January 29, 2008

South East Division Race

The race to win this competitive division is the challenging 86 point mark. No one team has taken the reigns of the lucrative position that takes the team from 9th place to 3rd. On the surface the race appears to be Washington vs. Carolina and it would appear that is Washington's to lose as Carolina is -20 in the last two month, in the same time Washington is a decent (for the South East) +7. I almost though Florida would join Washington with, but they were only able to get two regulation wins in January, which soured their chances substantially. If anyone thinks Atlanta will make the playoffs, then they're wrong. If Tampa Bay gets a real goaltender they might have a chance, but don't count on it.

So in conclusion, this race is Washington's to lose, but it's still close and any team could get the spot, by just being average.

Wester Conference race - 2008

Who's in:
Detroit, San Jose

Who is likely to be in:
Wild, Stars, Canucks, Flames, Ducks

This of course leaves room for the one extra Central team, either: Nashville, Columbus or St. Louis. My gut tells me it will be Columbus, due to their goaltending.

This leaves the teams below as unlikely candidates:
Avalanche, Coyotes.

Who's out
Blackhawks, Oilers, Kings.

Eastern Playoff race - 2008

We're at the point in the season where winners and losers become clear and the playoff teams and non-playoff teams become quite obvious. Before I start, I should note that these are expected results, if any one team goes on a great run or on a long losing streak results can be quite different.

Due to the nature of the eastern beast, I have decided not to include the South East division in the first part of the discussion, simply because they're special.

So for starters who's in:
Senators, Flyers, Canadiens, Devils, Penguins.

These teams have been playing well so far and now only need a 40% winning percentage (plus the free OT points) to make the playoffs

Bubble - Race
Bruins, Islanders, Sabres, Rangers. Two of these teams should make it in (the remaining Playoff team will come from the South East).

Why they'd make it:
Bruins: Bruins don't score many goals, so they're where they are because of goaltending and defense. (Chara, Wideman)
Islanders: DiPietro
Sabres: Balanced team, nothing stands out
Rangers: Lundqvist

Why they wont:
Bruins: -8 since the begining of December. And they should be a little more careful (injuries)
Islanders: Struggled recently, not sure if they'll get going any time soon.
Sabres: Things are looking quite bad for the Sabres. January they only have received two wins.
Rangers: Once they can score I might be able to say a ittle more.

It's hard to pick any two of the above teams, just because they're all struggling and if they keep that up there will be room for a second South East team.

Sadly, there is only one team outside the South East who is out of the playoff picture already, for those who don't know: Maple Leafs

January 14, 2008

South East Division

Below is a table that shows the odds that a given team will be in a certain position in the NHL. The chart is built using all the point rules (tie breakers) and also with the divisional champion rules (as you can see by the funny gap at the 3rd spot, due to the terrible South East). The table is coded to be darker for higher probabilities and thus it is extremely readable. It is sorted by expected points.


What is interesting, is that the entire South East division is predicted to have too few points to be in the top 8 spots, but due to the divisional champion have secured at least one playoff spot. There will likely only be 1 team from the South East and it is possible that the team who makes it doesn't have enough points to make the playoffs (they will still make the playoffs due to the divisional champion rules).

How bad is the South East?
Currently every team is -10 or worse in terms of overall goal differential and the entire division is a -85. Carolina, the current divisional leader, has struggled since mid November and likely wont be able to maintain the nice #1 spot. It looks as though Washington is the one team able to keep its head above water since their lack luster start and could in fact make the playoffs.

A lot will be determined in March (another divisional game month) when these team will play eachother a bunch of times. It's hard to say what will happen.

Either way 6th spot may just be the best place to be in the upcoming Eastern playoff race as a team who would normally qualify for 8th or 9th slides into the 3rd spot to play that lucky 6th place team. Of course this 3rd place South East divisional winner has had quite a bit of success in the past (Carolina and Tampa Bay cup winners). It just seems strange to give such terrible teams that advantage.

January 11, 2008

Ovechkin Deal

There's been a lot of talk about the deal. I'd like to highlight one major point $124M/13 seasons is equivalent to $7.3M/season (in todays dollars) not $9.5M/season, due to escalating costs of salaries (assuming 4% growth). That $7.3M figure is the one the GM of Washington is looking at, of course he still has to deal with that wonderful $9.5M cap hit when the contract starts.

What I find interesting, is that Ovechkin has done nothing to improve Washington. Here's a guy 250 points in 206 games and -11. That's a lot of goals for, but also a lot of goals against [Ranked 4th worst in 06-07 total even strength minuses.]. Ovechkin is up there again this season, on pace for another dazzling -70 goals against at even strength. What sort of value does he really provide?

Ovechkin is part of a small group of players who in fact average over 5 shots per game, and it's a big reason for his success. The quality of his shots are lacking and so his percentages are low, but with all those shots you get quite a few goals (but you also loose the puck a lot).

The fact of the matter is Washington hasn't gone anywhere with Ovechkin, so this could be a long 13 years ahead of them as they got no defense to build on.

I'm glad my team didn't sign that contract.