sunday will be a look at the West as of the end of games Saturday night…

The Eastern Conference

ATLANTA – Currently, they have 37 Wins. Last year they were at 34.5 Wins. At this time of year, their best season was 2006/7 (the year they went to the Playoffs) when they had 44 Wins. OGA called them at Tee Time – OUT of the Playoffs – on 12 December 2008. Their season came off the rails by Game 30 where they had lost a combined 13 games.

BOSTON – Right now with 51 Wins. Last year they were at 43 Wins. This is their best season since the Lockout and is a full four games ahead of the end of last season with nine more games to go. OGA called them Chasing Stanley – IN of the Playoffs – on 17 November 2008. Over three, 10-game evaluation periods from Game 21 – 40, the BRUINS averaged 8-for-10 Wins.

BUFFALO – Holding 40 Wins. Last year they were at 40.5 Wins. At this point in the season, their best effort was 2006/7 (where they lost in the Conference Finals) when they had 51.5 Wins. OGA has not called them IN or OUT of the Playoffs yet this season as they have not met our criteria for either decision yet. Buffalo is in danger of missing the 2009 Playoffs based on 6.5 losses in the Game 11-20, and 6 losses in the Game 61-70, evaluation periods.

CAROLINA – Currently at 44.5 Wins. Last year they were at 44 Wins. Their best effort since the Lockout was 2005/6 when they were at 50 Wins at this point and went on to Win the Stanley Cup. OGA has not called them IN or OUT of the Playoffs yet this season but they are not far from the IN mark.

FLORIDA – Have battled to 41.5 Wins. Last year they had 40.5 Wins at this point. This is currently their best season since the Lockout. OGA has not called them IN or OUT of the Playoffs yet this season as they have not met our criteria for either decision yet. With MONTREAL having a game in hand and up two points in the standings, FLORIDA has to hope the CANADIENS drop 2.5 games more than they do between now and the end of the season.

MONTREAL – Right now at 42.5 Wins while last year being at 48 Wins. Their best effort since the Lockout was indeed last year at this point. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 1 November 2008. The issue with the CANADIENS is that, over the previous three seasons since the Lockout, they have averaged a consistent 8.5 Wins in their last 12 games. This year, they are on pace for 6-of-12, putting them in a race with FLORIDA for the Number 8 seed.

NEW JERSEY – Right now with 49 Wins, tying their previous best on 27 March in the 2006/7 season. Last year they had at 45.5 Wins at this point, so are a little ahead of the game. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 17 December 2008. At this point, it is a nightly battle between the DEVILS and CAPITALS for 2nd place, but JERSEY still has a shot at the Eastern crown.

NY ISLANDERS – Perhaps the most entertaining team with only 29 Wins. Last year at this time, they sported 37.5 W’s. Their best effort since the Lockout was 2006/7 where they advanced to the Playoffs and gave BUFFALO fits in a tight, 5-game series. OGA called them at Tee Time – OUT of the Playoffs – on 1 November 2008. Their season started off badly when they only Won 2.5 games of their first 10, and that was solidified with a 2-in-10 performance in Games 21-30. Since mid-January, however, the team has given otherwise-contenders fits, especially from Game 61-70 where they posted a combined six Wins despite injuries and the loss of three, key players in trades. ISLANDERS’ fans – your team has character.

NY RANGERS – Currently at 43.5 Wins, they are only one Win behind from the same point last season. Their best year since the Stoppage was 2005/6 when they were sitting with 46 Wins. This team gave their fans fits through the first three-fourths of February when they produced their worst, post-Lockout, 10-game average of 3-in-10 Wins. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 24 October 2008, and they have won 8.5 of their last 12 games.

OTTAWA – Holding only 27 Wins, they are at their lowest total for this time of the season since the Lockout. Last year, they sat with 45.5 despite a late-season slump. Possibly as a bit of a surprise, their best season was NOT 2006/7 when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the one before where they had 51 Wins on 27 March, or BOSTON’s current tally. OGA called the SENS at Tee on 19 December 2008. While they played sub-par Hockey through Game 30, they hit their lowest point in the Game 31-40 timeframe when they only earned 2.5 Wins, their worst 10-game performance since the Stoppage.

PHILADELPHIA – Currently at 45 Wins, they are right about on par with the same mark in 2005/6 (45 W’s) and 2007/8 (44). This team’s worst performances this season were ‘only’ playing .500 Hockey in the Games 41-50 and 61-70 periods. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 13 December 2008, and they look to be in shape for a Playoff berth in one of the 4th – 7th seeds.

PITTSBURGH – Currently at 44 Wins, they are behind last season’s total by 3.5 W’s. Their best year since the Stoppage was 2006/7 when they had earned 49 Wins by this point in the season. In games 21-40, the PENS could only manage 7.5 Wins and made little headway playing .550 Hockey the following 20. But their 8-in-10 Wins in Game 61-70 pushed them back up the standings’ ladder. OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 18 November 2008.

TAMPA BAY – Currently at 32.5 Wins, you did know they were NOT the worst team in terms of standings’ points, right? The Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL, they scrap for points as they battle through chemistry and injury problems. Their best season prior to this year was in 2006/7 where they drew and then took NEW JERSEY to six games in Round 1 of the Playoffs. The team won 5.5 games for Coach Melrose at the start of the season and only eclipsed that mark going 6-for-10 in the Game 51-60 period. They are proof that the ‘three-point game’ can HARM a team as they have racked up 17 OTLs.
OGA called them at Tee Time on 8 December 2008, and they look to be staying so for this season.

TORONTO – Standing with 37 Wins, their actual, worst 27 March point was in the 2005/6 season when they were one game behind this pace. Last year at this moment, they held 40 Wins. OGA called this team at Tee Time on 6 January 2009. A better team than, but similar to the ISLANDERS, TORONTO is entertaining because they have character and heart, and they can score goals, having 13 teams with less scored currently in the League.

WASHINGTON – Currently at a post-Lockout best 49.5 Wins, their top previous effort was last year when they held 42 at this point. That’s an 11% gain in output in one season, and an improvement of 31% from the three, previous seasons’ average. Smokin’ in the ‘W’ column, OGA called them Chasing Stanley on 19 November 2008. They look to be a pretty solid 2nd or 3rd seed when the East is decided in a couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, the difficult Western Conference…

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1. 4.

Just What The Heck Happened Last NIght?

Last night there were several games with Playoff implications. Just what the heck transpired in those games?

Firstly, Carolina, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Anaheim who should have won, did. For the 'Canes, this means they continue to solidify their claim on the what OGA has been calling the last remaining Eastern Conference Playoff berth. Minnesota, whom OGA called IN the Playoffs last November, lived to scrap another day for a berth they should have been able to maintain but have had trouble with due to key injuries and, we would argue, some morale problems.

Pittsburgh continued their strong push to the post-season which began more than 10 games ago to the embarrassment of a slightly slumping (3-5 in their last eight) Calgary team. And Anaheim, a veritable sleeping giant that OGA called OUT of the Playoffs on 18 February continued to make a case for a seat at the Playoff table in the West.

Secondly, Buffalo hoped to ignite a winning streak they would have to continue with the return of Ryan Miller this Friday in order to salvage any hope of seeing the post-season still on skates. It cost Florida who has seemed, in combination with Carolina's winning ways, to slip heavily from what has been potential play on into late April. Now Florida and Montreal seem to be locked in a race to drop out of the eighth and final Playoff position.

And finally, Chicago indicated what a healthy squad is capable of against an injury-riddled San Jose team. The folks who should receive the contract extensions and bonuses for the Sharks will be the health and trainer staff who can nurse this team back onto the ice for the kind of Playoff run we have all expected since they started this season a team on fire.

Welcome to parity and the battle for your NHL Playoff picture, people. What a reason to come home from a hard day's work every night from now through April 12th...
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Meal, MacDonald! Isles shut out the Wings.

It's not pride that comes before the fall. It's haughtiness.

And how haughty for the last place, Tavares Anglers (read: New York Islanders) to walk into Hockey Town and shut out the Detroit Red Wings on their home turf. Perhaps 'tis the pride of one Joey MacDonald, a former Red Wing who had not started a game in seven contests (recouping from a knee injury), to return to play in Motown and earn the dOnut.

