Saturday, March 16, 2013

Another Week of the NHL Season Down and I Still Hate the Loser Point...

So hockey fans once again thanks to the loser gift point from Gary Bettman’s NHL twenty four (24) of the thirty teams (30) in the NHL are playing over 0.500 hockey this week while last week that number was a mere twenty one (21) teams.  In a sport that supposedly invented the overtime and shootout so that there is always a winner and always a looser, isn’t it ironic is that the only real losers are the teams that win and/or lose their games in regulation and split two vice three points?  Think about it while you look at this week’s power rankings for teams that are over 0.500 in their last ten games.  Here they are:

Rank      Team                     Last 10 Games   Streak                   Conference

 1)            Pittsburgh:           0.800     8-2-0        won 7                    East
 2)           Chicago:               0.800     8-2-0         won 1                   West
 3)           Anaheim:             0.800     7-1-2        won 5                    West
 4)           Montreal:            0.800     7-1-2        won 4                    East
 5)           Winnipeg:            0.750     7-2-1        won 2                    East
 6)           Boston:                0.750     7-2-1        won 1                    East
 7)           Carolina:              0.700     7-3-0        lost 1                     East
 8)           Columbus:           0.700     5-1-4        OT2                        West
 9)           Saint Louis:          0.600    6-4-0         won 2                   West
10)          Minnesota:         0.600     6-4-0        won 1                    West
11)          Washington:       0.600     6-4-0        won 1                    East
12)          Los Angeles:        0.600     6-4-0        lost 2                     West
13)          NY Islanders:       0.600     5-3-2        won 1                    East
14)          Detroit:                0.600     5-3-2        lost 1                     West
15)          Ottawa:               0.600     4-2-4        OT2                        East
16)          Calgary:               0.550     5-4-1        won 1                    West
17)          San Jose:             0.550     4-3-3        won 1                    West
18)          Philadelphia:      0.500     5-5-0        won 1                    East
19)          Phoenix:              0.500     5-5-0        lost 1                     West
20)          NY Rangers:        0.500     5-5-0        lost 2                     East
21)          Vancouver:         0.500     4-4-2        won 2                    West
22)          Edmonton:         0.500     4-4-2        won 2                    West
23)          Buffalo:               0.500     4-4-2        won 1                   East
24)          Dallas:                  0.500    4-4-2        OT1                        West.
So to me the good news in this week’s power rankings are: 1) at least no team playing over 0.500 hockey in their last ten games this week had less than four (4) outright (in regulation time) wins versus last week when X teams did so, ad 2) for the second week in a row the Washington Capitals have played 0.600 hockey which is likely what it may well take for them to make the playoffs.  The travesty of course is that of the 240 games that these twenty four teams contested in the last ten game span, 26 (10.8%) of the time they received a gift “loser” point; last week that number was 11.3% of the 230 games the teams that were over 0.500 played.  That means that in the standings this season it is likely to take 5 to 10 more points to make the playoffs than it did during the last 48 game season.  That’s why I say in either conference the way things now look, to even be on the bubble coming down the stretch (the last 10 days/5 games) your team will need to have played 0.550 over the prior 40+ games. 

You’ll also note that thanks to loser points five (5) teams, San Jose, Ottawa, Columbus, Detroit and the NY Islanders are all listed higher than they would likely be if every game were worth three points (three points for a regulation win; 2 points for an OT or SO win; and 1 point for an OT or SO loss.)  Enough with my continued jihad/rant about how it makes NO sense to me to give teams an EXTRA point for games that go beyond regulation time to be decided.
Another interesting thing of note as of this morning is that there are five teams – the three Beasts of the East (Montreal, Boston, and Pittsburgh) and the two Best of the West (Chicago and Anaheim) that are simply at least a head, if not heads and shoulders, above the rest of the league at this point.  While as of this AM Boston “only” has 39 points, they’ve only played 25 games so far this season and overall they have played 0.870 hockey.  Additionally the Bruins have captured 20 of those points on the road and their goal differential is +22 (.88 goals per game and best in the East) and their average goals against of 2.16/game is second best in the league while their average goals for of 3.04 goals/game is more than respectable.  Boston though trailing Montreal and Pittsburgh for the Conference Championship is certainly poised right now for an excellent season and a deep run in the playoffs barring a meltdown or some totally unforeseeable issue.  As noted the same seems to be in the cards for the Penguins and the Canadiens both of whom also have played 0.714 and 0.740 hockey so far this season.  The only real intrigue in the Eastern Conference in my mind is who of these three will be the 1, 2, and 4 seeds for the first round.  That’s a big difference from two weeks ago thanks to Pittsburgh being on a 7 game winning streak right now.  However, both Montreal and Boston have been playing 0.700 or better hockey pretty steadily since early in the season.  Once you look elsewhere in the Eastern Conference from these three teams though you find 8 other teams who are within 5 points of each other, two of whom (Carolina and Winnipeg) who are playing 0.700+ hockey in their last ten games.  If the current trends continue another two weeks things could again look much different as to who the stronger and weaker teams are in the conference and in addition to the eight clustered teams, depending on how things continue to go for New Jersey, Ottawa, Toronto, the Rangers, the Islanders and the Flyers, the Capitals may or may not find themselves also among the cluster of teams on the rather large Eastern Conference “bubble”.

