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Vulgar Statistics Playoff Power Rankings – Western Conference Quarterfinal Round

04/12/11

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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The West is a much different story than the east. Every team is coming in on a roll, or at least with a winning record in their last thirty games.  The team that’s “backing in” is still doing it at over .500. Just like in recent movies, we must go deeper.

Delving into the individual stats we start to see a bit of a separation as some teams are coming in with their special teams firing on all cylinders, and have defeated…and some aren’t, and haven’t.  How ridiculous is it that a power play of 20% would earn you sixth place among Western Conference playoff teams?  Or that San Jose is .800 (12-3-0) against other playoff teams in its past thirty games?

I was surprised and saddened to see that my dark horse Stanley Cup pick from the West, Nashville, is merely floating in the middle of the pack when it comes to its last thirty games.  They’ve had some injuries to contend with which has probably knocked them down a few pegs, but if they can manage to score their fair share of goals, they’re going to be tough to beat.  Pekka Rinne, that lockdown defense, and four lines worth of forwards that commit to playing two way hockey will make them a tough out.

Phoenix has been a bit of an enigma, with an excellent winning percentage in their last thirty games, but mediocre to bad special teams.  The two usually don’t play nicely together.  Some of that has to be attributed to their stellar performance in close games.  Is that clutch, or is it just luck?  Detroit is probably not the team against which they want to find that out.

Final Thoughts:

It’s interesting that the two teams at the top of this list are notorious for falling flat in the playoffs.  History would seem to be repeating itself yet again, though I don’t know if a banged up Kings, or a simply underwhelming Blackhawks squad have four wins in them.  My gut tells me what we see is what we got in the West, with few surprises.  Can’t wait to find out.

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