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2014-15 nhl season preview

This is now the third season preview I’ve done for this blog, and I seriously considered just copying last year’s intro verbatim. But I can’t because this year I’ve decided to change up the format. In previous years I made 20 BOLD predictions for the year (2013, 2014) that were seemingly random. This year I’m going to do one for each team and combine that with what I did for my Leafs season preview last year, where I take a look at each team from an both an optimistic and pessimistic view.

But before I get to this year, let’s talk about the dumb things I said last year.

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2013-2014 stanley cup final preview

The Stanley Cup Final is set and it’s a match made in TV heaven. The two biggest markets in the USA square off in what will likely be a ratings bonanza.

New York. Los Angeles. Somewhere Gary Bettman is smiling while a paid butler makes it rain. This matchup is probably all he ever wanted.

This is a matchup that many analytics types had predicted from the get go (one even made over $3,000 from a $75 bet on twitter dot com).

The Kings led the league in puck possession, and got even better after acquiring Marian Gaborik.  They were the fourth best POP team in the West and seventh in the entire NHL. But in their last 25 games they were second to only Boston in the entire league.

The Rangers were a Stanley Cup dark horse going in, quietly being the sixth best possession team in the league. They were right behind the Kings as the eighth best POP team, but also the fourth best in their last 25 games of the season (behind Boston, Los Angeles, and San Jose).

Coming in to this playoffs, POP was at 56-19 in accurately predicting series outcomes. This year it’s stumbled to an 8-6 record through three rounds after going 1-1 in Round 3 (POP over the last 25 games is 10-4 and was 2-0 in Round 3).

Five of those six losses came in a seventh game against a road team. A bounce the other way and that record would be a bit more respectable.

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2013-2014 nhl playoffs preview: round three

In case you haven’t read it yet, this is the system I’m rolling with this year that combines possession, talent, and special teams.

It’s going really well so far…

POP is currently 7-5 after going 2-2 in round two (goddamn east). Which is not very good. Before this year it went 56-19 since 2008-2009, so this year has been very crazy compared to other years in terms of upsets and a lot of series could’ve went the other way.

Take for example the six (!) series that went to seven games.

The home team is 1-5 in those games. They all had a 3-2 (or better) series lead. POP had them all to win except Anaheim in Round 2, so a 2-4 record in series that went to seven. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. In only one of those instances where the series went to seven, did the team that played better in that series win (Minnesota over Colorado) although you can say the San Jose-LA series was a toss-up.

Basically, a lot of bad luck going the home (and arguably better) team’s way, and in turn, my way as well.

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2013-2014 nhl playoffs preview: round two

Wow. That’s all I can say. Round 1 had some of the best hockey I’ve seen in a few years.

If you missed it, this is how I said I would be predicting the playoffs this year. To summarize I combined fenwick close (possession), goals close adjusted for PDO (talent), powerplay and penalty kill (special teams) to get a number that was accurate 75% (56-19) of the time over the last six years.

In Round 1 this year, it went 5-3. Which is okay, but definitely not great. It’s below the 75% average, so I’m a little disappointed. Especially considering it was 5-1 going into the last two game sevens where both teams were on home ice, had leads in the games, and 3-2 leads in the series. But thats sports. Anything can happen. Luck is a big part of the game and it’s something I mentioned in the last post.

That’s not to say the teams that won were lucky to win, it means that a bounce or two the other way and maybe San Jose wins in game 4…or 5… or 6… or 7 (jesus..) or Colorado puts it away in overtime. In any sense, stats are always a probability, not a destiny. Seeing a team go against the odds like LA (although it’s because of luck that they were down 3-0 in the first place) and win is what makes sports great. No one would watch if everything that happened was predictable.

With all that being said, here’s what I think will happen in round two, a round that’ll probably be much more cut and dry than round one.

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2013-2014 nhl playoffs preview: round one

I wrote something yesterday about how I would be predicting the playoffs this year, based on a combination of stats. That stat is better used over larger sample sizes especially with how volatile special teams can be. But just for fun, this is for the “what have you done for me lately crowd.”

Basically I took 25 game averages throughout the year of each team’s POP and compared it to the teams opponent. It’ll be interesting to see if this works better than looking at a team’s overall number, and it also shows how close the teams have been throughout the year. Also, due to the small sample size, some teams will be over 100%, which is pretty neat I guess. Also, for the record, anything below 70 is really bad. No team has ever made the playoffs with a POP below 70, and some of the teams below played like that for significant stretches of time.

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predicting the nhl playoffs

Using Stats to Predict the Playoffs

No single stat will ever tell you the entire story in hockey. And that’s especially true when you want to use them to to look at what the future holds. On any given night, any team can win. Luck plays a big factor in that.