I am sure the fans of the Red Wing will note the 4 shots in the 3rd period off the post behind MacDonald. But we all know, when it happens, the goalie says, 'that's all I gave him'. Posts go 'tink', horn goes not.

I imagine Babcock had warned his team how tough it would be to play the last place Isles - a team playing for pride and with nothing to lose, going up against the best team in the NHL as a measuring stick for what they have learned this season and preparing for the next.

I wonder if the Wings' players were too proud to take the lowly Isles seriously?

The Islanders played their last contest of the 08/09 season against a Western Conference team tonight and the 'youth movement' has much to hang their hat, er helmet, on.

Whether a Red Wings fan or an Islanders fan, it was a good, hard-fought contest. It won't affect Detroit's positioning in the standings for post-season play as they race to the President's trophy. It will , perhaps, remind them to skate hard every night and get ready for the playoffs, plugging any holes exposed tonight.

For the hurtin' Isles fans, well, they may have thought pride comes before the fall. But not so. It's the Isles that will come ready and eager....next Fall.

Here, here Hockey!

1. 4.

Dawn of a New Era in Columbus

With their 5-0 spanking of the Calgary Flames last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets finally turned the page on seven seasons of futility. As of this morning, On Goal Analysis calls the Jackets IN the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

It's been quite an exciting ride to this point, as Columbus dealt with multiple injuries (OGA estimates the Jackets lost 1.6 BILLION man-games to injury this season), one of which - to Pascal Leclaire - forced the call-up of 20-year-old goalie Steve Mason on November 4th. Mason's first start was a 5-4 win over Edmonton on November 5th, and the Jackets haven't looked back.

Columbus appears to have solidified their hold on 6th place in the West, but appearances can be decieving. Eight games remain in the Blue Jackets' schedule, and they can't afford to coast. This weekend, they play a home-and-home series against the onrushing St. Louis Blues who, like Bruce Willis' character in The Sixth Sense, don't know they're dead. Next week brings a home-and-home against a desperate Nashville squad, followed by yet another home-and-home, this time against Chicago. Columbus wraps up the regular season with games against St.Louis (again) and Minnesota. As strange as it may sound, the Jackets' easiest remaining games will probably be against the Blackhawks. Who'd a thunk it?

These are exciting times in Columbus. Jackets fans, it's time to break open those piggy banks and buy some playoff tickets. Congrats to both the Blue Jackets and their long-suffering fans! In closing, I'd like to dedicate a song to Ken Hitchcock and his boys:

And Columbus, if you think the regular season has been exciting, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet...

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1. 4.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chicago and Florida's Problems, Tonight's Key Games

First, a few quick thoughts on Wednesday night's games, then a brief look at tonight's action...

CHICAGO: Good job beating the Sharks (6-5,SO), but...When I tuned in, the 'Hawks were already up, 4-1. Squandering a three-goal lead, at home, to an injury-depleted San Jose squad should set off alarms. In Joel Quenneville's system, Chicago's d-men are fully engaged in the attack. This system works best when your goalies demonstrate the capability to make saves on breakaways, but neither Khabibulin nor Huet have been up to the challenge of late. Last night's example:

And two from last Friday:

If the Blackhawks can't clean up this mess, they could be one-and-done in the playoffs.

FLORIDA: After taking a 3-1 lead early in the 3rd against a down-and-out Sabres squad, the Panthers - repeating what has become a theme of late - snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, losing the game, 5-3, and seriously damaging their rapidly dwindling playoff hopes. The keyword is consistently, as in "The Panthers of late have consistently failed to play a full 60 minutes." As a result of their spotty efforts, Florida has dropped three straight, and now sits in 9th in the East, two points back of Montreal, and the Habs have a game in hand. The Magic 8-Ball says, "Outlook not so good.", which brings us to...


Florida must go into tonight's game at Philadelphia with a Game 7 mentality. Simply put, they NEED a W here, while the Flyers don't. If the Panthers don't leave The City of Brotherly Shove with two points - particularly if Montreal beats Tampa Bay - then I'm afraid the decision to keep Bouwmeester will go down in the history books as a gamble that didn't pay off.

Nashville needs to take full advantage of a beat-up and tired San Jose team. As with Florida, the Preds NEED two points, while the Sharks just need to get healthy for the playoffs (but picking up a point to stay ahead of Detroit wouldn't hurt). As with Florida, the Preds sit 9th in the conference. Two points tonight, coupled with an Edmonton regulation loss at Phoenix, will put Nashville into 8th come Friday morning.

Calgary at Columbus has "1st Round Matchup" written all over it. The Flames have stumbled a bit of late, and need a W tonight to maintain their division lead over the onrushing Vancouver Canucks. Meanwhile, Columbus needs a W for a comfortable 5-point lead over the suddenly red-hot Anaheim Ducks, not to mention the need for a "statement game" against a potential 1st round opponent.

So many more: Edmonton desperately needs to beat Phoenix...St. Louis (where did they come from?) desperately needs to beat Vancouver...Ditto Montreal over Tampa Bay. Let's face it: At this time of year, there are more "Must Win/Must Watch" games than not. It's the time of year when dreams are realized and hopes are dashed, when many teams' playoff futures hang on a single power play, a single injury, a single goal. It is both beautiful and terrible, and it's merely a glimpse of what will come in the postseason. To (loosely) paraphrase General George S. Patton:

"Hockey...God help me! I do love it so."

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1. 4.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

OGA’s Analysis At Game 70

Game 70 in the 2008/9 NHL season has now passed for all teams. Where did the season go? Ahhh… a question some teams are asking themselves right now.

On Goal Analysis’ (OGA’s) offers a dissection of its proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) as it relates to calling teams IN or OUT of the Playoffs. This analysis will speak to what we think has already happened and what the last 12 games of the regular season may bring…

Out Traditional Three NHL Yardsticks at Game 70

For the Game 61-70 period, the NHL average against OGA’s PQC has increased from the historical 38.81 to the current 39.1. This is more than double the +.12 improvement at the Game 60 mark. The change is reflected in our three, league-wide yardsticks:

1. Average scoring per game is still up this season to an average of 5.843 goals per game from 5.567 in 2007/8. This stands as +.276 goals above last year’s per game average and an increase of +.4 goals over the last 10 games. Why the increase? Because of such games as TAMPA BAY’s 8-6 defeat of CALGARY on 1 MARCH and NASHVILLE’s 6-5 OT win over EDMONTON on 3 MARCH is the answer. In fact, 55 of 137 games tallied seven or more goals from 1 through 21 MARCH.

2. The number of OT/SO contests will likely rise higher than the month of February and stand about average with post-lockout, March averages. February’s total number of OT/SO games was exactly the historical, three-year average. With 10 nights to go in the month of MARCH, the League has seen 68.7% of ‘Bonus Hockey’ games than have traditionally occurred. This number of OT/SO games is a product of three things: wounded, starting goalies; wounded skaters; and the salary cap. The numerous injured players have forced the call up of players from the AHL and other leagues that require some experience to meet the NHL’s tempo, so errors in angles or coverage have occurred. And the cap has, in some cases, both dictated who could and could not be called up, and fostered team parity.

3. The gap between highest and lowest game-winning percentage for the League at Game 70 is now –33.8%. This is a continued decrease from the drop in the Game 60 gap of –39.94%. Your BOSTON’s and SAN JOSE’s whose victorious ways inflated the league winning percentages are now playing teams who have their number. BOSTON won more than eight-in-10 games from Game 11–50, and SAN JOSE, greater than 7.5. In Games 41 – 60, the BRUINS only played .525 Hockey and the SHARKS were at .450 for the Game 70 furlong. As with the Game 60 evaluation period, more teams played below the PQC than above it.How do these characteristics influence 2008/9 Conference play?

The Eastern Conference

The East ended the 70-game span above the historical average +.323, their highest gain against the PQC all season. This is an increase of +.593 from the same measurement at Game 60. The Game 70 stat rests below the League’s PQC average by almost –.27, but this is almost three times less than the gap from the last evaluation period. The Average standings difference from the 8th seed for teams not in a Playoff spot is –11.143 in the East, a spread barely under three-fourths of a game larger than at Game 50 and a huge variation from the same measurement ‘Out West.’ Why these trends? The East increased from 3-9-3 against the Curve to 6-6-3 during this period. While the East experienced a drop-off in the overall number of OT/SO games, this group of 15 won more games in regulation time than in their last, collective 10 games. And like our last report, the winning percentages for Eastern teams that will make the Playoffs indicate the overall model for this conference is just about right.

