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Monday, November 29, 2010

NHL at the Quarter Pole(-ish): Who's In, Who's Out

Now that the Detroit Red Wings have finally made it past the Game 20 mark AND we've finished all the Thanksgiving leftovers, it's time to look at the On Goal Analysis Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) again. Let's see which teams are now Chasing Stanley (IN the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs), which ones are at Tee Time (OUT of the playoffs), and which ones are neither here nor there.

Before we dive into all that, let us quickly recap OGA's calls at Game 10:

Chasing Stanley: Montreal, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.
Tee Time: None.
In The Curve: Everyone else.

Got all that? Good - let's move on to the State of the League at Game 20:


New additions to this semi-exclusive club are: Philadelphia (18 NOV), Washington (19 NOV), Los Angeles (22 NOV), Boston (24 NOV), Columbus (24 NOV) and Detroit (26 NOV).

Of these calls, Columbus was the biggest surprise, but made it in with solid goaltending/team defense and timely goal scoring from the bottom two lines. The Flyers were a bit of a surprise as well, if only because nobody (outside of Flyers' management) saw rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky coming. Goaltending is also the story in Boston, as Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask look like the best tandem in recent memory. The Kings have a young and talented team with scoring depth. Detroit and Washington are, well, Detroit and Washington: Chock full o'talent and piling up the W's.


At Game 20, these teams formally entered the battle for the top pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft: New Jersey (20 NOV), NY Islanders (21 NOV) and Edmonton (23 NOV).

The entire hockey world is still in shock at the Implosion in Newark. Much has been written about New Jersey's problems, and there's no need for another blow-by-blow account here. The Readers Digest Condensed Version is this: All-World goalie Marty Brodeur has a bum elbow, but was looking VERY human before his injury, top winger Zach Parise is out for a few months with a knee injury, and the incredibly talented Ilya Kovalchuk is skating like he's carrying $100mil (in small bills) on his back. For the first time since 1995-96, the Devils will not play in the postseason.

The Islanders, on the other hand, are unsurprising. They're a young team with some talent but no depth, and two of their top players suffered long-term injuries before the regular season began. It took a game against the Devils to end the Isles' 14-game losing streak. Wait 'til next year, Long Island.

2010-11 is another rebuilding season in Edmonton. The Oilers' most talented players are still too young to carry the load, so chalk this campaign up as a learning experience, with a shot at another top draft pick at the end. On a related note, Oil Change, airing on NHL Network, is a fascinating look at what's going on with the Oilers. Check it out.


Everyone else.


Through Game 20, we've called nine teams IN the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs - four in the Western Conference, five in the East. Three more teams are now OUT of the playoffs - one Western, two Eastern. That means the fates of eighteen teams have yet to be decided.

By Game 30, we should see one more team called Chasing Stanley in the East, which will leave just two open playoff slots for the remaining clubs to battle over. Also in the East, at least two teams are in grave danger of reaching Tee Time before Christmas.

In the West, an extended hot streak could get one more team into the playoffs by Game 30, while a couple of clubs will need to get in gear just to avoid joining Edmonton at Tee Time.

Check back here for team status updates. As OGA knows, so will you.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

When Do Playoff Tickets Go On Sale, Columbus?

Here's a sentence I didn't expect to write at any point this season (or next, for that matter):

Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets do battle with the Detroit Red Wings for first place in the Western Conference.

Shocking. The Blue Jackets weren't supposed to be this good - not with a new coach installing a new system, a suspect blueline, a suspect goalie and only one scoring line. In a division featuring the defending Stanley Cup Champs, the Hated Red Wings, the new and improved Blues (now with HALAK!) and the perennial playoff-bound Predators, Columbus was picked to finish dead last by virtually everyone, including the entire Puck Daddy staff.

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Blue Jackets did little to prove the prognosticators wrong. After opening the season in front of sparse crowds in Stockholm, they came home and, in front of sparse crowds at Nationwide Arena, served up a 5-2 stinker against Chicago and a 6-2 loss to Calgary. The loss to the Flames prompted Yours Truly to coin the term, "...burning bowel movement of a game..."