Over a large enough sample size, some of that randomness will be tuned out.

But then we get to the playoffs and it’s decided in a gruelling seven game series, where luck again plays a huge role because of the small number of games. It’s why the playoffs are so exciting, they’re unpredictable.

And yet, everyone tries to predict them.

Some just say “well this team stacks nicely up against this team” with their chests puffed out, knowing full well they’ve probably seen both teams play two or three times a year when they came through Toronto to play.

Most people use what they remember from watching those past games and using any number of stats to fill in the blanks. Mostly because using just one stat won’t tell you the whole story.

If you did, these are the stories they would tell.

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2012-2013 stanley cup final preview

bruinsAfter a month of hard-fought hockey, we are finally at the end. The Stanley Cup Finals are here with arguably the two best teams in the league, the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Due to the nature of the lockout, the last time these two met was October 15, 2011. So it’s been a while since we’ve seen these teams battle it out, but that won’t make it any less of a series.

The path to the final for both these teams has been incredibly similar. They each had one gruelling seven game series against an Original Six rival. They were scary series where they were both on the brink of a surprising elimination. Both Game 7s went to overtime and both teams battled back to win. Chicago was down 3-1 at one point to the Detroit Red Wings, while Boston was up 3-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs only to have it slip away and almost end a different way. But we all know how that ended.

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2012-2013 nhl playoffs preview: round three

While I tend to believe that I am always right, there are certainly times where I am wrong. They don’t come often, and I find loopholes around them, but it still occurs. When it comes to hockey, I tend to have a bit of an elitist opinion full of snark and condescension. Mostly because some people are stupid and think fighting will win you a hockey game (as proven by all the fights that have happened in the playoffs and by all the goons employed by the top 4 teams!), but also because of my stubbornness and belief that I’m always right. Here are some things I was wrong about these playoffs:

  1. The Detroit Red Wings do not suck, and Jimmy Howard is better than okay.
  2. Lucas Casaletto is not an idiot as I once believed because he did go 4-0 in Round Two, although picking the four predictable favourites isn’t exactly the makings of a genius either.
  3. This was not San Jose’s year, although it could’ve been.
  4. It wasn’t New York’s either, but that’s because goalies can’t score goals too.
  5. Nothing else, bye.

So I went 2-2 in Round Two, which is disappointing because I went with my stupid gut on two 6th seed teams. I figured it would be too hard to repeat for LA, and that Boston’s injury-battered defence corps wouldn’t be enough. But they are the two most recent Stanley Cup champions, and for good reason, and they showed that they know how to win. That’s especially true of LA, who played a very tough series against a very good Sharks team.

If someone said these would be the four teams left at the start of the season or at the start of the playoffs, I doubt one person would be surprised. These are the four best teams in the NHL, the elite teams of the league, and also the last four Stanley Cup champions. These two series will be hard fought and probably the best hockey we have seen yet. With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see any team win their respective series. These teams are close in talent, and each game will be close. That’s why it will be extremely hard to choose who makes it out of the next round. Someone will go 0-2 in picking but still have smart picks in my opinion. Because it’s playoff hockey, and anything can happen now, anyone can win, and it’s okay to be wrong.

And in case you want a refresher of other things I’ve said, here’s my previews of Round One and Round Two.

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2012-2013 nhl playoffs preview: round two

It was everything you could’ve wanted in a first round: uplifting, exciting, surprising, and for some of us heartbreaking. Really heartbreaking. The best hockey is usually seen in Round 1 as everyone gives it everything they have to win, and that’s why it’s usually the most exciting to watch. It’s also the most unpredictable (unless you’re smart like me!) as you’ll soon see by the records of my expert panel that I created using an abundance of start-up capital, resources, and ingenuity… or my friends that I just texted. Let’s pretend it was the former. If you forgot what I said about Round 1, it is right here for you to read again.

But Round 1 is in the past now. It’s time to get serious. Six of the final eight teams are legitimate Cup contenders  and if they won it wouldn’t surprise me. That’s what makes picking Round Two winners even harder, because the talent and parity between teams is just so close. Anyways, here is what I think will probably happen,

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2012-2013 nhl playoffs preview: round one

For some people, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Those people are wrong. The Stanley Cup playoffs are here, and there is no better time of the year.

A lot of crazy things happened this year in the shortened season. The Blue Jackets almost made the playoffs! The Islanders actually did! A crazy world is made from only 48 games, and to be honest a small part of me wishes every season was just 48 games. That has nothing to do with being a Leafs fan though who were 6 games away from falling apart probably.

There are a lot of interesting match-ups this year. Some seem like no-brainers (sorry Minnesota), and others look like they can go either way. Here are my predictions for what will happen, as well as the predictions of some of my esteemed colleagues (read: dumb friends).

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