The Western Conference

Not so in the West. For the first time all season, this Conference fell below their traditional PQC. Their –.143 below the three year average is a significant drop from the +.333 they enjoyed at Game 60 (an overall drop of –.476!) and the season-long average of +.293. This is in large measure due to the below average play of the conference where the record against the Curve was 4-9-2. The Western Conference PQC is just above the NHL average by +.267, but this is another negative trend of a –.433 when compared to the Game 60 period. This is due to a combination of the overall drop in PQC based on play and the relatively small number of 17 games where teams played in OT/SO indicating losses are coming in regulation time. The average difference from the 21 March 8th seed to number 15 is –5.571 in the West, an increase of a full game from the Game 60 marker on 1 March. This continues the trend from Game 50 with an average increase of +.875 over the last 20 games. The significant drop in the Conference PQC, its comparison with the League PQC and the increase in distance between teams that could qualify and those below the Number 9 seed all serve to indicate the Western model is inflated and needs to be readjusted downward in terms of the minimum requirements to qualify for the 8th and final Playoff seed in the West.

How do your favorite teams look? Let’ see below:

IN The Hunt…

Back East, no new teams qualified for Chasing Stanley. So the RANGERS, MONTREAL, BOSTON, PITTSBURGH, WASHINGTON, PHILADELPHIA and NEW JERSEY all still remain ranked by OGA as teams that will qualify for a Playoff berth. BOSTON also mathematically clinched their Playoff berth just a hair after the end of the reporting period. While OGA predicted they might do so by Game 70, a below-BRUIN average of 5-4-1 this evaluation period ensued and put off the celebration a couple of games. PITTSBURGH continued to pick up the pace, moving up from the Number 8 seed on 1 March to Number 5 by 21 March. The RANGERS improved their trend from a terrible Game 51-60 performance with a 5-3-2 record that has them more solidly in the Playoff hunt. The significant negative trend is with MONTREAL who is in real danger of not seeing the Playoffs in this Centennial season. Traditionally, they win about eight and add an OTL in their final 12 games. This post-Lockout tradition needs to continue in order to make up for their harmful 6-13-1 Game 31 – 50 performance or they will see themselves displaced come 13 April.

Out West, no new teams qualified for Chasing Stanley just like back East. So SAN JOSE, DETROIT, MINNESOTA, VANCOUVER, CHICAGO and CALGARY are all still in the hunt. As predicted, SAN JOSE and DETROIT mathematically clinched their Playoff appearances during this period. VANCOUVER has continued their onslaught of the Western standings, losing only one in regulation and one in OT. MINNESOTA, though not yet eliminated, suffered their fifth evaluation period below the Curve, however. They are sinking fast as they only hold the 10th best winning percentage in the Conference, which the reintroduction of MARIAN GABORIK will likely impact. This team stands the best chance of being a Shot Off The Post – an incorrect call – this season.

On The OUTs…

In the Eastern conference, there is no change to teams ranked at Tee Time – eliminated from Playoff contention. The ISLANDERS, TAMPA BAY, ATLANTA, OTTAWA and TORONTO are still below the Playoff qualification line. Of note is the fact that four of the five played at or above the Curve this furlong, however, giving hell to the teams above them. They have collectively served as the most entertaining, unqualified-for-the-Playoffs teams in recent memory. Likely to join them a few games into the last furlong is BUFFALO who has stumbled mightily without RYAN MILLER. As with MINNESOTA, the SABRES sit with only the 10th best winning percentage in their Conference, are losing at the wrong time of year and sit with only one furlong above the Curve in the bank.

In the West, DALLAS joined ST.LOUIS, NASHVILLE, COLORADO, LOS ANGELES, PHOENIX, and ANAHEIM at Tee Time as this blog was being drafted. Their annual average of 5.67 games above the Curve at season’s end has slipped away and they will join a few other teams up in the stands that otherwise have not missed the post-season since the Lockout. They are a victim of a disjointed first half of the season, no SERGEI ZUBOV and BRENDEN MORROW and the loss of BRAD RICHARDS for several games with a broken wrist. So all seven teams at Tee Time out West are chosen and the other eight are Chasing Stanley, right? Not so fast…

On The Cusp…

Of most interest stand the rest of the teams who are not yet IN or OUT…

In the East, the interesting dilemma is if CAROLINA and FLORIDA make it in, is it the RANGERS or MONTREAL who get eliminated? The two, hottest teams in the NHL in the last 10 games have been the PENGUINS (8-2) and the HURRICANES (7-1-2). For the first time since their 2006 Stanley Cup victory, this team is poised to return to the post-season. For FLORIDA, MONTREAL and the RANGERS, the last two slots depend on the “W” and “L’s” for the rivals. It doesn’t take many “L’s” – in fact only two separate the three teams. Whoever plays to Win will be IN and one of the three will be watching the Playoffs in HD from their recliner. For our money, the most likely one is MONTREAL.

As you turn to survey the West, it is like stepping into a tornado. This is by far the most competitive Western Conference race we have seen since the Lockout. At the very outside edge of the disqualified teams who might still make their way back into the lower ranking slots are NASHVILLE, ANAHEIM and ST.LOUIS. Chances are slimmer for ANAHEIM and ST.LOUIS as their final outcomes are almost decided. NASHVILLE might JUST hang in there long enough to grab the Number 8 seed like they did last year. Besides CAROLINA above, no one is more poised to see the post-season who has not yet clinched a berth than COLUMBUS. Yes indeed, continue to play as they currently are, and the last of the NHL’s teams to not yet meet up with the post-season will be quickly called Chasing Stanley by OGA. Finally, EDMONTON will battle with MINNESOTA, NASHVILLE and the others mentioned above for their first game in the post-season since Game 7 with CAROLINA in June of 2006. If this were another sport, we would be watching at that singular, hold-your-breath moment when a cowboy leaps from his horse to grab the horns of a steer. Hang on – a couple more weeks will tell…

Looking Ahead

The Playoffs follow the Game 82 furlong. OGA’s look ahead will include series prognostications and blogging throughout the post-season. As a group, we cannot wait for that up-on-pins-and-needles, lose your breath excitement of the finality of the Stanley Cup run. These are Playoffs like no other sport can claim.In the meantime, there is still more Hockey to play and a few more seeds to be decided. OGA’s recommendation is to keep a sharp eye on those at the 6th through 9th (East) or 10th (West) positions for the rest of the season. Such pesky teams as TORONTO, OTTAWA, the ISLANDERS, ANAHEIM, ST. LOUIS and LOS ANGELES all hold the keys to other clubs’ ability to move on to the games of late spring. Stay logged in to On Goal Analysis to follow the calls…
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Everything, There is a Season

Turn, Turn, Turn. Right?

On Goal Analysis sees the Dallas Stars have fallen below the threshold on the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) and OGA now calls them OUT of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Tee Time).

But don't tell the team that news. They don't want to hear it and nor should they.

Obviously, the Stars know the rough road that lies ahead as they host the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the American Airline Center for the first of their remaining 10 games to the 2008/09 NHL season. With points at their premium, the Stars hope to fasten together 3 wins, one game at a time, in their 3-game home stand and then see where they go from there.

From the Stars website today, "The key, according to Mike Ribeiro, is focusing on the game ahead of you, rather than the big picture. Staying focused and staying positive are also vital components needed for a solid effort this week that will hopefully produce three much-needed wins. Don’t look at the rest of the season, look at the next game, the next period, the next shift. Give 100 percent every single minute you’re on the ice, and the success will come."

And it is absolutely true. However, this is what various players in a Stars' sweater have been saying for the better part of the past 3 weeks when they declared themselves to be 'in the playoffs now', fighting for the right to compete for the Cup. And if they have been measured one game, one period, one shift at a time, one must admit they have fallen short of the success they seek especially coming off a 3-game road trip (all losses) billed as their chance to get back into the race.

In other words, if this had been the playoffs, they would already be eliminated.

Yet the team is determined to not let the frustration creep in and affect their fading hopes of stealing that 8th and final seed in the west. The Stars, as they have proven this season, are true competitors and are not ready to give up the ghost. Despite missing key players for large chunks of the season (Morrow, Zubov, Lehtinen, Richards) and despite the on and off-ice distraction of the Sean Avery Show, the Stars have given their all through the ups and downs. There are things to build on for next year.