The Blue Jackets hit rock-bottom that night against Calgary. From there, they easily could've gone the way of the Islanders and Devils, imploding and playing for the 2011 Draft Lottery Championship. Instead, the Jackets pulled together, compiling a post-Flames-loss record of 11-3-0, including a franchise-first sweep of California (wins at Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose on the same road trip).

Those eleven wins include four shutouts - three from offseason acquisition Mathieu Garon, one from Goalie of the Present and Future Steve Mason. Like the team as a whole, Mason had a shaky start to the season, but continues to improve with every game. Apparently, nothing lights a fire under a goalie like a red-hot backup...and the "suspect" blueline has been surprisingly solid in their own end.

Curiously, Columbus is scoring with alacrity despite the absence of playmaker Kristian Huselius, out for 13 games and counting with a high ankle sprain, and despite a lack (until recently) of production from the second line of Filatov-Vermette-Umberger. The enigmatic Filatov is still searching for his first goal of the season, but his overall game is improving, so it's only a matter of time.

The chemistry of the Nash-Brassard-Voracek line has been key. Since Nash was swapped for Filatov on this line, both Brassard and Voracek have been energized. Brassard, in particular, is playing with high confidence and a smile on his face, both of which were missing last season.

Contributions from the third and fourth lines cannot be overlooked, as the likes of Chris Clark, Kyle Wilson, Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll have picked up the scoring slack for the second line.

In light of the Jackets' 12-6-2 start to the 2009-2010 season, which was followed by 62 games of painful ugliness, many have tempered their enthusiasm by adopting a perfectly understandable wait-and-see approach to this season. Here at OGA, however, we're officially calling the Columbus Blue Jackets IN the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as of 25 November. This is not last season's team. Rather than battling against their coach, the 2010-2011 Jackets are battling for their coach, as well as for each other. They're gaining strength and confidence daily. The fact that Columbus plays Detroit tonight for first place in the Western Conference, while surprising, is no fluke. When do playoff tickets go on sale, Columbus?

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Feast and Famine in the NHL: Hat Tricks and Shutouts on the Rise

While the first six weeks of the 2010-2011 NHL season has produced a number of compelling storylines, such as the emergence of Steven Stamkos as an elite (Crosby/Ovechkin level) player, the implosion of the New Jersey Devils and the Colin Campbell email controversy, the most intriguing theme to date is the dramatic rise in both hat tricks and shutouts.


Through Thursday night's action, 24 hat tricks have been recorded in the NHL. With 273 games in the books, that's an average of one hatter every 11.38 games. If this pace is maintained, the NHL will see an impressive 108 hat tricks this season. That's an astounding 47.9% increase over the 2009-2010 campaign, in which 73 hat tricks were scored. For added perspective, consider this: The free-wheeling 1987-1988 season, with Lemieux and Gretzky in their prime, saw 113 hat tricks recorded, while the 1998-1999 season, at the height of the "dead puck" era, chalked up just 56.

More interesting facts: The 3+ goal games are divided almost evenly, with 13 for Eastern Conference snipers and 11 for the West. Also, teams on the receiving end are fairly even, as 13 hatters have been against Eastern clubs, with 11 vs. the West. Perhaps most intriguing is the tendency to "keep it in the Conference," as 9 of 11 Western Conference hat tricks have been scored against other Western Conference clubs. Of the 13 Eastern Conference hat tricks, 11 were scored against Eastern teams.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, NHL goalies have recorded 38 shutouts through 273 games this season. At an average of one every 7.18 games, that's an increase of 9.6% over the 2009-2010 campaign, in which shutouts came once every 7.94 games.

Shutouts are split right down the middle, with 19 each for Eastern and Western Conference goalies. A dramatic disparity is seen, however, in the victims of shutouts: 24, or 63.2%, have come against Eastern clubs, while only 14 (36.8%) have been against the West. This is due in part to the Western Conference's 41-21-9 record vs. Eastern teams. While just 4 of 19 shutouts by Eastern goalies came against Western teams, Western goalies racked up 9 of 19 shutouts against the East.