Out West, what else is there to say other than Chicago’s season record thus far of 0.870 is pretty other worldly?  In fact the only thing that has kept them from running away with the entire conference is that Anaheim’s 0.827 start to the season is “pretty” good too, eh?  Looking beyond these two teams we see twelve teams that are within 6 points (3 games) of each other with an average of approximately 21 games to play.  It’s unlikely that any other team in the Conference will win either the Central or the Pacific Division but everything else is clearly “up for grabs” with regard to the Western Conference seeding; and who can forget that last season Lord Stanley’s Cup was won by the eighth seeded team in the Western Conference.   Right now though I am very “high” on Anaheim’s prospects to go deep into the playoffs and if they make the finals, I would not bet against them to take the Cup.  They just looked very intensely good during their current five game winning streak.  Besides who can’t get behind Selanne winning another Cup at age 42?  Besides of course hockey fans of pretty much every other team in the Western Conference right now.
Now let’s talk Washington Capitals hockey over the last week.  In the last week’s games the Capitals dropped from sixth (6th) to eleventh (11th) in my power rankings this week.  The reasons for the drop are X-fold.  1) The Capitals dropped off from playing 0.700 hockey to 0.600 hockey.  2) They Capitals traded a three (3) game winning streak and 3-1-0 record for a 1-3-0 record this week.  3)  Last week there were seven (7) teams including the Capitals playing 0.700 or better hockey, this week there are eight (8) teams playing 0.700 or better hockey and the Capitals are not one of them.  4) In the three games in the first week of March the Caps scored 14 goals and allowed only 4 to be scored against them; in the four games they played in the second week of the month they scored only 6 goals and allowed 15 to be scored against them.  As such the Capitals find themselves in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference, seven (7) points out of a playoff spot and eight (8) points behind SE Division leader Carolina with 22 games left to play in their season. 

Can the Capitals make up three to four games with just 22 left to play if they keep playing 0.600 hockey?  That’s really the question and the answer is, it’s possible but it won’t be easy, especially if the two of teams they need most to catch – Winnipeg and Carolina – continue to play 0.700 plus hockey. 
The seven teams that could most impact whether the Capitals make the playoffs right now are likely Winnipeg, Ottawa, New Jersey, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Rangers and the Islanders.  For the remainder of the season the Capitals have 22 games to play.  Of those 22 games they play those seven teams ten times – including three more games against Winnipeg.  The Capitals also have five games remaining against the three “Beasts of the East” including two against the Bruins and two more games against the Canadiens.  The “good” news for the Capitals looking at the remaining 22 games this regular season is they play Southeastern Division rivals eight (8) out of those 22 games, and so far this season the Capitals are doing well against their division rivals (7-3-0).  If they continue to play 0.700 hockey against the rest of the division, especially Carolina and Winnipeg, they should climb in the division.  Making up the four (4) games they trail the Hurricanes though will require some help by Carolina’s other remaining opponents though as otherwise the runway is simply not long enough to get past the Hurricanes in my opinion.  The three games remaining against Winnipeg are simply huge for the Capitals and the fact two of them are rare back to backs in “The Peg” won’t make it easy for the Caps either.  Over the next week, including the current in process game against the Bruins will likely determine whether the Caps will remain in a position to possibly make the playoffs.  Unfortunately as I type this the Caps trail the Bruins 2-1 at early in the second period at TD Garden but hey last time these two teams met the Caps trailed at the end of the first period and the Capitals haven’t played poorly so I’ll remain the eternal optimist.

Why do I rail against the “free”/”gift” loser point?  It’s simple it’s hurt the Capitals and teams like them much more often than it’s helped them.  For example so far this season the Capitals have only benefited from the policy/rule one time out of twenty six games (3.8%) while other teams like Montreal, Ottawa, New Jersey and Boston have all benefited from the rule considerably more.  Ottawa 22.2%; New Jersey 21.4%; Montreal 14.8% and Boston 12%.  The fact that because it truly is a gift point to the loser instead of a point that a team takes from the other team if they extend the game past regulation it’s not really at all equitable in how it might affect the standings.
Okay that’s about all I’ve got for now so back to game …


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