For example, Mike Ribeiro has been able to play in every game so far this season and leads the team in points with 68 (19G, 49A). Breakout player, Loui Eriksson, who had 14 goals last season, already has 33 goals for this campaign and is one of the few players on this team with a double-digit plus/minus stat (+12). James Neal is 2nd in the NHL in rookie scoring with 23 goals on the season. And Steve Ott, battling a broken hand for the middle part of the season, is having a career-year with 37 points (16G, 21A) as he does his part to carry the team on his back through an injury-ridden season.

But no player (or team in the NHL for that matter) will pointedly blame the 'injury ninja' (thank you, the Program) or other distractions for a team's struggle. Stars' goalie, Marty Turco paints it well with his quote on the Stars' site today :
“They’re numerous, and we could scroll down a long list of excuses that could be made [for missing the postseason], but this team is not all about that,” Marty Turco said. “As openly criticized as we are of the position we’re in, we’re not willing to really accept defeat through excuses. We’re going to see how it all plays out over the next 10 games.”
So, without 'accepting defeat through excuses', let's take a moment to examine a few random thoughts about why OGA believes, although hard-fought, this season will not end with the Stars sneaking into the playoffs:
  • SERGEI ZUBOV. No, not only because he has missed all but 10 games this regular season, but because the Stars have, unfortunately, no real replacement (as if there could be) for one of the game's best puck-moving defensemen. Zubie sees the ice and the game at the same speed and with a similar vision to the Great One. Anybody who has watched the Stars (in seasons past) was familiar with his nonchalant, heads-up exit from the defensive zone into neutral ice, carrying the puck gently on his magnetic stick, leaving fore-checkers in his wake like children who have fallen off the inner tube behind the boat on a Texas lake any given summer. Zubov has been a fixture in Dallas for over a decade (since 1996) and I am sure this team is already thinking about what can be done in the off-season to come to terms with the fact he will have to retire at some point (38 years old). The hopes of last season wherein Matt Niskanen was given the chance to 'audition' for this role are all but vanished as the mentorship Zubie would have provided was shortened by injuries this season as well as the previous campaign. One has to wonder if the UFA Jay Bouwmeester will be notified this summer that the climates in Florida and Dallas are very similar when it comes to weather...and hotter in Dallas when it comes to hockey.
  1. Marty Turco started the season with a near 4.0GAA. Then shut the door and opened the window for a winning streak in the middle portion of the season - the 2nd period, as it were - giving the Stars a chance to win every game in December, January and February as he regained his former composure and confidence. And win the Stars did...including 12 of 17 in January and February. But come the 'third period' (Late Feb, March), the Stars are struggling again to win 2 in a row and instead have lost 5 consecutive games in this time-frame.
  2. And speaking of 3rd periods, the Stars simply cannot score goals in the final frame of a game (28th in the league with only 56 goals in the third period) and only ONCE this season have they come back to win a game in the 3rd period when trailing. This is complete reverse from the Stars' teams of previous seasons wherein this club owned the 3rd period, outscoring their opponent and shutting them down.
  3. The Stars, since the late 90s, have been one of the hardest teams to score against with Eddie Belfour's reign transitioning to Marty Turco's tenure back-stopping a disciplined and tight defense. One of the best shut-down defenses in the NHL has now become 23rd in the league this season in Goals Against (3.03). True, Dallas' defensive corps are young and the past two seasons are providing the experience the players need to adjust but to observers, this Stars team is almost foreign in their defensive play. This is sure to be addressed during the off-season.
  • THE POWER PLAY. The Stars have scored 10 goals on their previous 90 Power Play opportunities. Enough said.
Over the past 2 weeks, many quotes from Coach Tippett and the Stars players have one common theme - we need everybody to play their top game in order to win. Since they have not been winning much over the past few weeks, the flip side here is the belief that not all players have been giving their top game every night. Games labeled as 'must wins' have looked like 'must get throughs' once the Stars fall behind on the scoreboard. Although the players and coaches will not blame injuries for the frustrations of this season, it may be true the frustrations, and increased responsibilities placed on young players, have snuck into the mission objective, unbeknownst to this team.

And as a fan, it's tough to see such an uphill climb at the end of the season for a playoff berth. Especially knowing how many 'knocks' this team has endured this season. Missing a true leader like Brendan Morrow, their captain, for all but 18 games has been frustrating. Having the majority of Dallas' hockey attention (from the rest of the NHL fan-base) devoted to a term like 'sloppy seconds' has been frustrating. Getting Brad Richards back after weeks of nursing, healing, rehabbing a broken left wrist only to watch him break his right one in the first game back is simply too much to endure.

But the next 10 Stars games should be fun to watch as they stay on message and stay focused on battling. 'Frustrating' can also be an opportunity for growth and character building. But the team must stare face to face with the battles of a long season and try not to let the 'speed bumps' get in the way of the race. As coach Dave Tippett stated,
“That’s something that you can let it eat you, or you can attack it,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said about the feelings of frustration. “I’ve always been a big believer in that you look at things like that head on and find solutions for them. It’s frustrating not winning hockey games when points are so big right now, but you’ve got to find a way to beat that and get on top of it. It can eat away at you and you’ve got to find ways to get it out of your system and bring the positive in and use the positive energy to get the results you want.”
Here, Here, coach. OGA doesn't mind you proving us wrong on our call - a potential OGA Shot off the Post. In fact, we wouldn't mind buying a few playoff tickets and do what we can to help support the economy. (The beer's not cheap, but neither is success.)

I saw one commenter on a blog suggest an Avery Curse. Get real. How about 'what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger'? So although OGA says the Stars playoff hopes are dead at Tee Time for this season, we reserve the right to believe they can only come back stronger.

But perhaps not this season. For everything, there is a season...and what a season it has been.

1. 4.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Super Mario and One of the Reasons I Love The NHL

I was enjoying a quite Saturday, killing time before the STARS/SHARKS game and happened to go to NHL.com. If you wait on the picture window to roll over to the PENGUINS, the top link on the left is one of the reasons I love the NHL.

From that link, you see Mario Lemieux honoring a request from the Make A Wish Foundation to play some shinny with young Dean who has beaten cancer, a regular activity for Mario and the PENGUINS to support.

I spent a year in BAGHDAD where I found over and over again that kids are kids, no matter the language, all over the world. Of the more than 1900 times my Brigade's Soldiers experienced enemy contact in 11 months, by far the mission we enjoyed most was anything we did with children. From rebuilding schools, handing out coats, caps and gloves, to passing around soccer balls, baseball gloves and stuffed animals, the smile of an IRAQI child with a "SHU-KRAN (Thank YOU!), Mister," was some of the best effort we gave to that nation.

I have an even more soft spot in this old Colonel's heart for children than before I went over. Mario and the PENGUIN's work with the Make A Wish Foundation, as well as the many other charities Hockey players and the League give time, energy, and effort for, stands among one of the key reasons I will forever be dedicated to spreading the love of this Great Game.
1. 4.

Trade Deadline Report Card, Part 1

Back before March 4th, On Goal Analysis offered the opinion that the trade deadline came too late NORMALLY each season, and that this year’s extension into March would make movement of players even less relevant for this season. Is this a correct or incorrect statement?
OGA has kept an eye on the 48 players that moved at the Trade Deadline (T.D.) through the first five games with their new team. To determine whether our statement is valid or not, we have done a simple comparison of a traded player’s contribution to his new team in terms of: goals scored; assists earned; fight participation (for its potential momentum changes in games); games won by a goalie; and/or games lost by a goalie. So how did the League as a whole fair, and what contribution did individual teams receive for their T.D. efforts?


We cannot assess the claims above without providing you some statistics. For the sake of transparency, we must also say that this is a one-season study.

There were 48 Player moves which occurred on T.D. Day. From this pool of evaluees, there were a total of 17.385 players who did not play in available games. (The “.385” represents a portion of the potential five games not played by a player. An example is BOSTON’s STEVE MONTADOR only playing four-of-five games, making him a “.8 Player” for the evaluated timeframe.) These ‘DNP’ Players include the likes of ATLANTA’s ERIC O’DELL, a 17-year old prospect playing for the SUDBURY WOLVES where he has scored 46 points in his first 26 games with that club. His trade value to the THRASHERS is obviously as a future, potential starter with the club.

