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Vulgar Statistics Playoff Power Rankings – Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round

04/11/11

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived!  And with them, the return of my power rankings, with a few differences.  First of all, the aim changes from judging a team over the course of a season to judging how well a team will do in the playoffs.  Points are being thrown out the window, as are any game involving the shootout (when calculating win percentage), and any shootout goals (when calculating scoring figures).  Not only will regulation wins and overtime losses rule, but winning percentage will be exactly that.  Loser-points matter no more.

Also, while a team’s record and stats over the course of the season do a good job of highlighting their strength over a period of time, we’re only concerned with the most recent product.  Thus I’ll only be looking at the final thirty games of the season.  The teams that played in those games are much closer to the teams we’ll see in the playoffs, not only in terms of personnel, but mentally as well.

Let’s go.

Again, I chose to track only the last thirty games for each team.  The reasoning behind this was largely based on personnel.  The Sabres, for example, have been without Derek Roy, and with Brad Boyes for some time, and will be heading into the playoffs without Derek Roy and with Brad Boyes.  It didn’t make a lot of sense to consider the 35 games that Roy played, or most of the 62 games that Boyes didn’t play with the Sabres.  Ditto for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and any other trades that occurred mid season.

After some deliberation, I decided there were four key facets to judging a team’s worth in the playoffs; their ability to win games in regulation or overtime, their ability to score and play defense, their special teams, and their performances in close games and against quality opponents (categorized as individual “specialty” winning percentages).

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Each team was then ranked relative to the rest of the conference for each stat.

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I think it has been pretty apparent which teams have been good, and which teams have been bad heading into the post season, but this does a great job of highlighting just how bad and how good they were, and also of showing some of the reasons behind those performances.

I think everyone knew that Philadelphia was limping into the postseason pretty badly, but I don’t think anyone had any idea how bad the Penguins have been as of late. They simply cannot score, and their defense has not been anywhere near good enough to cover for it. Plus their overall performance in the shootout (10-3 on the season and 5-2 in the last thirty games) has done a lot to mask their shortcomings. I have to think that if Tampa Bay can manage to get their goaltending and defense to perform merely adequately they’ll dispatch Pittsburgh in short order.

The other thing that I thought was kind of funny is that Boston is poised to lose a first round series this season the same way they won one last season, by way of the special teams battles. Montreal’s special teams have been on fire at the end of the season, but one has to wonder just how bad that 7-0 shellacking in March damaged their confidence.

Washington is frightening. I think that anyone who wanted the Capitals in the first round is nuts, their past performances (which weren’t so much choke-jobs as they were losing seven games series’ against good teams) aside. In addition to being the best team in the conference, they might also be the hottest team heading into the postseason. That spells trouble for the rest of the east.

Final Thoughts:
Of course the flip side to this is that there are things like experience that stats simply cannot account for as well as the possibility that those teams with said experience will be able to step up their game. Honestly I don’t really buy it.  All of these teams are chock full of playoff veterans. They all have experience, and they’ll all be willing to put their bodies on the line to win games. That’s why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are awesome.

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