What we know for a fact here at On Goal Analysis is that the difference between winning and losing in the National Hockey League is THAT close (see thumb and forefinger a miniscule distance apart here).
You can see in official NHL standings that the last column on the right is entitled ‘Streak.’ That’s got to have some importance, yes? But there is still the question of, “Streak? So what?!”
Let’s look then at the ‘So what?!’ and determine the value of that Streak column in those standings. This will be a two-part blog analyzing first the Eastern Conference and then the West due to their distinctively different winning natures this season.
That’s right – here at On Goal Analysis, we hate to admit it, but we’re watching the NHL as ‘They’re Going Streaking…’
What’s In A Streak?
The NHL stat – which is very popular when you consider the fan outrage at its temporary removal from the standings last year – tells you the latest combination of unbroken W’s or L’s teams have.
Our terms studied are three-fold and carry through games ending Sunday, 6 March:
1. A Winning Streak (WS) is at least two games in a row with any kind of ‘W’ a team can acquire. In the East, the largest WS is 12 games (PIT) while three teams have weighed in with only 3-gamers (BUF, FLA and NYR). The average length of greatest WS is 5.333 games. It is interesting to also note the largest number of WS’ is 13 (NYR), the least, five (NYI), and the average number per team is 7.333.
A large number of WS’ may or may not be a good thing. TOR, currently sitting in the 10th seed, has 10 WS’ this season. Lots of WS’ may conversely show that a team can bounce back from a loss with two or more W’s. BUF, currently the 8th seed, is just such an example. And a small number of WS’ may also show success because winning streaks occur more often for a team than losing streaks. Fourth seed PIT has just six WS’ this year, one less than 14th place NYI.
2. A Point Streak (PS) is at least two games in a row with at least one point awarded. Take note a PS can also be a WS. The East’s longest PS is 15 games (again, for PIT), two teams have had a maximum of only 4-gamers (NYR and OTT), and the average length of the largest PS is 7.533 games. The NYR hold the most number of PS’ with 13, NJD has the least with five, and the average number of PS’ per team is 8.933. Remember: a huge PS may be a bad thing if the vast majority of the PS’ games are of the one-point variety, and this season, also is they are Shoot Out Losses (SOLs) which do not count in the standings’ tiebreakers.
Since the Lockout, the average point differential between the 8th and 9th seeds in the East has been 1.2 points. So perhaps the win-and-a-half spread says that the PS carries more weight than the WS. Again, to keep it all in perspective, remember a 10-game PS with all OTLs/SOLs is worth 10 points in the standings, while a six game WS equals 12. For this season, it is interesting to note all teams with double-digit PS’ except CAR are in the top seven seeds. (CAR is currently 9th.)
3. Finally, a Losing Streak (LS) is at least two games in a row with any flavor of ‘L’ attained. An LS can also be a PS or contain a combination of OTL(s)/SOL(s). The East’s greatest LS is 14 games (NYI), four teams have had only 3-gamers (BOS, CAR, MTL and TBL), and the average length of the largest LS is 7.533 games. The NYR hold the largest number of PS’ with 13, NJD has the least with five, and the average is 8.933.
Again for caution, a bunch of LS’ that are short staccatos of loss are not necessarily a bad thing. The NYR in the 7th seed have 10. Know, too, that every team has ‘em as the top eight seeds in the East range from five – 10 with an average of 6.375.
Observing The Streak
Below, we will show you the numbers on the Eastern Conference teams, but add one more observation here… It is most important in analyzing The Streak to determine the difference between WS’ and LS’. Why? Because of the nine teams above, at, or within 1.2 points of the 8th seed, only two – CAR and PIT – have a negative differential between their WS’ and their LS’. (Note also that the average differential here is in the negative, showing teams tend to have more LS’.)
There are a couple more notes here besides the bold number showing what streak a team is currently running.
ATL had seven of their eight WS’ by 5 JAN which is why they are in their current shape in the standings.
How is BUF hanging in the Playoff race? They have only had one LS since 27 DEC.
NJD only had one WS up through 14 JAN, but has had no LS’ since 8 JAN. This is why NJD fans think they look like they might threaten for one of the final Playoff seeds.
As we head toward the playoffs, what becomes important to note is if your favorite Eastern team increases their longest, or number of, LS’. That is a bad trend that is difficult to pull out of and gain success in the playoffs. Remember here that since the Lockout over the last 10 games of the regular season, Eastern finalists have all had one or more WS’ and PS’ and hold a 1.2 WS:LS ratio. (Last season’s PHI is the only Eastern Finalist to have ANY LS’ over the last 10 games of the regular season.)
Streaking is a three-pronged analytical tool consisting of the Winning Streak (WS), Point Streak (PS) and Losing Streak (LS). The Streak is about much more than simply ‘how many in a row’ a current team is. The focus of attention in the NHL streak should instead be the difference between the WS and LS where four of five Eastern Stanley Cup finalists since the Lockout have a positive ratio in that regard.
Stay tuned to On Goal Analysis as tomorrow, we take up observation of the Western Conference streak…