From these 48 players, there were a possible 240 games where any of the five actions stated above could have taken place. Based on the DNP’s above, 99 total games were ‘lost,’ leaving 141 ‘ACTIVE’ games’ statistics to pour over. The five activities fell out like this:

24 Goals
36 Assists
4 Fights
2 (Goalie) Wins
2 (Goalie) Losses

This can be interpreted in one of four ways:

1. Average Events For ALL Players = 1.42
2. Events For ALL Players/For ALL Possible Games Played = 0.284
3. Average Events Per ACTIVE Player = 2.22
4. Events Per ACTIVE Player/Per Game Played = 0.482

How do these averages stack up? If you look at PITTSBURGH’s EVGENI MALKIN, he has been a part of 102 of the event types listed above over 71 games. This gives him an event per game average of 1.42, almost one entire event more on average than those traded at the deadline.


Those last, four statistics seem to indicate teams are not getting much bang for their buck when measured against our five possible events. Who IS getting value for their efforts?

There are two ways to look at team value for their trades in this comparison. First is overall value, and second is per Player value.

In terms of overall value, here is how teams have fared so far:

PHOENIX – (4G, 9A, 2 Fights) +15
ANAHEIM – (2G, 4A) +6
CALGARY – (6G) +6
CAROLINA – (1G, 5A) +6
COLUMBUS – (2G, 4A) +6
NY RANGERS – (2G, 3A) +5
PHILADELPHIA – (3A, 2 Fights) +5
PITTSBURGH – (1G, 4A) +5
TORONTO – (2 Wins, 2 Losses) +4
TAMPA BAY – (3A) +3
BOSTON – (2G) +2
EDMONTON – (1G, 1A) +2
SAN JOSE – (1G, 1A) +2
DALLAS – (1G) +1

In the analysis above, PHOENIX seems to be running away with the race to prove their trade value contrary to the initial outcry from fans thinking they were giving away the team. Indeed, there is not one game in their first five that at least one T.D. Player has failed to make an impact in one of our five categories.

But also in PHOENIX’s case, the numbers come from the combined efforts of six Players. So perhaps a better way to look at it is the average value per active player:

CAROLINA – (1 Player) +6
COLUMBUS – (1 Player) +6
PHILADELPHIA – (1 Player) +5
PITTSBURGH – (1 Player) +5
TORONTO – (1 Goalie) +4
CALGARY – (3 Players) +3
NY RANGERS – (2 Players) +2.5
SAN JOSE – (.8 of a Player) +2.5
PHOENIX – (6.4 Players) +2.34
ANAHEIM – (3 Players) +2
TAMPA BAY – (2.6 Players) +1.15
BOSTON – (1.8 Players) +1.11
DALLAS – (1 Player) +1
EDMONTON – (2 Players) +1
COLORADO – (.4 of a Player) 0
FLORIDA – (1 Player) 0
BUFFALO – (1.2 Players) 0

In this case, PHOENIX drops from number 1 to number 9. But COYOTES fans should not get down on management – the average value per active player could be much lower given the number of Players we are talking about here. And of the six T.D. Players we are speaking of, four of them have contributed at least three of the events we are assessing. (Nice job out in the desert!)


There are six Players/teams of note as you can see from the average value per active player above:

CAROLINA’s reacquisition of ERIK COLE paid immediate dividends when he provided 1 goal and 5 assists in the first three games after the T.D. COLE’s goal was the third in a 3:31 span of the first period in his first game back, and four of his five assists came in Game 2’s 9-to-3 defeat of TAMPA BAY. All three games in which he contributed with an ‘event’ were HURRICANE victories.

ANTOINE VERMETTE has had 3 goals and 3 assists since arriving in COLUMBUS spread out over four of the first five games. While his first game as a ‘JACKET was a loss, the others in which he contributed were all victories.

DANNY CARCILLO is the horsepower behind PHILADELPHIA’s ranking. He provided a total of 3 assists in Games 2 and 5, and fought in both Games 2 and 3. In all three of those games, PHILLY won. Conversely, Games 1 and 4 in which he did not contribute an event, the FLYERS lost.

PITTSBURGH’s +5 is all BILL GUERIN. He came right in and was put on a line with SIDNEY CROSBY, scoring 1 goal and four assists in the his first three games as a PENGUIN. As with CARCILLO to his east, the two games in which he was absent from the score sheet were losses for the PENS, although they were both ‘1-Pointers’ (a Shootout).

Of the 30 potential games in which T.D. goaltenders could have played, only five were. MIKAEL TELLQVIST spelled PATRICK LALIME for a BUFFALO loss in the third game following the deadline. But TORONTO’s MARTIN GERBER evenly split the first four games after the T.D. between wins and losses.

Finally, CALGARY’s OLLI JOKINEN came right in and was placed on the top line with JEROME IGINLA and MICHAEL CAMMALLERI in Game 1. He promptly netted 2 goals, including the game winner. He scored a total of 3 more goals in Games 4 and 5 including the un-counted Shootout winner against DETROIT in Game 5. Not added in here are the five points he scored in Game 6, a losing effort in TORONTO, but a game in which he personally was involved in 83% of all FLAMES’ scoring. Many have said, and it is hard to argue, that JOKINEN is the best catch of the T.D.


As is always the case, some teams are getting value, some are possibly going to in the future, and some have yet to reap any rewards in terms of T.D. Player performance.

Is OGA’s claim that the T.D. comes too late to really help teams correct or not? For 36.4% of the 22 teams acting on that day, play through Game 5 as assessed indicates OGA is right on the money since they have no events from their new Players on the stat sheet. It is hard to argue with the fact that for all ACTIVE Players, the average contribution is less than one-half of one event per game. And when viewed in terms of average value per active player, all but four teams fail to receive an average positive value of at least one contribution per game played from any of the T.D. Players they secured.

These may not be YOUR measurements of Player impact after the T.D., and as always, you are cordially invited to get into the crease and call us out for our analysis. We won’t end it here, but you won’t get the final report card until after the Playoffs where we can judge overall effort per game with more data to pull from.

From the desk of The Colonel, as always, there will be more to follow…
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Vancouver, Los Angeles, and the Third Kind of Lie

Mark Twain once quoted Benjamin Disraeli, saying:
"There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I was reminded of this quote while looking at the team statistics for both Vancouver and Los Angeles at the Game 70 mark. As I type this, Vancouver has overtaken Chicago for the 4th spot in the Western Conference, and is just 3 points behind Calgary for the division lead (and with it, the 3rd playoff seed). OGA called the Canucks IN the playoffs way back on November 20th, and their 8-1-1 surge over the last ten games has cemented their place in the postseason.

At the other end of the spectrum, Los Angeles is currently 13th in the West, sitting 7 points out of the 8th, and final, playoff berth. On Goal Analysis called Los Angeles OUT of the playoffs on January 31st, and they would need a hot streak on the magnitude of Pittsburgh, New Jersey, or Vancouver in order to prove OGA wrong.

Based solely on standings and record over the last ten games, the Canucks and Kings would seem worlds apart, and growing further apart with each game. Looking at certain team statistics, however, paints a surprisingly different picture. Consider the season-long performance of both teams, for the following categories:

Power Play...VAN: 18.9%(17th)...LAK: 20.1%(11th)
Penalty Kill...VAN: 80.2%(20th)...LAK: 82.8%(T-7th)
Shots/gm...VAN: 28.5(T-23rd)...LAK: 29.8(14th)
Shots Against/gm...VAN: 29.1(10th)...LAK: 27.6(2nd)
Win % when Scoring 1st...VAN: .683(14th)...LAK: .686(T-11th)
Faceoff win %...VAN: 51.3%(T-7th)...LAK: 52.3%(T-3rd)

Given the current playoff picture for both teams, those statistics are quite surprising. The next logical question is: What, then, has put Vancouver in 4th place in the West and Los Angeles in 13th?

The answer is found by applying Occam's Razor: Goals. Goals, both For and Against, separate these two teams.

GF/gm...VAN: 3.00(10th)...LAK: 2.59(23rd)
GA/gm...VAN: 2.64(6th)...LAK: 2.81(T-13th)

Scoring more and allowing fewer goals gives Vancouver the edge in two other critical categories: Win % when Trailing 1st and Win % when Leading after 2 periods.

