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Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23rd's In The NHL

The NHL has a penchant for the Christmas Eve, Eve (CE2) schedule. Tonight for example, there are 13 games/26 teams on the ice for your pre-Christmas viewing pleasure. But how well have teams fared since the Lockout when they can smell the Christmas turkey in the oven?

The Eastern Conference on 23 December

Where an OTL/SOL counts as one-half of a Win, the Eastern Conference overall has a .524 winning percentage on 23 December. In order with percentages, they stack up like this:

WSH 1.0
ATL .800
PHI .750
BOS, OTT .600
CAR, NYI, PIT, TBL .500 (2-2)
BUF .500 (1-1-1)
FLA, NYR .375
MTL, NJD, TOR .250

Eastern teams on the road for CE2, however, stack up differently with an overall .516 winning percentage. Individually:

PHI, WSH 1.0 (2-0)
TBL 1.0 (1-0)
ATL .750
OTT .600
CAR, NJD .500 (1-1)
BUF .500 (1-1-1)
BOS .333
MTL .250
NYR, TOR .000 (0-1)
FLA .000 (0-1)
NYI, PIT No road games on 23 DEC through 2009/10 season

So the Eastern Conference is pretty consistent at a bit over .500 on CE2. The above would imply tonight that:

ATL has a better than average chance of beating BOS
WSH is likely to take down PIT
TBL can beat the NYR
NJD, notoriously bad on CE2, may win against NYI tonight for the coaching change intangible
If MTL smells the plane’s seat leather, they will lose to CAR
BUF has a decent chance of beating FLAAnd OTT might not beat NSH as they are .600, but have lost on the road the last two seasons

The Western Conference on 23 December

The Western Conference overall has fared a bit better than their Eastern Conference brothers at a .550 winning percentage for CE2. Western overall percentages are:

MIN 1.0
SJS .833
DAL .800
COL, NSH .750
STL .700
DET, PHX, CHI .625
CGY .600
LAK .333
EDM .250
VAN .167
ANA .000 (0-3)
CBJ .000 (0-5)

Western teams on the road for CE2, however, perform significantly worse on the road for CE2 when compared to their Eastern brethren with a combined .322 winning percentage. Individually, they are:

DAL 1.0
DET .750
NSH, STL .667
CGY .500
LAK .333
PHX .250
CHI, COL .000 (0-1)
CBJ, VAN .000 (0-2)
ANA, EDM .000 (0-3)
MIN, SJS No road games on 23 DEC through 2009/10 season

So the Western Conference overall is over .500 on CE2, but win less than one-third of the time on the road. So tonight’s possibilities include:

A virtual toss-up for VAN at CBJ
DET might have a slight advantage at STL
As we said above, NSH has a slight, potential edge over OTT
DAL should defeat CGY
COL will have a close, possible win over MIN
The LAK are the likely victor over EDM
And SJS gets the nod over visiting, Bryzgalovless PHX


So tonight, the West’s winning dominance over the East it is likely to continue with a NSH victory over OTT. All other games are intra-Conference, with the home team holding a slight statistical advantage and likely to take eight of 12 other contests.
Just some fun facts for tonight as we all remember going into the holiday season to give thanks for Hockey!
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Friday, December 17, 2010

NHL Weekend Roadie: East Bound and Down Edition

After a brief hiatus, the NHL Weekend Roadie is back...and this time, it's for real. This weekend, 2/3rds of the OGA Boys (The Colonel and Yours Truly), along with a herd of kids (Tex Jr. and The Colonel's Lieutenants) hit the road for some pre-Christmas Southeast Division action.

The itinerary:

NHL Week Eleven (Saturday, 18 DEC - Monday, 20 DEC)

Saturday, 18 DEC: New Jersey @ Atlanta - We'll be up at oh-dark-thirty, as we're driving from Pineville, LA to Atlanta for this game. The drive itself should take about eleven hours (including stops and the time change) and the puck drops at 7:00pm, so it's going to be a long day. Must.Get.To.Philips.Arena.Early. , as they're offering $1 hot dogs, pretzels and sodas from 6:00pm - puck drop. The question isn't, "What's for dinner?", it's "How many?" Oh, and there's apparently going to be an interesting hockey game, too, as the New Jersey Kovalchuks (who are sucking less of late) visit the New and Improved Atlanta Thrashawks. Look for Atlanta to show Kovy the error of his ways, while the Hundred-Million-Dollar Man tries to build on his recent two-goal outing.

Sunday, 19 DEC: Lake City, FL - This is a travel day for the OGA Boys. Before hitting the road, though, we first must make the pilgrimage to Mary Mac's Tea Room for some excellent Southern home cookin'. Tex Jr. and I have dined there in the past, and give it four thumbs up. After lunch, we'll waddle over to the World of Coca Cola, where we'll get hopped up on sugar and caffiene before rolling about five hours south to Lake City, FL, to crash for the night.

