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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Great White (Winter) Hope – The Colonel

North of the U.S./Canadian border lies The Great White (Winter) Hope. That is the hope ‘Up North’ that a Canadian team will find their way deep into the Playoffs. Where do the Canadian teams stand and what chances do they have in the 2010 Playoffs with the NHL now just about at the Game 50 mark?

Those That Are Out

On Goal Analysis has called Toronto, Edmonton and now, as of Sunday night, Montreal at Tee Time, or eliminated from potential play in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s 50% of Canadian teams on the sideline. Why did we say they are goners, and what are the chances our model is incorrect?

Toronto was the first Canadian team called at Tee Time on 28 October/Game 10. GAME10?!?! Yes, that early. But since or call, nothing has indicated we’re incorrect in this assessment. Through 17 January, the Maple Leafs currently are winning at only a .4184 clip and would need to win at better than an 80% pace for the rest of the season to make the Playoffs. That will be hard to do when they are ranked Number 18 in goals per game scored and Number 30 in goals against per game. They also are Number 23 on the Power Play at 17.1% and last in the League on the PK at 68.6%. Add that all up and see that League-leading Chicago isn’t even winning at a 74% rate and the comparison tells you that there is too much for Toronto to overcome to get where they need to go. Some of us are Maple Leaf fans at OGA and hope for the best but know the best will have to come ‘next year.’

Edmonton was the second team slated for Tee Time on 30 December/Game 40. While the Oilers were in front of OGA’s proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) by Game 10, they have only averaged 1.7 wins in every five games since Game 11. At Game 20, they were on the negative side of the PQC and have continued the negative trend minus a slight upward spike from Game 26 to Game 30. Edmonton currently is winning at a lesser pace than Toronto (.394) and requires an even greater ‘catch-up’ playing percentage than the ‘Leafs despite being Number 10 on the PP. On Goal Analysis has a 96.4% accuracy rate in December to boot, so saying the Oilers are done like dinner is also probably a safe bet this season.

Montreal was the third team called at Tee Time this past Sunday, 17 January. They are just a bit under the criteria that indicates to us a team is done. We are at the scary time in our calls right now where they can ratchet up their effort and make liars out of us. In our call’s favor, however, are the facts that the team is Number 29 in goals per game at 2.48 while allowing an average of 2.74 goals against in each tilt. Their special teams are pretty durn good (Number 2 on the PP and Number 7 on the PK) which could help pull them back p. They played better than their average PQC four times and worse five, which tends to indicate they try to work themselves into contention after they slip. Add in their tendency to win at about a .656 clip in their last 12 games annually which they will likely need again this season. So if they can hang in there at about, or a bit better than, average and hit that surge in their last 12 while one or two teams in front of them suffer a bit of a skid, they could find themselves back in contention.

The ‘Still In It’ Crowd

Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver are still currently in the hunt for a Playoff berth.

Of the three, Calgary was the first team called Chasing Stanley on 24 October / Game 10. Just as Toronto’s call of Tee Time at Game 10 carries a measure of worry, the opposite call of IN the Playoffs so early could still see a club tank and make a liar out of us. In fact, Calgary has given us concern as in their last 20 games the Flames have gone 7-10-3, or, if you count the losses in extra stanzas as 1/2 of a ‘W,’ have only won at about a .425 pace. THAT is not good enough to carry a team into the Playoffs unless you are currently Chicago, Washington, New Jersey, San Jose or Buffalo and that’s all you need to finish out the season as an average team. Calgary needs to score more (Number 21 in goals per game for) and improve their Number 17 Power Play in order to climb back up into more of a comfort zone for a run against Colorado, a resurgent Minnesota and a confident Vancouver in the Northwest.

Ottawa was the second Canadian Chasing Stanley call on 21 November / Game 20. Since then, they have gone 14-15-1, or just under 50%, and have been a worry in the Game 31-45 stretch. This, of course, matches up directly with injuries to the starting goalie and entire Number 1 line. As the team continues to get healthy, however, it is readily apparent Ottawa has something in their character that was MIA last season. While their PP is worst in the NHL as of 17 January, an on-track first line can do nothing but improve their chances of maintaining their in-the-Playoffs call. Called as IN the Playoffs right now, they must continue to get healthy and improve if they are going to continue onward after mid-April.

Vancouver has been playing what OGA calls In The Curve, or just about average. But in their last 18 games, the Canucks have gone 11-4-2 / played .722 Hockey. They need to be that good as they are poised to go on their 14-game road trip in support of the 2010 Olympics and are only at .452 on the road this season. Their worst team statistic is a Number 14 ranking on the PK and they are in the top 10 in other categories, however, so OGA is looking for good things from this team. Could there be potential for a call of Chasing Stanley in the Canuck’s future? Hmmm...


If you live north of the United States you might on a rare occasion wonder what we think down here about your six teams. OGA can tell you we think Toronto and Edmonton are definitely done. Montreal is most likely done but can improve, and, if teams in front of them lose, still make it into the Playoffs. Vancouver is on the cusp of potentially making it into the post-season and currently looks to be the strongest of the six northern teams. And Calgary and Ottawa are both IN, but need to improve in order to remain Chasing Stanley.

I know south of the border teams have a higher percentage chance of making it into the post-season. Despite that fact, since the Lockout fans have enjoyed 50% of Stanley Cup finals as a nationalistic conflict. Do we get that again this season? Time and effort in 30 games or so will tell…

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