Tr 1st...VAN: .345(14th)...LAK: .171(28th)
Ld after 2...VAN: .893(10th)...LAK: .840(24th)

Coming back after allowing the first goal in a game and holding a lead through the 3rd period are critical to overall success. Both of these stats are traced directly back to goals. Vancouver has a goal differential of +22, while Los Angeles is at -20, and that, ultimately, is why the Canucks are CHASING STANLEY, while the Kings are at TEE TIME.

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1. 4.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Solving The West

Here at On Goal Analysis, we are working diligently to provide you the best possible call of IN or OUT of the Playoff picture. In so doing, we offer the below chain of logical thought…

The bane of everyone’s predictive existence is the Western Conference where the intense competition makes is most difficult to make predictions. In order to assist, we here at OGA provide you the following notes on the West.

1. As we slice and dice it, we come up more and more with the answer for points/Wins required to secure the 8th seed as approximately 91/45.5.

2. But what is the absolute best in points/Wins any particular team can do between now and the end of the season? The answer falls out something like this:
SJS – 128 / 64
DET – 125 / 62.5
CHI – 113 / 56.5
CGY – 112 / 56
VAN – 109 / 54.5
CBJ – 102 / 51
EDM – 101 / 50.5
DAL – 100 / 50
NSH – 99 / 49.5
MIN – 98 / 49
STL – 98 / 49
ANA – 96 / 48
LAK – 96 / 48
PHX – 88 / 44
COL – 87 / 43.5

3. Does this mean 13 of 15 teams qualify if the magic number of points is 91? Heck no! The issue is that no team above is likely to Win each and every one of their remaining games. This is especially so when the teams above have to play those ‘Four Point Games’ against teams within their Conference between now and the end of the season:














COL – MIN, EDM, SJS, ANA, VAN, ANA, PHX, VAN, SJS, DAL, VAN, SJS (All remaining)


4. Teams measured against their Conference winning percentage, and rounding upward or downward to the next, half-game (an OTL), means teams should more accurately win the following number of their remaining games:
SJS – 9 games
DET – 5.24 in Conference and 2.89 against the East = 8 games
CHI – 6.96 in Conference and 1.86 against the East = 8.5 games
CGY – 6.92 in Conference and .62 against the East = 7.5 games
VAN – 8 games
CBJ – 4.53 in Conference and 1.11 against the East = 5.5 games
EDM – 6 games
DAL – 5.77 in Conference and .54 against the East = 6 games
MIN – 3.96 in Conference and 1.59 against the East = 5.5 games
NSH – 7 games
ANA – 7 games
STL – 6 games
LAK – 4.85 in Conference and 1 against the East = 6 games
COL – 6 games
PHX – 5 games

5. Often times, however, reality is somewhere between what they have done this season, do on average against the foes listed above, and what their current Winning percentage is. That said, they should Win something between their current, overall Winning average and the above:
SJS – 9.5 games
DET – 8.5 games
CHI – 9 games
CGY – 8 games
VAN – 8 games
CBJ – 6 games
EDM – 6 games
DAL – 6.5 games
MIN – 6 games
NSH – 7.5 games
ANA – 6.5 games
STL – 6.5 games
LAK – 6.5 games
COL – 5.5 games
PHX – 5.5 games

6. So final points/Wins should be closer to this:
SJS – 14 119 / 59.5
DET – 14.5 118 / 59
CGY – 8 102 / 51
CHI – 8.5 101 / 50.5
VAN – 6.5 97 / 48.5
CBJ – 3 90 / 45
NSH – 1.5 88 / 44
DAL – 2 87 / 43.5
EDM – 2.5 85 / 42.5
STL – 1 85 / 42.5
MIN – 2 83 / 41.5
ANA – 1 83 / 41.5
LAK – 0 81 / 40.5
COL – -4 74 / 37
PHX – -4 73 / 36.5

7. Well it says plain as day that the number 6, 7 and 8 seeds should have between 87 and 90 points. How can we claim 91 points will be the requirement? A couple of reasons make a final prediction particularly difficult:

Interestingly, Dallas does not play either team, so they will rely on a combination of their own ability to win and that of the other two to lose in order to raise their final point total.

COLUMBUS and NASHVILLE, however, play each other twice before regular season’s end. If those teams do NOT split the pairing as predicted in the estimate of games won immediately above, then one of two things will happen:

NASHVILLE Wins both: NSH finishes with 90 points and CBJ with 88
COLUMBUS Wins both: CBJ finishes with 92 points and NSH with 86

And lastly, to really complicate the matter, all three teams have shown a POTENTIAL to surge in a 12 game stretch this season that is different from the average predications above:

CBJ – 7.5 of 12, which would give them up to 93 points
DAL – 9.5 of 12, which would give them 93 points
NSH – 8.5 of 12, which would give them 90 points

NASHVILLE in the above case, however, would have to finish with 91 points for reasons pertaining to OGA's Playoff Qualifying Curve we would rather not divulge.

8. So, to sum up the above, the race for final Playoff positions in the West looks to come down to COLUMBUS, DALLAS and NASHVILLE (with a potential for ST. LOUIS to be a wrench in the works) who will finish somewhere between the wickets below:

CBJ: 88 – 102 points
DAL: 87 – 100 points
NSH: 86 – 99 points

Lucky for us the final call is STILL undecided and high drama to the end is coming. It will take a close watch of COLUMBUS, DALLAS and NASHVILLE – with ST. LOUIS being the team for COLUMBUS and DALLAS to beat and NASHVILLE to root FOR(!) – in order to solve the Western puzzle.

Anybody want to discuss how the Stanley Cup winner has averaged 56 wins since the Lockout and no team has repeated a visit to the Finals since 2001 as they relate to DETROIT or SAN JOSE’s chances of representing the West in June?
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Nashville Predators at Game 70

On January 6th, On Goal Analysis called the Nashville Predators OUT of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As of March 17th, the Predators are playing like a team determined to be a Shot Off The Post for OGA, and they may very well accomplish their goal. What changed in Nashville over the last two months? Let's take a look:

1. The return of Alexander Radulov...oh, wait: he's still in Russia.

2. The trade deadline blockbuster, in which the Preds...sent Cal O'Reilly and Alexander Sulzer down to Milwaukee. Hmmm...perhaps not.

3. The return of Steve Sullivan...yep; that's it.

Steve Sullivan's return to the ice after missing 153 games has been huge for Nashville, particularly over the last ten games. After an understandably slow start, Sully has found his groove, racking up 5 G, 7 A, and a +6 over this furlong. I can't find the link, and I can't remember exactly where I read this statement, so I'll apologize in advance to whomever I lifted this from:
"The return of Steve Sullivan could be (is) the equivalent of a major free agent signing."

Sullivan's scoring outburst has typified the Preds through the last ten games: Jason Arnott (6G,4A,+1), David Legwand (6G,4A,+9), J.P. Dumont (3G,10A,+3), Shea Weber (4G,5A,+5), Joel Ward (4G,5A,+4), Martin Erat (2G,6A,+3) and Ryan Suter (2G,6A,+1) have all made major contributions.

At the other end of the rink, Pekka Rinne has been stellar, posting rather gaudy numbers over the last ten games (7-1-0, 2 SO, 2.25 GAA, .919 sv%). Rinne was named NHL Rookie of the Month for February, and has sparked debate over which Central Division goalie might be more deserving of the Calder Trophy. As long as Rinne continues to perform at this level, the debate will rage on.

Taken as a whole, how do the Predators look at Game 70? Let's break it down:

Nashville went 7-2-1 over the last ten games, a significant improvement over their 5-4-1 record leading up to Game 60. Apparently, there's some sort of relationship between goal scoring and the W (note the use of sarcasm font here), as the Predators boosted their G/gm average to 2.50 (27th in the NHL) at Game 70 vs 2.30 (30th) at Game 60. While still ranked 29th in the league, the team's efficiency on the Power Play is up almost a full point, to 14.1% at Game 70 vs 13.3% at Game 60.

On the defensive side, team GAA has dropped to 2.70 (8th) at Game 70 vs 2.75 (T-9th) ten games ago. The Penalty Kill has also improved, to 84.7% (3rd) at Game 70 vs 83.8% (T-4th) at Game 60. The Preds are allowing roughly the same number of shots per game (29.3 now vs 29.2 at Game 60), so red-hot goaltending has been key.