An increase in hat tricks would seem to indicate a league-wide increase in scoring, while an increase in shutouts seems to indicate the opposite. What's going on? Scoring is up only slightly over last season (5.65 goals/game in 2010-2011 vs. 5.53 in 2009-2010), so the answer must lie elsewhere.

My theory is this: The combination of cap issues (in Chicago and New Jersey, among others) and injuries (in Colorado and St. Louis, among others) has caused an influx of not-ready-for-primetime skaters from the AHL and major junior leagues. The large number of relatively inexperienced players on the ice has resulted in higher-quality scoring chances across the league, which snipers (Stamkos, Semin, et al), savvy veterans (Ed Jovanovski, Raffi Torres) and even a few talented youngsters (Derek Stepan, Chris Stewart) have exploited.

On the flip side, those very same inexperienced players have struggled mightily to score against clubs with solid goaltending and good team defense. Boston, St. Louis and Montreal (combined) own 12 of 38 shutouts in the NHL this season. The Bruins and Habs are ranked 1-2 in team Goals Against Average (1.76 and 2.05, respectively), and the Blues were in the top three until a rash of injuries brought on their recent defensive struggles.

Curse the salary cap and injuries all you want, but they're making the 2010-2011 NHL season one to remember.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NHL Overtime on VERSUS: Wysh's Wants and More

I was fully prepared to write a thorough critique of NHL Overtime, VERSUS' new hockey analysis show, but it seems a certain blogger who never sleeps beat me to it. Thus, I'll just point out my agreements and disagreements with Mr. Wyshynski, and add a thought or two of my own.


1. Dump The Desk, Ditch The Suits. Wysh is right: Put the talking heads in a more comfortable, casual environment, and let the conversation flow. This show should be a hockey-centric BOGSAT - a Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around Talking about hockey. Taking it a step further, as a viewer, I'd like the ability to text or email questions and have them answered on air. Get current and former players, coaches and management-types on the show, and get them to open up. Last night, for example, while Bill Patrick, Billy Jaffe and Bill Guerin were discussing Scott Gordon's dismissal by the Islanders, I would've loved to ask Guerin, "Bill, you played for the Islanders from 2007-09. Is this organization any less screwed up now than it was when you were there?"

2. Reinvent the highlights. Again, what Wysh said. I thought the first show was too highlight-heavy and analysis-light. If you're going to show highlights, break down a specific play. Don't give us what we can get on Hockey Central or NHL On The Fly. Again, using last night's show as an example, they could've shown Henrik Lundqvist breaking his stick, throwing it, and drawing an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty after allowing two goals in 38 seconds, then analyzed the questionable officiating which contributed to King Henrik's outburst...or debated pros and cons of Lundqvist losing his cool...or both.

4. More News, More Up-To-Date News, And More News We Care About. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but...what Wysh said. How can you NOT talk about Colin Campbell's emails? What does Bill Guerin (or better yet, any recently-retired player) think about the "NHL Wheel of Justice"? (really, I'm talking about the NHL's seemingly capricious method of enforcement here, but DGB's flowchart is pure genius) Among other things, I want controversy. I want to know how many players agree with the statement, "NHL officiating is the worst in professional sports". I want to know, if the players voted, would Nick Lidstrom have won all those Norris Trophies? I want discussion and debate of current hockey events which mirrors the intensity and passion of The Great Game itself.

5. Keep Going "On Location". I would've liked a glimpse inside the Rangers' locker room after their come-from-behind OT win last night. Based on Jim Cerny's Tweets, it was quite a scene. Gimme somma dat, VERSUS.


3. Either Drop The Rundown or Steal From ESPN. Un momento, SeƱor Wyshynski - structuring a hockey show in a three-period format is tragically unhip? I beg to differ, sir. All the best Blog Talk Radio shows featuring guys Jabbering about Hockey use this format.


6. Finally, Give Us Copious Amounts of Billy Jaffe. I'll have to see more of Mr. Jaffe before passing judgment. While I liked his energy, he did trip over his tongue a few times. Maybe it was first-night jitters. Time will tell.


