Jan 102006

Before I get to todays predictions I’d thought I’d give up and updated tally of my success rate. I usually try to do this Mondays but I forgot yesterday.

Strong: 86 of 118, 72.9%
Good: 109 of 170, 64.1%
Some: 79 of 153, 51.6%

I am quite happy about the Strong success rate, somewhat satisfied with the Good success rate but quite dissapointed with how much the Some success rate has dropped off. It wasn’t that long ago when it was approaching 60%. Must have been a bad few weeks in there with lots of minor upsets.

So, on to today’s predictions. We have a full slate of interconference games today which means no divisional rivalried to get excited about, but there could potentially be some interesting games to watch.

Boston/San Jose – This is the first time these teams will be facing each other since the big trade which send Joe Thornton to the west coast. This trade has workedout exceptionally well for San Jose which went on a lengthy win streak immediately after the trade and after a bit of a slump over the holidays is back on a 3 game win streak. Boston on the other hand has been up and down every since the trade but have also won 2 games in a row. This is a pick-em game so I guess I am obligated to make a prediction but I totally hate predicting these games because you just don’t know how the teams will react. But since I have to make a pick I’ll go with Boston who will try to prove to their home town fans that they can live without Thornton.

Carolina/Detroit – One of the better eastern conference teams against one of the better western conference teams and a rematch of a Stanley Cup final of a few years ago. Carolina is on a four game winning streak while Detroit is coming off a humiliating 6-3 loss to Dallas in which they held a 3-0 lead at one point. Carolina is the slight favourite but I think Detroit is going to be an angry team after that loss and will take the win.

Ottawa/Phoenix – Ottawa lost 3 of 4 games last week including losses to Atlanta, Boston and Montreal. But Alfredsson is expected to return to the lineup tonight and being back on home ice should also be a motivation factor. Phoenix has lost 3 games in a row including a very dissapointing 5-2 loss to the lowly Blue Jackets in their last game. I think Phoenix will come out strong but Ottawa will win the game as they try to prove to their fans that they are still a dominant team.

Calgary/NY Rangers – This is the other pick-em game and will feature two excellent goalies in Kippusoff and Lundqvist. This game will be decided by whether Calgary’s strong defense can shut down Jaromir Jagr. I think they will and Calgary will get a 2-1 road win.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston San Jose Pick N/A
NY Rangers Calgary Pick N/A
Washington Chicago Washington Some
Carolina Detroit Carolina Some
Ottawa Phoenix Ottawa Strong
Pittsburgh Edmonton Edmonton Good
Nashville NY Islanders Nashville Good
Vancouver Toronto Vancouver Some
Jan 092006

Just four games on schedule tonight so I’ll give you a few of my thoughts on each game before getting to the predictions.

New Jersey/Philadelphia – On the weekend Philadelphia passed Ottawa for the most points in the eastern conference with 60 to Ottawa’s 59 (though Ottawa has a game in hand). They are also 12-2-3 since December first so they clearly have been a dominating team. New Jersey on the other hand is about as inconsistant as they come although they are on a hot streak winning 3 in a row including a Saturday win over the surprisingly strong Buffalo Sabres. That said, I like Philadelphia to win this game.

Minnesota/Dallas – Dallas is one of several teams in the western conference battling for the title of Best of the West. Last night they picked up a big win over the Red Wings. After falling behind 3-0 they stormed back with 6 unanswered goals to take a 6-3 win. Minnesota is likely a non-playoff team sitting in 9th spot but 5 points behind 8th place Colorado but they are also on a hot streak winning 8 of their last 11 games. Goaltending is the key for the Wild but Brian Rolson is quietly having an outstanding season with 18 goals and 42 points in 42 games. This is rated as a pick-em game and I like Minnesota to win a 2-1 game.

Colorado/St. Louis – The story of Colorado this season is good offense, bad goaltending. The story of St. Louis is just plain bad everything. Colorado has won 4 in a row while St. Louis has lost 4 of 5. Colorado wins this game 5-3.