Over the last ten games, Nashville has become a stronger first-goal team, with a win pct. when scoring first of .757 (7th) now vs .742 (9th) at Game 60, and a win pct. when trailing first of .212 (24th) now vs .172 (25th) at Game 60. The Preds are becoming a better shut-down team, too, posting a win pct. when leading after two periods of .913 (T-6th) now, compared to .882 (13th) ten games ago.

In short, the Nashville Predators are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. If they can sustain this level of play, the Preds will be playing after April 12th, and On Goal Analysis will be eating crow.

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1. 4.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The New York Rangers at Game 70

What a difference a coaching change, a kid from Kazakhstan, and a New & Improved (yet same old) Avery make...

While the Rangers' 5-3-1 record under new head coach John Tortorella isn't cause enough to write epic poetry, it's a vast improvement over the Blueshirts' 2-6-2 slide into Game 60. Besides the shift from the L column to the W column, what other trends do we see? Under Torts' aggressive attacking system, New York is scoring more at Game 70 (2.40 G/gm) than they were at Game 60 (2.33 G/gm), though they've actually slipped from 29th to 30th in the NHL due to Nashville's sudden goal explosion. As the team becomes comfortable with the new system, look for their G/gm average to continue this upward trend.

Remember the old saying, "The best defense is a good offense"? As the Rangers have increased pressure at the other end of the rink, team GAA has fallen, from 2.72 GA/gm at Game 60 to 2.64 GA/gm at Game 70 (6th in the NHL).

As you might expect based on the above stats, the PP is trending upward, to 14.6% at Game 70 (27th) vs 14.0% at Game 60. The PK has improved as well, to a league-best 87.2% at Game 70 vs 87.0% at Game 60. New York is also shooting more (32.3/gm vs 32.0/gm) and allowing fewer Shots Against (29.8/gm vs 30.2/gm).

General Manager Glen Sather did quite well at the trade deadline, picking up Nik Antropov from Toronto for a second round and a conditional draft pick, and getting blueliner Derek Morris from Phoenix in exchange for forwards Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes and orange traffic cone Dimitri Kalinin. In six games with the Rangers, Antropov has 3 G(including 1 game-winner) and 2 A, while Morris has 2 Assists, both coming on the Power Play.

The possibility exists, however, that re-entry waiver wire pick-up of Sean Avery might just be Sather's most significant long-term move. The Rangers were in dire need of jam, and Avery provides plenty on every shift. This is exactly what what was expected of The Reviled One. What was completely unexpected, however, was Avery's 4 Goals (including 2 PPG), 1 Assist in his first six games. Think he's happy to be back on Broadway?

Scott Gomez is another happy camper. He has clearly benefited more than any other Ranger from the recent changes, picking up 4 G (including 1 PPG & 1 GWG) and 6 A, and going +7 over the last ten games. Ryan Callahan is a close second, with 3 G, 4 A, +1 over the same span.

Whether or not Sather can sign Antropov and Morris over the summer is a question for another time. Right now, the Rangers are back in the fight, trending upward in multiple key statistical categories as they head into the homestretch and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Provided they continue on their current track, the Blueshirts will be the lower seed nobody - not even the red-hot New Jersey Devils - wants to play in the first round.

Postscript: Petr Prucha will be sorely missed. I sincerely hope he scores 30 in Phoenix next season, because he gave New York 100% every night and deserves that kind of success. If/when he does, I will burn Sather (and Renney) in effigy yet again.

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1. 4.

How Does The ‘In The Curve’ Gang Stack Up?

So there is On Goal Analysis (OGA), making bold claims of teams’ ability to qualify for the playoffs starting as far back as 24 October 2008. As you look at www.ongoalanalysis.com you see three teams each in the East and West that are sitting at the OGA call of ‘In The Curve’ – playing on an average level, neither IN nor OUT of the Playoffs at this time.

“What?” you ask? "But just how does OGA’s proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) see the final Playoff positions being decided?”

Back East

If you are looking at the OGA home page sidebar, you can see that seven teams have been called Chasing Stanley, a Playoff berth clinch, in the standings. Of the three teams In The Curve, who is most likely to earn the remaining Playoff berth? As we project out the PQC to the end of the night on April 12th, the FLORIDA PANTHERS have the most potential to finish with a post-season bid.

But translated from the PQC into the difference in winning games, there is only one game each separating FLORIDA, CAROLINA and BUFFALO in order. Even tighter is the variation in current winning percentage of each team. From FLORIDA to CAROLINA, there is a .9% spread. That’s right, the PANTHERS are winning just under 1% more than the ‘CANES, or, over an 82 game season, only less than one more game. I would say it doesn’t get much closer than that, but there is only a 1/4 of 1% deviation between CAROLINA and BUFFALO which translates to less than one Overtime Loss (OTL)

But wait! As of games completed on 10 March, a glance up and down the line shows FLORIDA outpacing The RANGERS in jockeying for Playoff position. This equates to a hair’s breadth of a lead to OGA as the PANTHERS’ distance in front of NEW YORK in terms of potential wins is only the same as what stands between CAROLINA and BUFFALO.

This all comes down to the fact that OGA stands by its calls of IN the Playoffs and says as of 10 MARCH it looks like FLORIDA is the front runner to secure the eighth Playoff spot, never mind the seed. BUT, and this is a HUGE ‘BUT,’ CAROLINA could out distance all of them if they continue playing .800 Hockey, and short losing streaks by FLORIDA and BUFFALO may see them out of the Playoffs all together.

Out West

In this continental direction, OGA says there are only six teams Chasing Stanley, so two playoff berths are up for grabs. Of these three In The Curve teams, who is most likely to move on to the post-season ? Calculated for April 12th OGA style, COLUMBUS and EDMONTON are those two teams. The STARS’ recent losing woes are their difference here. In translating everything to simple WINs, the BLUE JACKETS and EDMONTON are about one win and one OTL apart, while DALLAS follows EDMONTON by a scant OTL.

“But just a doggone minute!” you exclaim. “I can count, and the difference between 8th and 13th in the West is only two wins! That could change in one weekend…”

Basically, OGA agrees with you. Any three-game losing streak can be a season-ender, just like DALLAS is harming their chances by displaying an historical 9 – 17 record (.346 Hockey) from 1 – 10 MARCH since the Lockout.

“And MINNESOTA is ranked 9th right now, yet you say they are still Chasing Stanley? Come on!” Actually, dropping south of VANCOUVER in the current standings, our as-of-10-MARCH projection of the possible last three teams to survive the regular season in the West in order are, COLUMBUS, MINNESOTA, and EDMONTON barely nudging out NASHVILLE.

If the higher-ranked team loses to the lower, or if a team drops two or three straight games, the order of magnitude of the “L” in this conference is severely damaging to Playoff hopes. Just about ANY West-on-West game is at a ‘must-see’ level of excitement.


The above are projections from teams’ potential stature at season’s end. The In The Curve gang is a tight-knit bunch who could come unraveled if any mini-skid occurs. Seen another way, any of these teams could shut all of we pundits up if they just start pocketing the ‘W.’

The Kenny Chesney song was called, and advises us, ‘Don’t Blink.’ Because just as not blinking in a small town means you miss the only stop sign in those parts, doing so instead of watching these teams duke it out to 12 April means you miss potential changes in the final standings NIGHTLY.
So saddle up, Ladies and Gentlemen. The final, wild ride to the NHL’s FIRST finish line is already on…
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

News, Notes and Ruminations

News, Notes and Ruminations after Tuesday night's games...

Fans in Columbus wondering what playoff hockey looks and feels like got a taste of it Tuesday night against Boston. Steve Mason was sharp, and flashed out his glove when Phil Kessel tested the "high glove side" theory. Raffi Torres scored the game-winner, but the first star should've gone to Jiri Novotny, who ran into Tim Thomas behind the Bruins' net and broke Thomas' mask. After a delay, Thomas headed back to his crease wearing Manny Fernandez' mask, and...bada-bing! Torres scores. (Note to Manny Fernandez: Science and logic dictate that this is proof positive your mask is cursed. Change your mask, rediscover your mojo; it's that simple.)