Along with fewer highlights, more analysis and a more relaxed setting, how about throwing in some college and major junior hockey talk? Maybe pick one Top Prospect for the 2011 Draft each night, show some of his highlights and discuss which of the current NHL bottom-dwellers needs him most? Along the same lines, looking at some of the top AHLers would give fans a glimpse of the future of their franchise. Last, but not least, a smattering of fantasy hockey talk wouldn't hurt. After all, the majority of people who will stay up until midnight Eastern to watch NHL Overtime have at least one fantasy team. Give 'em a good tip or two for players to start (or bench) for tomorrow nights' games.

Of greater importance than the content of the show, the Monday night premiere of NHL Overtime on VERSUS sent a message: NHL, VERSUS loves you with all its' corporate heart, and wants you back next year. And the next. And the year after that. Do you think ESPN would put an hour-long NHL show on The Mothership four days a week? Winged monkeys exiting Gary Bettman's rectum comes to mind.

While some will argue in favor of ESPN's higher profile (roughly 26 million more viewers than VERSUS), I recall well their treatment of the NHL during the last few years of that TV contract. Remember the "less is more" fable, when ESPN cut the number of games broadcast, and shunted most of those off to ESPN2? Given the option of broadcasting NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL games, The Leader In Sports will always choose the NHL last. ALWAYS. Better the NHL should remain a big fish in a small pond, particularly since that pond is growing.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

OGA’s Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) At The 15’s

All but BOS have made it to or past the Game 15 (G15) mark, and CHI has made it to G20. Where does the NHL stand in On Goal Analysis terms?

Chasing Stanley

From the G10 call, a glance at the OGA Home Page tells you MTL, TBL and STL are Chasing Stanley, or IN the playoffs in 2011. OGA knows right now of one more team that will be announced as Chasing Stanley at G20, and another three that should relatively easily join the ranks as well (that’s a total of two from each Conference). There are two more on the bubble (again, split between the Conferences) that are likely Chasing Stanley candidates depending on how they finish out the G20 stretch. If all of those teams make it to this level by G20, that total of nine is behind the average of Chasing Stanley calls at G20 by 2.4 teams. This reflects the parity that has crept into the NHL this season bigger than ever. For the naming of those teams, keep your eye on the OGA Home Page for G20 updates.

In The Curve

The teams playing just about average fall in this category and represent the old Bell Curve in PQC calls as most teams rest here for about half of the season.

In the East, we are tracking six teams solidly at Chasing Stanley at G20. There are three more on the bubble that could slip just below In The Curve at Dusting Off Clubs or as low as Tee Time. Out West, CHI was called In The Curve last night at their G20 mark. In that conference, there are another nine teams with solid shots at In The Curve and one more on the bubble for something lower. Again, those calls will be on the OGA Home Page as team G20’s arrive on the calendar.

Tee Time

And we are looking at possibly two teams hitting the Tee Time mark – eliminated from Playoff contention – at G20. Again, underscoring League parity, we average 2.6 Tee Time calls by G20, so two teams called OUT would be just a little below average.

This Week’s PQC Calendar

G20 PQC calls this week mark up the calendar pretty well. Last night, CHI hit G20 with an In The Curve call. You are looking at a schedule like this through next Sunday:

MON – None







During this week, we will see some Chasing Stanley, possibly a little Tee Time, and a lot of In The Curve action as we will have more than 50% of the NHL’s G20 call by then.

Just A Little More Insight

And just to bring you a little deeper into where we are with our assessments, below by conference is our own, internal power ranking order through games ending Sunday night, 15 NOV:

Eastern Conference – WSH, PHI, MTL, BOS, NYR, OTT, TBL, PIT, FLA, CAR, ATL, TOR, BUF, NJD and NYI

Western Conference – LAK, DET, STL, VAN, CBJ, SJS, ANA, NSH, MIN, PHX, DAL, COL, CHI, CGY and EDM

Teams in bold are your conference Top 8 we project out to G82 based on how they are performing. We see the West similar to last season where it might just take more points than average to earn that #8 seed. We also see at the moment that the East may fall out a lot like last season where you can solidly pick the teams who will be Chasing Stanley relatively early with a high degree of accuracy.