Anaheim/Los Angeles – For those living in the Los Angeles area this is a big rivalry game. For the rest of us, this is just another game. One day I will do a more formal study but my gut is that rivalry games are more likely to lead to upsets than a normal game. That might benegit Anaheim. The other thing going for Anaheim is they made a trade over the weekend (Sykora to Rangers for Kontradiev) and frequently after a trade players get more focused and perform better. For these reasons I am going against my prediction algorithm and predicting an Anaheim upset.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
New Jersey Philadelphia Philadelphia Some
Minnesota Dallas Pick N/A
Colorado St. Louis Colorado Strong
Anaheim Los Angeles Los Angeles Some
Jan 082006

There are a lot of reasons why Crosby should be considered a top rookie of the year candidate. And deservingly so. He is having a very good year. But in my mind there is one thing that he does that should automatically eliminate him from contention and it was seen once again in last nights game against the Atlanta Thrashers. I’m not talking about him losing his cool and taking a retaliation slashing penalty, I’m talking about him taking a diving penalty. In my mind, diving is as unsportsmanlike as you can get almost on par with straight out cheating. The worst thing that could ever happen in the NHL is to have it’s superstars become super divers. It would be disasterous for growing the game in the United States and would probably be disasterous for the game even in Canada. Last night may have been Crosby’s first diving penalty but it isn’t the first time he has been accused of diving. The Flyers have accused Crosby of diving as has Don Cherry and as have I. He’s a diver and Mario Lemieux needs to pull him to the side and tell him that diving is not acceptable in the NHL and especially on his team. Diving has to be stopped and if I were a voter I would not reward a diver with the rookie of the year trophy.

Jan 082006

Sorry for the delay. Since these are quite a bit later than usual and I don’t have a lot of tme for analysis I’ll get right to the predictions.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Washington Florida Washington Some
Detroit Dallas Detroit Some
Chicago Nashville Nashville Good
Phoenix Columbus Phoenix Strong
Jan 072006

It’s Hockey Day in Canada today which means the only reason couch potato Canadians will have to leave their couches in front of the TV is to get the beer, meet the pizza delivery guy at the door and relieve himself at regular time intervals (length of time interval depends on beer intake). The afternoon hockey game features Ottawa at Montreal, an excellent team struggling through some serious injury woes vs a middle of the road team just plain struggling. According to my prediction algorithm Ottawa is a bit (“some”) of a favourite over Montreal and that is probably a fair assessment. They should win this game but with their injuries if Montreal puts a good game together they could also upset Ottawa.

The evening game sees Toronto visiting Edmonton with Edmonton also being a slight favourite. Toronto is coming off a hard fought loss last night to Calgary which featured excellent goaltending by both Belfour and Kipprusoff. One has to wonder if Pat Quinn will come back with Belfour in back to back nights or play Tellqvist. Tellqvist has played very well this year so it amy not matter. For Edmonton, the question is always about goaltending. If they get solid goaltending they seem to be good enough to beat anyone but more often than not this year, their losses can frequently be blamed on inconsistant goaltending. Edmonton should defeat a tired and injured Toronto team, but only if their goaltending can play up to par.

In the late night game the Calgary Flames visit the struggling, but mroe rested, Vancouver Canucks. While the key to Edmonton’s failures is goaltending, the same can frequently be said about the Canucks and surely the key to Calgary’s success is goaltending. Kipprusoff has 6 shutouts this year, twice as many as any other goalie. For Vancouver Dan Cloutier is injured for most or all of the rest of the season and Alex Auld has been good on some days and mediocre on others. They’ll need solid goaltending to win tonight. Vancouver squeeked out a 3-2 win over the lowly Blackhawks the other day but that isn’t really enough to say they have broken out of their slump. They need to defeat a top team to say that and tonight might be their game. The game is one of those too close to call games but I’ll go out on a limb and predict a Vancouver win.

For those Americans out there there are a few more interesting games to keep an eye on. One is the battle of two struggling teams, Tampa at Boston. Tampa is trying desperately to hold on to one of the final playoff spots in the east while Boston would just love to string together a few wins together to get back in the playoff hunt. The game is a “pick-em” game but if trends mean anything, this game will go Tampa’s way. In their last 9 games they have won-lost-won-lost-won-lost-won-lost-won which means the next game in the sequence is a loss. That’s good enough for me, take Tampa to win this game.

