In part one, I noted that looking at the final regular season numbers can be deceptive because half of those games were played against team not in the playoffs. So I took the full schedule of results for every playoff team and looked at their stats when facing off against other playoff teams in the regular season. Perhaps, this will help us distinguish playoff contenders from pretenders. I have also removed all points earned for OT Wins and SO Losses since those are not awarded in the post-season.
Beating the Tough Opponents
The table contains three columns showing three different ways to assess the West playoff teams. In column one, we find the official regular season standings. In column two we see those same standing with the "bonus points" stripped away. In column three we see each team's win % against only playoff teams projected over a full 82 games (with no bonus points for OTL or SOW)
Final West Standing
with SOW and OTL
without SOW and OTL
Versus Playoff Teams
without SOW, OTL
Analysis: If a team's record versus other playoff teams is a good predictor of the playoffs the Flames and Blues are the teams most in trouble. The Flames in particular tore through the weaker teams in the NHL this year and struggled against many of the better clubs. On other hand, both Sharks and Wings earned their points against tough opposition and the young Blackhawks could be a strong post-season contender as well. In the middle you have Columbus, Anaheim and Vancouver who were neither outstanding nor terrible when facing quality opponents.
Offense and Defense
Let's move a bit deeper into other key team statistics. To get a better sense of this pattern, the table below shows the Goals For (GFA) and the Goals Against Average (GAA) and Goal Differential (GDiff) for each Eastern Club broken down into games played against other playoff teams and those played against non-playoff teams.
||GFA VS Playoff Teams||GAA VS Playoff Teams||Goal Diff VS Playoff Team||GFA VS Non-Playoff Teams||GAA VS Non-Playoff Team||Goal Diff VS Non-Playoff Teams|
Analysis: If we look at the offensive and defensive numbers we see that the Wings put a nearly identical Goal Differential whether they were facing playoff teams or non playoff teams. The Sharks beat up non-playoff teams but they were also strong against other good teams--but not as strong as Detroit. Vancouver and Chicago were also slightly positive against good opposition. Columbus kept the games close regardless of the opposition. But the Ducks, Blues and especially the Flames all loaded up against bad teams and struggled to a some degree against the good ones.
Team Efficiency and Special Teams
We can take this a step further and look at a breakdown of how each playoff club did with respect to stopping shots (SV%) and converting shots in to goals (ST%) versus other playoff clubs. The same goes for special teams--which clubs were able to generate PP Goals even against good teams?
||Versus||Save Percentage||Shot Percentage||Power Play Percentage||Penalty Kill Percentage|
Analysis: Everyone knows that goaltending has been an issue in Detroit this season, but who knew that the Wings goalies posted a better SV% against playoff clubs than the Sharks goalies? I certainly didn't until I ran the numbers. The Sharks relied upon better ST% and a good PP to make up for so-so goaltending against good teams.
Columbus had the best regular season SV% against other playoff teams. The Blues had the worst and Vancouver posted a surprisingly poor number as well, while Columbus PP struggled against everyone.
In the East there were few big differences in the PK%, but out West several teams saw their numbers fall considerably. The Sharks, Blues, Bluejackets all had some declines but the Canucks suffered the worst fall off by far (perhaps this is related to the lower SV%--they old saying is that your goalie must be your best Penalty Killer).
Summary: If we look at games in which playoff teams faced each other the Sharks and Red Wings clearly stand out from the pack in the West. At the other end of the scale, the Flames really struggled when playing against future playoff teams.