Radio Caller: “…And I predict the Rangers will beat the Capitals in five.”
Radio Host: “Are you high? The Capitals will take this series. I don’t care if they are down two games. Next caller, IF they have any common sense, please….”
Sound familiar? Yep, that’s EVERY post-season. Every expert knows how it will go before it ends.
But how did you do predicting the 2009 Playoff series? Were you like our own Big Tex who went 11-4? Better or worse?
If you were not the best prognosticator, we did the research to give you some justification for your difficulties. This analysis compares what the “Average Playoffs” (AP) looked like prior to this season – the historically subliminal model that helped you determine calls this past season – with what actually happened.
We examined how the four rounds of the post-season for 2006 – 2008 played out in order to get a common ‘character’ for each round which we call The AP. Our focus was on the number of games played to win a series and the total number of games played overall. Here is a summary of the AP going into this past season’s Playoffs:
Post-Lockout Round 1
Out of a total of 24 series, this round displayed a rather predictable AP of a single 4-Game series, two-to-three 5-Game series, two-to-three 6-Game series, and one-to-two 7-Game series. The 4-Gamers imply there might be mismatch, possibly with the Number 8 versus Number 1 seed match-up. The similar, larger numbers of 5- and 6-Gamers show us what is closest to average, or match-ups with more parity. And the number of 7-Gamers might rest in, say, the Number 4 versus Number 5 seed pairing. Overall, it also took closer to six games to decide series. Simple, right?
Actually, the 2008 first round 4-Gamer was OTT at PIT, or No. 7 versus No 2, but a noticeably sliding Ottawa that played .443 from 4 January until the end of the regular season was not destined to go far anyway. The other two 4-Gamers were both No. 3 versus No. 6, and all three were played in the Eastern Conference. That Eastern average was also a noticeable 5.33 games to decide series. The Western Conference average number of games to close out Round 1 series is 5.92 with no 4-Gamers from 2006 through 2008.
Post-Lockout Round 2
Out of a total of 12 Round 2 series, the AP calls for one 4-Gamer, about two 5-Gamers and one 6-Gamer. No Round 2 match-ups since the Stoppage went to a Game 7. The average number of games to close out this round is right about five. This could mean Round 2 draws are a bit lopsided. Could several lower seeds have prevailed in Round 1 only to be spanked in the next Round by more dominant teams?
The facts show that on average in Round 2 the No. 5 seed played at No. 2 and No. 6 took on No. 3. There were approximately nine standing points (SPs) of separation between contenders with a greater number of SPs between Nos 5 & 2 than Nos 3 & 6. Both the Eastern and Western average number of games to close out series was 5.17 games with the only two 4-Gamers coming from out West.
Post-Lockout Round 3
In six total Round 3 series study tells us one game each should be a 5- and 6-game series. There had been no 4-Gamers and only one 7-Gamer. So closing out series in this round looked about like the six games in Round 1. All in all, an exciting, mare ‘pare’ set of contests.
Doing the math indicates on average the No. 4 or 5 seed played No. 2 for the Conference finals. And it took both the East and West 5.67 games to close out this round.
Post-Lockout Round 4
The 2006-8 AP says it takes six games to crown a post-Lockout Stanley Cup Champion. Analysis also says the Eastern No 2 or 3 seed played the Western No 3 or 4 seed. But tell you the answer is always six games to decide the Finals and leave it at that? That would be incorrect. They ended in 7, 5 and 6 games, chronologically speaking, so going into 2009 you should have just tossed a coin. Most predictors called for the 7-Gamer we default to when we think a series’ contestants are closely matched.
So three Playoff seasons implanted in your mind a basic pattern of play – the AP – for what you were about to see in April of this past year. You went into the 2009 Playoffs steeped in the knowledge that you are looking at something like one sweep back East, three each 5- and 6-Gamers, and one 7-Gamer in Round 1. Most Eastern games will be decided around Game 5 and by Game 6 in the West. In Round 2, series will take about five games, but any sweeps will show up out West. Round 3 will take about as long to finish series as in Round 1 with the Eastern No 2 or 3 poised to play the Western No. 3 or 4 finisher. And your Finals would take six games with the slight nod going to the Western team to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Too easy! Put 2009 in the books before the first post-season puck drop.
And then there was the 2009 Playoffs…
Here is the chart that shows how it all turned out:
If you were counting on history to provide your Nostradamus-like 2009 Playoff predications, you were screwed. It’s OK. Most of us took it on the chin here and there. Here’s a Summary of what ran contrary to the averages:
• Round 1 was flooded with the same number of 4-Gamers that were experienced in all first rounds combined since the Lockout. Where there were none before, two-of-three were experienced out West. To simply say this was uncharacteristic minimizes this reality. We did not hear or read ANYBODY that claimed three of eight Round 1 series would be sweeps.
• The first round also held no 5-game series, but the average of two-to-three was likely consumed in the 4-Gamers.
• The 44 total games to finish Round 1 were just like in 2006 and 2007. They were, however, four less total than in 2008. So if your memory is shorter term, you would have entered Round 2 thinking it should have started a couple days later.
• Round 2 was all wrong. The three 7-Gamers were completely incongruent with the AP. The post-Lockout Round 2 had never had any 7-Gamers before this trio.
• The distance between team seedings for the 2009 Round 2 looks most like the one in 2007. Parity in post=season capability, tempo and emotion, however, saw the difference in the number of games to close out the series rise to an average of 6.75 games in 2009 versus only 5.5 in 2007.
• Round 3 “…(Did) not compute…” either. The Round 3 series in 2009 were finished by Game 5 with one of the two being a 4-Gamer. It practically made everyone think they blinked and missed something in Round 2. The team that put down the Devils and the Conference Champions? Gone in four? And a tough Chicago team eliminated in five when Detroit was only one goal short of a defeat at the hands of Anaheim in their previous series? Maybe a Round 3 with an average of at least one full close-out game per series less than the previous three is simply nature seeking equilibrium for the extended Round 2.
• And there is nothing to say about the 2009 Finals except that we all got our money’s worth.
It is our hope you now feel better about any of your issues with picking how the 2009 Playoff series would come out. Your theories and rationale on what was likely to happen was based on your historical experience, the AP. And when it came to 2009, 2006 through 2008 lied to you. They set you – all of us – up.
We heard a saying once that went something like, “…If you’re gonna be wrong, do it in style….” I should think the 2009 Playoffs fit that bill.