And that is your G15 Playoff Qualifying Curve summary for 2010/11. There’s plenty more Hockey to play this season and nobody quite knows where the next Blues-like eight game winning, or Isles-like 10 game losing, streak lurks. Stay tuned to OGA for your calls of IN or OUT of the playoffs at the earliest possible moment.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Naming Conventions: The New All Star Teams

What to do, what to do?

With a potentially great, new way of choosing the All Star team players upon us (way to go Shanny!), there's another consideration to be made here: What do they name the teams? I think you have at least four potential courses of action (COAs) here.

COA 1 - The Captains

Yes, you could surely name them after the two team Captains. They will, for all intents and purposes, be those Captains' teams ala road hockey style. I like the concept. It has a cool upside as a tip of the hat to pond/street hockey. The downside is a slight risk of alienating the non-true Hockey fan by picking someone else's player and not 28 other teams' fan favorite. Risk here is minimal, though. I rate this option at 3.5 of five stars.

COA 2 - The Coaches

Another option. In my opinion, it is just an OK COA. You have two downsides: people tip their hat to a coach, but really like their bench bosses semi-transparent; and you will alienate 28 other teams by putting CURRENT coaches behind the bench. If recognizing the coaches in this manner is desired, you cannot pick this COA unless you pick a retired coach. Think Scotty Bowman, here. This COA is a bit dicey, so I rate it two out of five stars.

COA 3 - The Old School

Here's an option for you to consider. Something like a Wales Team and a Campbell Team. Rockin' the RBC with an acknowledgement of the old NYI and EDM dynasty days? That is a slick option. The only drawback I see immediately? There will be people in attendance and watching via their favorite media method who will need to be told just what a Wales and Campbell are. Give this one three of five stars.

COA 4 - My Favorite

This is the best COA in my opinion. Name the teams after two great, former players. Make them the honorary team GM's. Give them a role as team spokesmen and choose a couple of venues for media and fan interaction, and give them some access to the team for inspirational purposes. I am a fan of Team Howe and Team Orr this year. I flat out rate this as a five-fer-five stars, on the Richter scale, or any other way you want to measure it.

And I leave it to the Puck Daddy staff and fans to tell us: If you chose one of the above COAs, what does your jersey look like?
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Monday, November 8, 2010

NHL Weekend Roadie: The Widowmaker

This installment of the NHL Weekend Roadie is aptly named, “The Widowmaker”. The name is apropos because, when you tell your Significant Other you’re taking this trip, she’s going to kill you.

If you’re single (or looking to become single), you’ve passed the first major hurdle. Next, you have to ask yourself some questions, such as:

1. How close am I to my family?
2. How dedicated am I to The Great Game?
3. Can my bank account withstand a roadie of epic proportions?
4. How long can I survive on arena food before scurvy sets in?

If your answers to the above questions are, “Not Very”, “VERY”, “Probably” and “At least a week”, then read on.

The itinerary:

NHL Weeks Seven AND Eight (Friday, 19 NOV – Monday, 28 NOV)

Friday, 19 NOV: Washington @ Atlanta – This epic roadie kicks off in Hotlanta with a tilt between Southeast division rivals. The last time these teams met at Philips Arena, Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed on the ice and exited the arena on a stretcher, but Atlanta rallied for an emotional 4-2 win. While this game (hopefully) won’t be quite so dramatic, it promises to be a good one.

Saturday, 20 NOV: Nashville @ Carolina – Today, you’re up early and on the road, as you’ve got a 411 mile, seven-hour drive ahead of you. As mentioned in a previous post, plan on getting to the RBC Center early to tailgate with the Hurricanes fans. After the party, the real fun begins: a game between regional rivals. Will ‘Canes rookie Jeff Skinner go all highlight reel on the Preds? Will Shea Weber, like Stella, get his groove back? It’s worth the drive to find out.

Sunday, 21 NOV: NY Islanders @ Atlanta – Remember that 411 mile, seven-hour drive? Well, you’re doing it again today. This game starts at 5:00pm, so plan accordingly – these are two up-and-coming clubs, so you won’t want to miss any of the action. Which goalie will collapse first – Pavelec, or the Isles’ Rick DiPietro?