Monday, 20 DEC: Carolina @ Tampa Bay - From Lake City, Tampa is a quick three-hour drive. We'll get there early in the day, so as to sample the local eats and the Florida Aquarium. Need to get to the arena early for this one, too, as the first 5,000 peeps through the door get a Steve Stamkos bobblehead. I believe Homer Simpson said it best: WOO-HOO!!! The Hurricanes are riding a three-game win streak, while the Lightning have won their last two. They're division rivals. What's not to like about this game?

Tuesday, 21 DEC: Go Home - While we'd really like to head back up to Atlanta for the Blues - Thrashers game, familial obligations force us to turn west on I-10. It's probably for the best, as this will be Day Four of a Chevy Tahoe filled with five boys, ranging in age from 9-46 (average mental/emotional age of the group: 12). That's right: Five boys, one SUV, 1,912 miles in four days. This trip can be best described by a movie title: There Will Be Blood.

As is our M.O., The Colonel and I will be Tweeting along the way (@Pelican4 and @OGAs_BigTex, respectively). Follow along out of morbid curiousity, if nothing else.

I've got to finish packing and go pick Tex Jr. up from school, as we've got a six-hour drive to The Colonel's Hockeybunker ahead of us. Tex Jr. will hold my hat while I drive. This is Big Tex, East Bound and Down.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dallas: This Season's Phoenix?

(Image unashamedly stolen from Puck Daddy)

Going into the 2009-2010 NHL season, the Phoenix Coyotes were picked by most prognosticators to finish dead last in the Western Conference. Off-ice issues - namely, the never-ending ownership/relocation saga - were considered insurmountable distractions for the team. The only thing the Coyotes had to look forward to was a high first-round draft pick in June of 2010...or so virtually everyone thought.

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft: Phoenix defied all expectations, posting a 50-25-7 record, good for fourth in the Western Conference. Though they bowed out in the Conference Quarter-Finals, the fact that they made it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs at all was remarkable.

Are the Dallas Stars the 2010-2011 version of the Coyotes? Similarities do exist:

The Stars are currently for sale by Tom Hicks' lenders (Phoenix is currently for sale by Gary Bettman).
They've missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons (Phoenix missed the playoffs six consecutive seasons prior to last spring).
Preseason expectations for the Stars were very low (Ditto Phoenix last season).

Unlike the Coyotes, the Stars don't face the threat of relocation. These teams share one more commonality, however: Like last season's Coyotes, the Stars are going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As of Game 30, the Dallas Stars are Chasing Stanley, according to the On Goal Analysis Super-Lucky No MSG Added Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC). Last season, the PQC was correct for 90% of the NHL, and the Stars show no indication of falling into the other 10%.

Why the Stars are going to make the playoffs

As a wise man said back in September, the Stars needed to cut their Goals Against dramatically this season. Dallas' GAA for the 2009-2010 season was 2.98 (23rd in the NHL). Through Game 30 this season, the Stars' GAA is 2.67 (12th). Dallas is allowing virtually the same number of Shots on Goal this season (31.0) as last (31.2), so improved goaltending has been key. Kari Lehtonen has been solid, and backup Andrew Raycroft has been a pleasant surprise.

At the other end of the rink, the Stars are scoring only slightly less than last season (2.73 Goals/Game now vs. 2.80 G/Gm then), and the top line of Loui Eriksson-Brad Richards-James Neal (combined: 90GP, 37-53-90, +28)is one of the best trios in the NHL. Having a second legitimate scoring line is essential for success, and the Stars are extremely fortunate to have Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribiero-Jamie Benn (87GP, 21-37-58, -6) coming over the boards.

The Stars also benefit from good health (Lehtonen's current back problems notwithstanding), as ten skaters have played all thirty games, while five more have missed three or fewer contests. This could change in one shift on the ice, but for now, it's very good news for Dallas.

After a two-year drought, I'm looking forward to seeing Stanley Cup Playoff hockey in Dallas again. Come April, I guess I'll have to go to the bank (backyard) and make a withdrawal (dig up the mason jar marked, "Playoff Ticket Money"). I can't wait.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

OGA’s 13 December Non-Traditional Team Report

Weekly through the season as of games ending on Sunday night, On Goal Analysis will now produce a Non-Traditional Market Team Report so you, the fan, can understand how your favorite Non-Traditional team is playing against the rest of the League.

This week’s (first) report is for games ending Sunday, 12 December 2010.

The NHL as a Whole

At OGA, we measure teams’ play against the rest of the clubs in their Conference in order to determine their probability of making (Chasing Stanley) or missing (Tee Time) the 2011 Playoffs. Since the Lockout, our overall record is just shy of 90% in calling teams IN or OUT of the playoffs at an average of more than 90 days before the mathematical call.

The NHL as a whole is averaging 16.333 wins/about 33 points per team. That's an average winning percentage of .556.

