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Saturday, November 6, 2010

OGA’s Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) At The Game 10 (G10) Mark

With BOS’ game last night at WSH, all 30 teams have hit the G10 mark. What does the PQC tell us at this point? Let’s start with average wins in the NHL as a whole and work our way down to individual teams’ PQCs…

The NHL’s Wins At G10

Although I am not hearing it plastered all over the blogosphere and media, the G10 mark underscores a high level of parity out of the gate. Here are the numbers:

NHL Average G10 Wins 05/06 – 09/10: 5.47 NHL Average G10 Wins 2010/11: 5.58

These numbers are bolstered by the Western Conference G10 average wins which are 1/3 of a game higher than the Conference average and an entire 1/2 game higher than the Eastern Conference.

And because memories are shorter in terms of comparing lots of figures, at the G10 mark last season the NHL Average G10 wins were 5.55 with the Eastern Conference leading in average wins 5.7 to 5.56. In order by Division in the East are the Atlantic and Southeast tied with 5.6 wins per team and the Northeast with 4.8. Out West, the divisions fall out Central (6.7 wins), Pacific (5.5) and Northeast (5.3). If you recall at G5, the Southeast and the Central Divisions were the leaders and tied with a 3.2-wins-in-5-games average. The Southeast dropped off a bit from G6-10 and the Central continued to spank opponents.

Overall, a modest uptick from last year to this one and a reversal of Conference averages, sure. But what is different is the effect on the PQC.

The PQC At The G10

After 10 games, On Goal Analysis has called three teams – MTL, STL and TBL – Chasing Stanley, on IN the 2011 playoffs. BOS and DET were designated Sharpening Skates, our moniker for just short of IN the playoffs but on the right track. And NJD received a qualified Dusting Off Clubs, or just short of eliminated from possible Playoff contention. That left 24 teams In The Curve, or just about average, as no teams were called at Tee Time and OUT of the post-season.

That minute .3 of a game increase in average wins, because the difference in winning and losing in the NHL is just THAT close (see finger and thumb squeezing ALMOST together), equates to the lowest number of PQC IN or OUT calls for any season since the Lockout. On average, at G10 there are 5.6 calls of Chasing Stanley and 1.2 calls of Tee Time. Last season, we had four Chasing Stanley’s and two Tee Times at this point. So, ladies and gentlemen, we have the very shape, form and substance of P-A-R-I-T-Y as expressed by our earliest possible predictions of who would be IN or OUT of the playoffs this season. And when you look at our secret concoction of figures that makes up the PQC, numbers are so close we cannot even apply any adjustments to Conference numbers to aid in making IN or OUT calls for G20.

Our job this season at OGA is going to be tougher…

Teams Versus The PQC at G10

Because your favorite team is important to you, we wanted to tell you who are big gainers and losers against our proprietary call at this mark.

As stated above, in the Eastern Conference, MTL and TBL are Chasing Stanley, NJD is Dusting Off Clubs and all others are In The Curve.

MTL’s start is just above their average at G10. But this strong start has only been equaled once (2005/6) and bested once (2008/9) in the previous five seasons. They traditionally start strong, but bear watching when the G50 mark rolls around which is why Canadiens’ fans are tense in February.

TBL’s start has never been below In The Curve since the Lockout. But this year, due in large measure to Coach Boucher’s attacking system and the team’s skills in executing it, the Lightning have had their best G10 start since 2005/6.

NJD’s season has, well, been a debacle so far when compared to previous, post-Stoppage seasons. At G10, they were 53.7% below average in terms of wins. That is HUGE in an NHL where on average 1.5 games separate Number 9 from 8 in the standings at the end of the regular season. When you add up: the Kovalchuk contract dropping the number of skaters on the roster; the enormous number of injuries (only 10 of 27 forwards and defensemen who have made the lineup card have played all 15 games so far this season, Parise out for four months and Brodeur now has a bum elbow); and the huge pressures on a team and rookie coach from a fan base in a home building they have yet to secure a win in this season; you get the possibility of an implosion that they cannot recover from. And teams in the East who were in the previous year and fail to make the playoffs the next, usually fail in a big way. No, not yet at Tee Time by G10, but we just may be seeing golf balls and club purchases increasing in the Turnpike State at G20.

And while the 12 other Conference members are In The Curve, average PQC gainers over last season are CAR, FLA, NYI and TOR, losers are BUF, NYR, OTT, PIT and WSH, and ATL and PHI are no measurable change. Of note is that for those on the losing side of the PQC listed here, BUF is in the most distress. Their former patterns since the Lockout were two years IN the playoffs and two years OUT. So to carry that forward, they should still be IN this year. That will NOT be the case unless they put some W’s up in the standings.

For the Western Conference, only STL is Chasing Stanley and all others are In The Curve. ‘Curve gainers are ANA, DET, LAK, MIN, NSH and VAN. Losers are CGY, CHI, COL, EDM and PHX. And CBJ, DAL and SJS show no real change from last year.

On the down slope side of things, COL’s start to last season was phenomenal. Enough to have OGA call them Chasing Stanley at G10 on 23 October 2009. But while they have not equaled that start at this point, no need to panic as they are right about on normal pace at this point of the season. Like MTL, they are a team to watch right around the G50 mark for acute signs of trouble. And while EDM’s PQC is below the overall average, they are still ahead of their 2005/6 Stanley Cup G10. This team has one year where G20 was their downfall, but most often January (G40) is unkind. Starting off in a hole can only be mastered with a lot of talent and character/experience. We will see if The Oil has enough to get them over the hump this season or not, but dang, are they entertaining to watch.

And finally, DET and NSH are the biggest gainers over last season at G10. Remember here that they both were quite slow out of the gate last season, picking up their most steam in the final 10-20 games of the year and on into the Playoffs. Strong starts set a positive tone throughout an organization, so look for these two clubs to go forth with confidence.

If We Had To Pick ‘Em Today

Our team PQC projections if we had to pick who is actually IN the playoffs in April based on where they are on 5 November would look like this in order from 1-8:

Eastern Conference – BOS, WSH, TBL, PHI, MTL, NYR, ATL and TOR. That’s a change of four new teams making the post-season that were not there last season.

Western Conference – STL, DET, LAK, VAN, CBJ, DAL, NSH and MIN. That is also a change of four new teams in the playoffs.

The average, post-Stoppage change across the NHL from season to season is only 5.25, so eight new teams from last year seems like too many, yes? Possibly so, but with the most parity in the league to date opening this season, eight new teams may be the actual, final difference.


So we have more parity with a stronger Western Conference than Eastern at Game 10 this season. On the bubble in the East going forward are BUF and NJD in distress. Out West, in moderate distress is EDM and on the upswing are DET and NSH with LAK nipping at their heels.

Will those PQC’s and parity hold through G20? OGA is continuing to analyze team play against The Curve and changes are a coming. Stay tuned to On Goal Analysis for all G20 calls by 26 November…

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