Monday, 22 NOV: Boston @ Tampa Bay – Tampa is 456 miles/7.5 hours from Atlanta, so you might want to consider driving part-way after the Thrashers-Isles game Sunday night. Your fourth game in as many nights features two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, so it shouldn’t disappoint. This will be the first time to see newly-minted superstar Steve Stamkos and 2010’s No.2 draft pick, Tyler Seguin, on the same sheet of ice.

Tuesday, 23 NOV: REST – Hey, after four-in-four and 1278 miles, you’ve earned a day off. Sleep in, then head over to Indian Rocks Beach for lunch at Keegan’s Seafood Grille. Explore Tampa if you like, but above all, take it easy.

Wednesday, 24 NOV: NY Rangers @ Tampa Bay – If the Rangers are playing anywhere in Florida, expect an energized, sellout crowd. The Blueshirts are currently playing the best hockey of Coach John Tortorella’s tenure, while the Stamkos-led Lightning are surging. This Thanksgiving-eve matchup might just be the highlight of the trip.

Thursday, 25 NOV: American Thanksgiving – The holiday gives you another day off. Call your family from the beach and quote Jimmy Buffett to them: “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.” They’ll hang up, of course, but you’ll be able to say you did your familial duty. Enjoy the rest of the day. Have some turkey and dressing…or mahi-mahi and a margarita, perhaps. Watch football if you must. Tomorrow begins the last leg of your epic journey.

Friday, 26 NOV: NY Rangers @ Florida – Your 229 mile, four-hour drive today should be a breeze. As with Wednesday night’s game in Tampa, expect a sellout. Don’t let the Panthers’ current 5-7-0 record fool you – heinous officiating was a direct contributor to two of their losses. The Panthers and Rangers are two of the hardest-working teams in the NHL right now, so expect plenty of blood, toil, tears and sweat tonight.

Saturday, 27 NOV: Florida @ Tampa Bay – It’s 229 miles/four hours back to Tampa on this day. While this rivalry has lost intensity over the past few seasons, it looks to be heating up again. Back in September, many pundits picked the Lightning to return to the playoffs and the Panthers to return to the Southeast division cellar. In the first meeting of the season between these clubs, Florida spanked Tampa, 6-0, in Sunrise. Tonight, the Lightning will attempt to return the favor in front of their own fans.

Sunday, 28 NOV: Boston @ Atlanta – Your final drive of the trip is another 456 miles/7.5 hours back to the beginning of “The Widowmaker” – Atlanta. If you’ve made it this far and aren’t having nightmares involving hot dogs and nachos, consider yourself lucky. Because no journey should end without a reward, the OGA Boys hereby make the following offer: The first person to email mike@ongoalanalysis.com will receive two FREE tickets to this Bruins-Thrashers game.

Monday, 29 NOV: GO HOME…to whatever home remains after eight games in ten days, over 2,192 miles.

So that’s it: an epic Thanksgiving holiday week roadie. The OGA Boys’ record roadie thus far is five games in five days (including a Columbus Day doubleheader at Nassau Coliseum and Madison Square Garden), so we know eight-in-ten is very doable (though our wives say otherwise). If you can pull off this road trip, let us know; we’ll be happy to testify on your behalf at your divorce hearing.

HOTELS – Check Hotwire.com for your hotel needs in Atlanta, Raleigh, Tampa and Sunrise. Right now, there are great deals to be had on four-star joints in Tampa and North Fort Lauderdale on the applicable dates.

FLIGHTS – You’ll be flying into (and out of) Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, which is the busiest airport in the world. If you don’t factor delays into your travel, you will regret it. If you’re flying in on Friday, 19 NOV, book an early morning flight.

