The NHL playoffs are just around the corner. People around the hockey world have already jumped to making their own brackets, trying to predict who will win Lord Stanley this year. So, before the games start this Wednesday, April 12th, and before you go and enter your buddies playoff bracket challenge, you need to take a look at this guide to making your bracket.
Many people wonder what to look for when choosing their bracket, and there are so many stats that it’s hard to narrow it down. My personal favorite is a team’s points percentage since the trade deadline. It shows how hot a team has been before the playoffs start, which I believe is a very important predictor of a team’s success in the playoffs. Anecdotally, last year’s Pittsburgh Penguins, who weren’t in a playoff spot at one point in the 2015-16 season, got hot at the right time and went on to win the Cup.
My first round picks:
Washington v Toronto
This Capitals team won the presidents trophy for a reason. They are arguably the league’s best team. A young Maple Leafs team even winning a game should be something to be proud of. The Capitals score more and give up fewer goals. The Capitals also had an incredible +81 goal differential in the regular season.
Pittsburgh v Columbus:
An underrated story line in the second half of the regular season is that the Blue Jackets didn’t play great. They had just a 56.8 point percentage, which isn’t terrible, but heading into the post season you would want to play a little better. A big knock on the Penguins going into the playoffs is they are banged up pretty bad, but they have been dealing with a number of injuries for a while and that didn’t stop them from winning games.
Montreal v New York Rangers:
Assuming both teams go into this series playing their best hockey, this will be a close one that could easily go either way. However, the Rangers haven’t been playing their best hockey lately. They have just a 50 point percentage since the trade deadline. Montreal, on the other hand, hold a 71.1 point percentage since the trade deadline. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins started to challenge Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic division and Montreal responded by playing their best hockey all year after picking up Claude Julien.
Ottawa v Boston:
This one sounds tight, but looking at the stats it appears otherwise. The Bruins have the edge on Ottawa on almost any stat you look at, from GF%, to SF% and the shot differentials are completely in Boston’s favor. The Bruins are not a great team by any means, but they have the edge on Ottawa in every category necessary.
Chicago v Nashville
These teams are very close when looking at stats. Chicago has the slight edge in goal scoring while Nashville has an even slighter edge in shooting and shot differential. They have both been playing pretty successfully, with Chicago playing a little better. The thing that makes me pick Chicago is their playoff experience. While all these fancy stats are nice, I think something can be said about a team who has had success in the playoffs before.
Minnesota v St. Louis
I’ve said a lot about a teams points percentage since the trade deadline in this article, and given that you would think I picked the Blues to win this series. They have a strong 76.2% since the deadline. However, while Minnesota did struggle for a long period of time, I believe they’ve gotten over it in the last couple weeks of the season after winning four straight to end the year. And given that, I think the Minnesota Wild are a better team than the Blues all around. Minnesota has a much better GF%.
Anaheim v Calgary:
The Ducks have had a 81.6% points percentage since the trade deadline, and they finished the season with a four game winning streak. The Ducks have a 53.1% GF%. Both better than the Flames. Calgary should be proud to be back in the playoffs after missing out last season, but much like the Maple Leafs I don’t think they have much of a chance against the Ducks in the first round. I believe Anaheim is a real cup contender this year and no one seems to notice them.
Edmonton v San Jose:
If the season only started at the trade deadline the Sharks wouldn’t be in the playoffs. They have a 47.6 points percentage since the trade deadline. If they didn’t start the season strong they would have been in big trouble this year. Overall the numbers between these teams are close, but I don’t think San Jose can turn their game around in time to make a serious run in the playoffs.
GF60, GA60, GF%, SF60, SA60, SF%, FF%, CF% all in 5v5 only
stats from: http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/teamstats.php?db=201617&sit=5v5&disp=1&sortdir=DESC&sort=GFPCT
|Team||GF60||GA60||GF%||SF60||SA60||SF%||FF%||CF%||DIFF||PP%||PK%||Special teams||points % since trade deadline||streak||Points|
|New York R||2.51||2.3||52.20%||28.3||29.9||48.70%||48.80%||47.90%||36||20.2||79.8||100||50%||1W||102|