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Numbers Game

Numbers Game is back after an extended exam and vacation break but you can expect an article every Tuesday and Thursday.

The halfway mark of the season just passed. The NHL recently announced the all star teams and with only Henrik Sedin making the cut, the Sedins will be spending the next few weeks in therapy learning to cope with their pending separation anxiety. But what is more important than the mental health of the Sedins is the success of each team at the season’s midpoint.

In my October 4th article, I looked at various team statistics to see what predicted whether a team will qualify for the playoffs. Based on stats from the 2006-2007 season, teams that had a lead going into the third period won, on average, 83.2% of the time. More importantly, only 3 teams that had a winning percentage below the league average qualified for the playoffs. That trend can be observed in the current season as well. While the average increased to 87.5%, only four teams that would qualify for the playoffs had winning percentages below the average (Stars, Habs, Hurricanes and Avalanche).

The October 4th study also confirmed that teams that ranked in the top 10 in both PP% and PK% qualified for the playoffs. At the halfway mark, there were 4 teams that ranked in the Top 10 in both categories (Red Wings, Stars, Wild, and Flyers). All 4 teams would qualify for the postseason if the season ended today with the Wings and Stars ranking 1st and 3rd, respectively, in the league overall.

Finally, one of the best predictors of a post-season birth was the ratio of even strength goals for/against. In 2006-2007, ten out of the thirteen teams that had ratios less than the league average of 1.02 did not qualify for the playoffs and they were all ranked in the bottom ten in that department. Moreover, the Leafs, ranked 9th, were the only team that did not make the playoffs in the top 10. As well, six out the top 10 ranked teams in ESF/A also ranked in the top 10 in the league in overall points.

At the halfway point, the league average was also 1.02 and, as was the pattern last year, ten out of the thirteen teams with ratios below the league average would not qualify for the playoffs if the postseason started today. Further, every team ranked in the Top 10 in ESF/A ratios would qualify for the playoffs and, like last season, 6 of the Top 10 ranked teams were among the Top 10 in the league in overall points.

And who says that you can not predict success in the NHL?

Based on the findings, here is a prediction: if nothing changes in the second half of the season, it is going to be another long off-season for the Leafs.

For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.