The New York Rangers, who have struggled a bit recently with 3 overtime losses in a row and 4-2-3 record in their last 9 games play a surging Florida team which despite a lost and an overtime loss in their last 2 games has a 7-3-2 record in their last 12 games. This is largely due to the much improved play of goalie Roberto Luongo. As I have said a million times, goaltending is always key and if Luongo is hot this game will go Florida’s way despite the Rangers being listed as “good” favourites.

The final pick-em game of the night features a rematch of last nights high scoring Atlanta-Pittsburgh game. In that game Atlanta came out flying to build a 5-0 lead after 2 periods only to see Pittsburgh come back with 4 goals in the third, including 3 PP goals, to make the game close. Atlanta held on and added an empty net goal to gain the 6-4 win. You can bet tonight that Atlanta won’t take their foot off the gas pedal in the third period and you can bet even more that Pittsburgh will try even harder not to get down by 5 goals. This should be an entertaining game to watch but I think Atlanta will one again get the win.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers Florida NY Rangers Good
Montreal Ottawa Ottawa Some
Colorado Columbus Colorado Strong
Boston Tampa Bay Pick N/A
NY Islanders Carolina Carolina Some
Edmonton Toronto Edmonton Some
Buffalo New Jersey Buffalo Strong
Pittsburgh Atlanta Pick N/A
Minnesota Anaheim Minnesota Some
Vancouver Calgary Pick N/A
San Jose Los Angeles Los Angeles Some
Jan 062006

HockeyDirt.com has posted the results of a mid-season award poll he conducted and of which I was a part. The biggest surprise in my mind is the Crosby getting so little support for rookie of the year. I posted my comments on the issue and why I think Lundqvist deserves the ROY award at HockeyDirt.com. To the best of my recollection, here is who I voted for:

Calder: Lundqvist
Norris: McCabe
Hart: Jagr (I think) or possibly Alfredsson. I don’t really recall. Thornton is playing himself into contention though.
Vezina: Hasek
Lady Byng: Don’t remember but I don’t really care much about this award anyway
Selke: Brenden Morrow
Jack Adams: Dave Tippet
Comback player: Jason Allison
Tough guy: McGratton
Flop: Khabibulin

I voted for McCabe for Norris because he has been so dominating offensively and is the only defenseman to be leading his team in points and he is doing so by a significant margin. I also serious considered Wade Redden but McCabe is second in the NHL (to Lidstrom) in average time on ice with 18:12 per game. Lidstrom plays 28:29 while Redden is at 24:23. McCabe also plays more PK time and more PP time than Redden. Lidstrom should also generate serious consideration for Norris trophy but I still think McCabe’s offensive numbers give him the edge.

I don’t think there is any real clear MVP leader right now. Jagr has been great in leading the Rangers to a successful season, as has Staal in Carolina. Alfredsson deserves some consideration too but Ottawa has so much talent he might get lost in the shuffle, especially if the Senators don’t run away with the President’s Trophy. Forsberg in Philly also deserves consideration and if Thornton can lead the Sharks to a solid playoff spot then he will be a strong candidate. Demitra has done wonders for the Los Angeles Kings as well. If Atlanta can secure a playoff position as well then Kovalchuk will also deserve some consideration. The MVP is going to be a tight race this season.

Jan 062006

One has to wonder if the NHL is playing funny with numbers again. This time with the predicted revenue for the season which has reduced the escrow players are getting deducted from their paychecks.

Current projections call for league-wide revenues of around $2.1 billion, some $300 million more than the $1.8 billion the new CBA had based this season’s framework on.

If revenues hit $1.9 billion this season, the total escrow payment at the end of the season will be about 6.9 per cent and if revenue hits $2 billion, the escrow payment would be in the range of 1.7 per cent.

So, the escrow is getting reduced to 4% from 12% which, if it doesn’t change any further, would put the average season rate at 7.4%. But what about the $2.1 billion predicted revenue. Even with a shortfall of $200 million players would still be paying too much escrow on $1.9 billion in revenue as they should be paying 6.9% on that revenue. At $2.1 billion in revenue the players will get everything back.

So one can only assume that the owners have very little confidence, even halfway through this season, in the $2.1 billion in predicted revenue since they still seem to believe that revene estimates could still be off by as much as 200 million. This seems odd since most revenue streams are already known. TV, radio, broadcast revenue is known, season tickets have been sold and individual tickey sales should be pretty predictable at this point. So why the cautiousness?