FOOD – Check these sites for great one-of-a-kind (non-chain restaurant) dining:
Anywhere: http://www.roadfood.com/ or http://www.flavortownusa.com/
In Atlanta: http://www.atlanta.net/dining/index.aspx
In Raleigh: http://www.visitraleigh.com/visitors/restaurants/
In Tampa: http://tboextra.com/dining/
In Sunrise: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/494808

TICKETS – Tickets are available through all team websites, as well as StubHub. For those too lazy to Google it, here are the links:
Atlanta Thrashers
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning

GETTING AROUND – Three words: REN.TAL.CAR. Get one with unlimited miles, or you’ll quickly discover it would’ve been cheaper to simply buy a used car, then re-sell it at the end of the trip.

Yes, this special edition of the NHL Weekend Roadie is very Southeast Division-centric, and with good reason: First and foremost, the Southeast is rapidly becoming the most exciting division in the NHL, as the dominance of the Washington Capitals has forced Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida to change in order to become more competitive. Also, with all the “windshield time” involved in this roadie, good driving conditions are a must, and the weather in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida is quite nice in November. You call yourself a hockey fan? Prove it – hit the road!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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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…
1. 4.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Too Simple...

It's bold. It answers a need. It's too easy (sort of). And almost works...

Could the first big trade of the season be Zach Parise from New Jersey to Toronto for as little as Tomas Kaberle? How on earth could THIS happen?

The Pluses

Both teams have something to gain by this move.


1. Needs secondary scoring. Parise. (To borrow from Paul Bissonette) Boom. And don't think Brian Burke doesn't know the value of a Parise, his Olympic Finals game-tying goal scorer.

2. Tomas Kaberle is likely moved by the Trade Deadline or lost in free agency next summer.

3. And Toronto Cap Space (per Gap Geek) is $4,091,944 in room plus $4,250,000 if Kaberle moves. This equals better than $8.3M to offer Parise in the neighborhood of $6M to the $6.67M Cap Hit of Kovalchuk with some wiggle room to spare for future considerations.

New Jersey:

1. Might be asked for Parise and have a currently, slightly damaged forward they can move now for something to prop up a sagging team.

2. Can't move the puck out of their own end if it were fired by a cannon due in large measure to the torrent of injuries affecting this defensively-minded team. They need a Kaberle to move the puck.

3. They also cannot score from the blue line - they have five goals from three defensemen and six of 10 who have been on the roster this season with no points at all.

There's Just One Thing...

That damn Cap is in the way. New Jersey (again with a hat tipped to Cap Geek) has $0 Cap Space with relative (but legal) room being 'borrowed' off of $1.2M in Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) money bought back against the cap. So a loss of Parise's $3.5M with the addition of Kabele's $4.25M equals a $750K deficit that would equal more games with only 15 skaters and, ultimately, more losses. This, New Jersey cannot afford. (Not to mention Parise is potentially the face and future of the franchise.)


So no, Leafs' fans - you are not really likely to get yourself a Zach Parise on your team tomorrow.

Well then why on earth did this #@! blog get pushed out onto the Internet?

To show you that what might seem like a no-brainer to flog a GM with is not likely so simple. You would do better to speculate that Toronto might trade Kaberle for Bobby Ryan or even better, Chris Stewart on teams that are ranked 27th and 30th respectively in goals against average and need a solid defender on the blue line.

Hey! Now there's a rumor or two for you...
1. 4.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The NHL Weekend Roadie: West Coast Stargazing

Another week, another NHL Weekend Roadie. If you don't already have plans for the second weekend in November, well...you do now. As with all OGA-approved roadies, it’s guaranteed good, featuring two games between divisional rivals and a bonus game between a Cup contender and a talented young team on the rise. If that’s not enough entertainment for one weekend, you can also go to Disneyland. Intrigued? Read on:

The itinerary:

NHL Week Six (Thursday, 11 NOV – Saturday, 13 NOV)

Thursday, 11 NOV: Dallas @ Los Angeles – The last time these teams met, the Stars were embarrassed, 5-2, on home ice. They’ll be looking to return the favor on their first West Coast trip of the season, and they’ve got the firepower to do it. This is a contract year for Dallas pivot Brad Richards, and his stats (10GP, 3-11-14, +7) indicate his desire for a raise. Wings James Neal, Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow lead the Stars with 5, 5 and 6 goals, respectively…The Kings, led by Justin Williams’ 5-6-11, +5 in 11 games, are no slouches, either, and currently sit atop the Western Conference with a record of 8-3-0. Expect a hard-hitting game with plenty of scoring on this night.