The Blue Jackets are off to a good start in a brutal stretch of schedule, going 2-1 against Nashville, Detroit and Boston. In the next five games, Columbus plays Pittsburgh, Chicago (2x), Detroit again, and Florida. If the Jackets can take full advantage of Chicago's injuries and Detroit's goalies, they'll be in great shape heading into the homestretch...

Something...I don't know what, but something tells me neither Nashville nor Columbus would mind playing Detroit in the first round of the playoffs...But Detroit would much rather face Edmonton, Dallas or Minnesota...

Injuries aside, I like Florida's chances to make the playoffs this season. Carolina is the hotter team right now, but the 'Canes have to play New Jersey THREE times between now and the end of the regular season, and the Devils have demonstrated an uncanny ability to kill any team's momentum (except the Islanders). Florida, on the other hand, doesn't play New Jersey between now and season's end. Advantage: Panthers.

The guys at The Program make a good case for the Rangers to recall Centerman Artem Anisimov from Hartford. I must admit, I'd really like to see what a couple of shifts of a Zherdev-Anisimov-Antropov line would look like. With New York currently so deep at Center, though, I suspect the MSG faithful won't see the talented 20 year old until the Rangers bring up the kids/depth players for the playoffs.

I'll close with a note for Jay Bouwmeester: This summer, when you're weighing your options/packing your bags in preparation for departure from the hockey "backwater" of south F-L-A, think about how different your life will be in a real (read: Canadian) hockey town - you won't go anywhere without a string of reporters in your wake. Your every movement, every word, will be scrutinized for hidden meaning. The colder the winter temps, the hotter the spotlight, Mr. Bouwmeester. Are you prepared for that kind of heat?

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1. 4.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cross Kansas City Off the Islanders' List?

Just found this story on the intertubes...looks like Kansas City is struggling (like much of the rest of the U.S.) to meet their obligations to the taxpayers, so they might have to break their lease with the Chiefs and Royals, giving those teams leeway to move on to greener pastures. The "quote of note" in the article comes from KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser:

"We're trying to focus on services that directly matter to Kansas Citians. For example, our city services, basic services like police. That is a core function. Operating a sports venue is not."

Obviously, this calls into question the availability of a "sweetheart deal" for Charles Wang and his Islanders. If the Lighthouse Project falls through, will Kansas City still be willing (or able) to roll out the welcome mat, as they were prepared to do for the Penguins?

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1. 4.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What IS The Trade Deadline, Really?

So what does yesterday's Trade Deadline mean, really? It is undoubtedly a day of high anticipation both north and south of the American and Canadian borders. It generates lots of radio and cable/satellite/internet time. And for that air time, it generates good publicity for The Great Game.

Nevertheless, On Goal Analysis' (OGA's) believes the Trade Deadline comes too late in the season.

One reason we believe this is that by today's Deadline, we say 13 of 16 teams who will be in the Playoffs have already clinched a berth and 11 of 14 teams who will finish their season no later than 12 April have already been decided. (That's 80 percent of the Playoff picture.) In relation to yesterday's events then: six teams are probably most in need of executing a trade in order to MAKE the Playoffs; 13 teams may need something to change in order to bolster their chances of 'going deep' in the post-season; and 11 teams might need to make a change to - best - improve their team's future, and - OK - improve the financial health of their team. Said another way, only six teams can really change the course of their events by what happened yesterday. We are simply too far down the road toward the Playoffs for most of them to impact the true course of events with new players that can contribute to Wins.

At OGA, we analyze what in The Great Game directly impacts the goal of regular season play - making the Playoffs. We therefore offer a Trade Deadline measuring stick. From now through the Playoffs, we will take the opportunity to periodically provide analysis of how a traded player/players is/are contributing to the "W."

For teams that are already Chasing Stanley, acquisitions are likely to disrupt team chemistry before they provide ant steady, calming affect. So an inability of the new player to notch a Goal, Assist, Fight or Shutout on the stat sheet and his team losing 3-of-5, 7-of 10, and 10-of-15 after the trade are our indicators of an unproductive trade.

For teams that are In The Curve, a traded player should have a hand in directly contributing to team Wins about 60% of the time. A Goal, Assist, Fight or Shutout in the official stats when the team Wins a game is the first part of our measure. That will be paired with a second measure of the new team winning 3-of-5, 7-of 10, and 10-of-15 games prior to the Playoffs and 60% or more of Playoff games through at least one series. Meet those requirements and we'll call that a productive trade.

For those teams at Tee Time, unless the trade miraculously pulls them up out of the cellar, the true impact will not be felt until next season so those teams' activities will not be tracked.

The Colonel will be watching and provide you with analysis, so stay tuned to this site for more in five games...
1. 4.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Post-Trade Deadline Ruminations

I don't know about y'all, but I feel like it's mid-Christmas morning, and I've just finished opening all my presents. Sure, I got some good stuff, but...Christmas is now officially over, and I can't help but feel a bit let down. As I attempt to adjust to the new reality while sitting in a metaphorical pile of shredded wrapping paper, the following ruminations rise like gas bubbles to the surface of my consciousness and burst onto the (electronic) page...

1. I am thrilled and relieved that Sean Avery is back on Broadway. The Rangers need him, and he needs New York. Having Avery back in blue means the end result of a Rangers-Devils playoff series this season is not a foregone conclusion, and the Blueshirts are no longer a "plain vanilla" team. As John McClane said in Die Hard, "Yippie-ki-yay, motherf*****".

1A. On the Rangers' acquisition of Nik Antropov: A guy who can put puck in net, and he only cost a 2nd rounder and a conditional pick? Good job, Slats - but not good enough to make me forget about Wade Redden...and you now have to figure out how to re-sign Antropov this summer. Message to Coach Tortorella: Try him on a line with Zherdev.

1B. On the Rangers' acquisition of Derek Morris: I'm not afraid to say it: Glen Sather had a good day. I agree with Stan Fischler - Morris is going to help the PP (which needs all the help it can get!). While I'm very sorry to see Prucha go, I'm not going to miss Nigel Dawes all that much. As for Dimitri Kalinin...I'd like to direct my comment toward the Phoenix Coyotes:

2. The early bird gets the worm...or in this case, Antoine Vermette. Sure, I'd already given up hope on Jason Spezza (thanks for crushing that dream for me, Aaron Portzline!), but I was intrigued by the rumblings of late concerning the oft-damaged Tim Connolly. Instead, we get the non-surprise surprise deal of Pascal Leclaire for Antoine Vermette. After a bit of initial disappointment, I realize it's a win for both teams, but Columbus will see a much quicker return on their investment.

3. I hope everyone's ready for Thursday night, as there's a lot of good hockey on my NHL Center Ice package: For an appetizer, tune in at 7:00 Eastern for another round in the Battle of New York. Avery's first game back, and I'll be wearing my t-shirt to celebrate the occasion - a t-shirt which only cost $9.99 when Avery was playing for Dallas/in therapy. For those of you who lacked faith that The Reviled One would return, the price has gone up.

Also at 7:00 Eastern, the all-new Phoenix Coyotes are at Boston. Will the Coyotes be wearing those "HELLO, My Name Is..." tags on their jerseys? Tune in to find out...

While Calgary at Philadelphia (7:00 EST) should also be a good game, I'm afraid I'll have to catch the highlights on NHL On The Fly, as the more compelling match-up is Pittsburgh at Florida, at 7:30 EST. The Penguins look to distance themselves from Carolina and Buffalo, while the Panthers no longer have to deal with the Jay Bo Trade distraction (a tip o'the hat to Jacques Martin for not pulling the trigger - a gutsy move) and can focus on clinching a playoff berth. Flightless Waterfowl vs. Big Carnivorous Cats, anyone?

Speaking of playoff implications, Columbus is at Nashville (8:00 EST). The Blue Jackets are two points ahead of the Predators, who've won 5 straight and seem bent on proving OGA wrong. Technically, it isn't a "must-win" game, but that's how both teams will (and should) play it.

Rounding out the night, Dallas at Los Angeles (10:30 EST) should be entertaining, but the late game to watch will be up the coast, where Minnesota visits San Jose (also 10:30). The Wild must find a way to stop the bleeding, and they'll go up against an angry Sharks squad, still upset over the way the Stars pulled their pants down and spanked them in front of their own fans. On behalf of the Stars, I'd just like to say to San Jose:

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