A while back I read someone (wish I had a link but I don’t remember who wrote it) believing that the NHL was putting out these rosy revenue projections as a way of helping Ted Saskin regain the support of his players. One thing the players haven’t liked in this CBA is the escrow but should they be promised a big fat check at the end of the season returning the escrow deductions maybe they won’t feel so bad about it. L0oking at these numbers, maybe there is some truth to this. It’s worth considering at least.

Jan 062006

Six games on the schedule tonight but none you would really consider rivalry or important matchups except for Nashville-Detroit. Nashville trails Detroit by 4 points for first in both the division and conference with a game in hand. I am sure Detroit really wants the win to put a bit more space between the two teams while a Nashville will put the teams almost deadlocked with half a season left to play.

For western Canadians there is always high interest when Toronto comes ot town so I am sure a lot of people will be watching the Calgary-Toronto game. The Leafs have managed to win a bunch of games while dealing with a bunch of injuries but for the most part those wins came against second tier teams. This western Canada road trip will say a lot about the Leafs and whether they should be considered a top team or a tier below the top teams.

In the pick-em games, I’ll take Philadelphia to win despite playing on the road on back to back nights. The Flyers are just a better team than the Capitals.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Washington Philadelphia Pick N/A
Carolina NY Islanders Carolina Good
Atlanta Pittsburgh Atlanta Good
Nashville Detroit Nashville Some
Dallas Anaheim Dallas Good
Calgary Toronto Calgary Some
Jan 052006

Have you ever wondered what happens when little or no logic is used when performing statistical analysis? Well, here is your answer. Some scientists with too much time on their hand studied thousands of NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA and English soccer game results and concluded that because English soccer is more unpredictable than the other sports (i.e. upsets happen more often) that it is thus more entertaining.

Eli Ben-Naim, Sidney Redner and Federico Vazquez at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico decided to look at unpredictability of results – how often a team with a worse record overcomes an apparently superior one – as the best measure of how exciting a league is. “If there are no upsets, then every game is predictable and hence boring,” says Ben-Naim.

Now, if that logic is true then I’ve got a new league that I am going to start up and make a bundle of money on. Now before you read on you must promise that you will not steal my idea. If you can’t agree to that please stop reading now.

Ok, the rules of this new game are simple. Teams will consist of 10 players and they will be matched up with a player from the opposing team. Each game “round” will feature one player from each team rolling a six sided dice and the player rolling the higher number will win that round. The first team to win 100 rounds wins.

I know you all can’t wait to watch this new sport. It should rank extremely high on the entertainment ranking system because it is 100% unpredictable. On any given night, either team has an equal chance of winning. It’s just going to be so awesome. I just can’t wait until we get the whole world hooked on watching people roll dice all night long. I am going to start accepting aplications for expansion franchises now so if you are interested, and have the $1 million expansion fee (a bargain considering how much of a sure thing this new league is) please send your application in now.

Jan 052006

Kind of another dull night on the schedule with no real rivalry or important games being played. Philadelphia-NY Rangers might provide some entertainment and both are quality teams and Tampa at Buffalo features two skilled teams but still, not a lot to get excited about. In other games, Vancouver, who blew a 3rd period lead last night to Dallas, will try to break out of their slump against the surprisingly bad Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa will take their injury riddled team (Alfredsson and Spezza most importantly) into Boston. Ottawa is getting a bit of luck in that they are playing some of the weakest teams while they are suffering injury problems. Washington last night, Boston tonight and a struggling Montreal team on Saturday. Had they been playing better teams their injury problems might have had a bigger negative impact.

But on to the predictions. In the pick-em games I’ll take Philadelphia over the Rangers, New Jersey over Montreal, Minnesota over Colorado and Vancouver over Chicago.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston Ottawa Ottawa Some
Buffalo Tampa Bay Buffalo Good
NY Rangers Philadelphia Pick N/A
New Jersey Montreal Pick N/A
Detroit St. Louis Detroit Strong
Minnesota Colorado Pick N/A
Chicago Vancouver Pick N/A
Los Angeles Phoenix Los Angeles Good
San Jose Columbus San Jose Good