At the same time the top eight teams in the East are averaging 19.25 wins/just over 38 points/a .631 winning percentage; the West is at a 17.5 wins/35 points/.625 winning percentage. (Note the West has played 10 less games than the East at this point.)

Projecting average points for current eighth place teams out to 82 games, the East and West would require right at 96 points for 8th place.

But It’s Not Quite That Simple

Teams, however, will not continue to play at the same pace they currently do. Every season, and just about every team, is full of peaks and valleys. So OGA produces it’s Playoff Power Projections (The P3) to attempt to determine as far out as possible how the NHL stacks up.

Since our emphasis is Non-Traditional Teams (CAR, FLA, ATL, TBL, CBJ, NSH, DAL, PHX, ANA, LAK and SJS) in this report and they cross Conference boundaries, we stack up their P3 numbers with all teams in the NHL as a whole.

As of Sunday, 12 December, The P3 looks like this (Non-Traditional Teams are in bold while other teams on eiter side of them in rank order display their P3 for reference):

DET (120.071)
MTL (103.867)
DAL (101.79)
LAK (100.22)

WSH (99.938)
PHX and NSH (99.571)
TBL (98.4)

CBJ and STL (96.642)
SJS and COL (96.138)
ATL (95.667)
NYR (94.813)
CHI (92.581)
ANA (89.455)
MIN (84.828)
CAR (82)
BUF (76.533)
EDM (76.345)
FLA (76.143)
OTT (74.065)

So Non-Traditional Teams fall between #7 and #25 in rank order, or in the middle 2/3 of the NHL.

Drilling Down A Little Further

Here's some more specifics about our 11 Non-Traditional teams' current status:

DAL is #7 in The P3. They sit atop the Pacific Division and are currently in third place in current NHL standings. They also are not yet Chasing Stanley, but are knocking on the door with their best Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) ranking since the 2006/7 season.

The LAK are #8 behind DAL in The P3. They are currently last in the Pacific Division and sit in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, one scant win away from a Top Eight position. OGA called them Chasing Stanley at Game 19 (G19) on 21 November, and at only G27 right now, they have an opportunity to get to G30 higher in terms of PQC than any season since the Lockout at the same point in the season.

PHX and NSH follow WSH tied in The P3 at #10. For this pair, give the slight nod to PHX with 13 regulation wins to NSH’s 10. PHX currently sits in third place in the Pacific Division while NSH is the same in the Central, and they are sixth and seventh in Western Conference standings respectively. If PHX wins G29 and G30, they will eclipse their previous best at G30 since the Lockout. NSH closing out the G30 furlong with those same two wins will be at their best since 2006/7.

TBL is #12 in The P3. They are in second place in the Southeast and seventh in Eastern Conference standings. OGA called them Chasing Stanley at G10 on 29 October. They hit the G30 mark barely shy of their previous best PQC from 2005/6.

CBJ is #13 in terms of The P3. They are fourth in the Central Division/11th in the Western Conference standings fighting tie breakers with two other teams. OGA called them Chasing Stanley at G19 on 22 November. At only G28, they are tied with the 2009/10 version of the Blue Jackets for their best G30 start since the Stoppage.

SJS is #15 in The P3. They sit fourth in the Pacific Division and ninth in the Western Conference, tied with three other teams in tie-breakers for the final playoff position. They are off their normal mark in terms of play and will hit the G30 mark with a PQC that is only ahead of their 2005/6 season.

ATL’s P3 places them in the #17 position. They are third in the Southeast Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference with a bit of a lead over the ninth place holder. They hit the G30 mark tied with the 2009/10 version of the Thrashers for their best 30-game start since the Lockout.

ANA is #20 in The P3. Seemingly out of oblivion, they have risen to second in the Pacific Division behind a DAL tie-breaker and fourth in the Western Conference. Their play has been sporadic, and they actually hit G30 tied for their second worst start since Lockout.

CAR’s P3 rests at #22. They are fourth in the Southeast Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference. At G28, two wins to close out the G30 could place them in the best shape they have been in since 2007/8’s PQC.

And FLA is #25 in The P3. They are last in the Southeast Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. They are pushing Tee Time, but have not yet made it to that point in their season. At G28 right now, closing out the G30 with two wins could have them barely behind their best start since the Lockout.

Rolling It Up

It is a combination of The P3 and the PQC that allows On Goal Analysis to predict as early as possible whether a team will be IN or OUT of the playoffs and their potential, final standings. While many would have you believe the Non-Traditional Teams are inferior to the rest, the 11 actually sit in the middle 2/3 of the League in terms of their 2010/11 potential with three teams OGA has called Chasing Stanley, or already poised to enter the 2011 Playoffs, and none of them have been eliminated from contention yet.

The Non-Traditional Market, which has spawned no less than four California, one Arizona and one Texas invitee to join the 2011 Team USA World Junior roster, is a force to be reckoned with.