Friday, 12 NOV: Dallas @ Anaheim – The last time these teams met, the Stars were embarrassed, 5-2, on home ice. Does that sentence sound familiar? Well, that’s exactly what happened. Dallas will be looking for revenge for the second night in a row. The fatigued Stars should start backup goalie Andrew Raycroft against the Ducks, as well as a player or two who were scratched Thursday night. One of those fresh players will undoubtedly be enforcer/winger Krys Barch. The Stars and Ducks, division rivalry aside, really do not like each other. If Barch doesn’t drop gloves with George Parros, I’ll eat my fedora.

Saturday, 13 NOV: NY Islanders @ Los Angeles – Head back to the Staples Center Saturday night to catch the Islanders – Kings game. The Isles, led by 2nd-year centerman John Tavares, are currently battling injuries to a couple of key players (Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo), but have enough individual talent to make for an entertaining game (and a solid win for the home team, if they stay focused). Besides, the boys from Long Island count one of the toughest players in the NHL among their number: Zenon Konopka. Konopka’s 265 PIMs led the league in 2009-10, and he’s currently on pace for 373 this season. Hey – if your first name was “Zenon”, you’d fight a lot, too.

As with last weeks’ trip, this is three games in three nights in two arenas. The difference is the short driving distance between games, which allows for more free time during the day. Live it up – go to Disneyland during the day and watch exciting NHL games at night. Does life get any better? Okay, maybe if there was an NHL team in Las Vegas…

HOTELS – As always, the OGA Boys recommend Hotwire.com for your accommodations. As always, we anxiously await a check from Hotwire for our weekly plugs. For the weekend in question, a room in a three-star establishment within 4 miles of the Staples Center may currently be had for $84/night, while 3.5 stars within 4 miles of the Honda Center (and Disneyland) are listed at $66/night. Where you stay depends on your choice of extrapuckular activities, so plan carefully.

FLIGHTS – The OGA Boys suggest an early morning flight on Thursday, so you have plenty of time to check into your hotel and catch a pregame nap, even if your flight is delayed. Remember: you gain time flying west, but lose it going back east. Plan accordingly.

FOOD – The tremendous number and variety of restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area can be overwhelming. To help narrow it down, we recommend roadfood.com and flavortownusa.com – you can’t go wrong with either one. Two tips: First, if you go to the Nickel Diner for breakfast, don’t miss the Maple Bacon Donut. Second, none may claim to be a fan of the French Dip without making the pilgrimage to Philippe’s, the (alleged) birthplace of the bread, beef and au jus masterpiece. If thoughts of maple bacon donuts and French Dips don’t put a rumbly in your tumbly, you’re on your own.

TICKETS – A decent selection of seats remain for the Stars-Kings game, but they’re selling fast. If you can’t find what you like through Ticketmaster, try either the Kings TicketExchange or StubHub.com. Plenty of good seats are available for Islanders-Kings. The Stars-Ducks contest Friday night is far from sold out, though premium seats near the benches or penalty boxes will have to be purchased through TicketExchange or StubHub.

GETTING AROUND – If you don’t want to drive around El Lay, well, we understand completely. While some driving can’t be avoided, you can take Metrolink rail to both the Staples Center and Honda Center. If you take the train to the two Kings games and buy your tickets at the arena box office, show your Metrolink ticket stub and get a 10% discount on your game ducat (NOTE: The OGA Boys strongly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance for the Stars-Kings game, as it will most likely sell out).

This might just be the most relaxing NHL Weekend Roadie yet: Two games between division rivals, a third game between the Kings and the up-and-coming Islanders, and you can stay in the same hotel for the duration of the trip. Great hockey and a great time, guaranteed.

DO NOT MISS the next installment of The NHL Weekend Roadie, as we send you on an NHL odyssey which will push your Significant Other to the limits of his/her endurance! Wanna test the strength of your relationship? Just tell your S.O. you’re seriously considering taking this road trip.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.