May 302007
 

Note: I have produced a followup article to this one that corrects some small mistakes I made with respect to counting some PP goals as even strength goals, factors in shot type, and better deals with some biases that are present in the NHL statistics. Feel free to read the article below but be sure to also read the followup article which I would consider a much more reliable evaluation of defence and goaltending in the NHL.

I don’t know how many gazillion times I have heard people say that the Leafs defence sucks big time and is the reason for the Leafs failures and every time I hear that I cringe because it is so not true. And then I argue that the real problem is not the Leafs defence but the Leafs goaltending. I often quote statistics like how the Leafs give up relatively few shots against and the counter argument against that is that the Leafs may not give up a lot of shots, but they give up high quality shots. Although I have always suspected that is not the case it is a real difficult argument to argue against because there is no easy way to evaluate shot quality. But being the stubborn guy that I am I am going to give it my best shot.

In the NHL’s play by play reports they keep track of the distance of each shot that is taken and I think this might be the easiest and only reliable stat to use as a proxy for shot quality. The idea is that the closer in a shot is to the goal, the more difficult the shot is. So, what I did was track all shots against that every team gave up this past season and grouped them according to the distance the shot was taken from the goal. The groupings I used were 0-5, 6-10, 11-15-, 16-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, and 60+ feet. I also kept track of how many goals were scored from each distance grouping so I could determine shooting percentage for each distance group as well. Only even strength shots were considered as well. Here is what I found on a league-wide basis.

Distance Shots Goals Shooting %
0-5 201 53 26.4
6-10 3522 797 22.6
11-15 6854 1603 23.4
16-20 5471 1017 18.6
21-30 9080 1160 12.8
31-40 9133 651 7.1
41-50 8859 410 4.6
51-60 7412 325 4.4
61+ 3314 87 2.6
Total 53846 6103 11.3

As one might expect the closer the shot the higher the chance that the puck goes in the net with shots from inside of 20 feet or so being the best shots to take. I realize that there will still be some variances in difficulty of shot within these groupings (i.e. a one timer on a cross ice pass being more difficult than a straight shot from off the side of the net) but by factoring out shot distance we should be doing a pretty decent job of accounting for a significant portion of what makes a shot difficult.

The next thing I did was to look at how each team does in terms of giving up shots from the various distance groupings with a particular interest in seeing how the Leafs stacked up to the rest of the league. Warning: These results may be frightening to those who want so desperately to believe that the Leafs defence sucks. View with caution.


(Click image to open full size in a new browser window)

As you can see from the above chart is that the Leafs do an excellent job at limiting the number of shots from close-mid range, particularly in the 11-15 foot range as they give up the 4th fewest shots from that distance. From the other high shooting percentage distances (0-5, 6-10 and 16-20) the Leafs are middle of the pack or slightly below.

The next thing I did was to take a look at the shooting percentage against for each team from each distance grouping. The results can be seen in the following chart.


(Click image to open full size in a new browser window)

As you can see, the Leafs goaltenders have one of the highest overall shooting percentages against which is consistent with the fact they have one of the worst save percentages in the league. But what is interesting is that Leaf goalies (mostly Raycroft) are the worst at saving shots from 11-15 feet as well as 41-50 feet and are among the worst from 16-20 feet, and 21-30 feet. All I have to say is thank goodness the Leafs defence were good at limiting the number of shots from the 11-15 foot range or else last season would have been much worse for the Leafs.

Chris Boersma over at Hockey Numbers has done some interesting work looking at goalies save percentages based on shot location and he found that Raycroft really sucks at stopping puck shot high and to the glove side. This is interesting because probably the best place to shoot a puck high is in that 10-20 foot range because you are far enough out that you can get it up and over the goalie but close enough to not give the goalie a lot of reaction time. Clearly these kinds of shots are killing Andrew Raycroft and the Leafs.

So finally, I wanted to summarize all this data in terms of a single, easy to understand number so we can compare teams and how difficult of shots they give up. To do this I took the number of shots each team gave up in each distance grouping and multiplied it by the league-wide shooting percentage for that group and then summed up the numbers for all groups. The result is one number which represents how may goals a team would give up if they had a perfectly average goalie with a perfectly average save % from shots taken at each distance grouping. Here are the results:

Team Expected ES
Goals Against
Dallas 165.52
Detroit 172.03
San Jose 184.91
Vancouver 188.65
Minnesota 189.13
Anaheim 190.83
Calgary 192.36
Toronto 193.47
Columbus 196.11
New Jersey 199.28
Florida 200.68
Tampa Bay 202.01
Chicago 202.04
Colorado 202.13
Edmonton 203.03
Los Angeles 203.96
Buffalo 204.50
Carolina 207.78
NY Rangers 208.88
Phoenix 210.28
Pittsburgh 210.48
Washington 211.93
Philadelphia 212.58
Nashville 216.16
Montreal 217.32
St. Louis 220.47
NY Islanders 221.55
Ottawa 223.25
Atlanta 225.13
Boston 226.57

What is interesting with that table is that for the most part the teams perceived as the good defensive teams (Dallas, Detroit, Vancouver, Minnesota, Anaheim, Calgary, New Jersey) are closer to the top of the list and look, surprise, right there with them is Toronto. Sorry Leaf defence bashers, looks like you have even less of an argument now.

Edit: I added the following a few hours the original post

Maybe the most interesting thing we can do with the above information is see how much goaltending actually affected a teams goals against. To do this I compared the above expected even strength goals against with each teams actual even strength goals against. By subtracting expected from actual I can come up with ‘Goalie Goals’ which is an indicitation of how many goals the teams goalies can be blamed for. These numbers are astounding.

Team Exp. Goals Actual Goals Goalie Goals
Los Angeles 203.96 250 46.04
Toronto 193.47 235 41.53
Philadelphia 212.58 254 41.42
Phoenix 210.28 245 34.72
Washington 211.93 245 33.07
Edmonton 203.03 222 18.97
Carolina 207.78 225 17.22
Tampa Bay 202.01 218 15.99
Chicago 202.04 218 15.96
Columbus 196.11 211 14.89
Florida 200.68 215 14.32
Montreal 217.32 229 11.68
Colorado 202.13 210 7.87
Boston 226.57 230 3.43
Dallas 165.52 167 1.48
Pittsburgh 210.48 209 -1.48
St. Louis 220.47 218 -2.47
Calgary 192.36 186 -6.36
Buffalo 204.50 197 -7.50
San Jose 184.91 175 -9.91
Detroit 172.03 158 -14.03
Atlanta 225.13 205 -20.13
Anaheim 190.83 170 -20.83
Vancouver 188.65 166 -22.65
NY Islanders 221.55 196 -25.55
Nashville 216.16 181 -35.16
Ottawa 223.25 186 -37.25
New Jersey 199.28 162 -37.28
Minnesota 189.13 151 -38.13
NY Rangers 208.88 169 -39.88

It is no surprise to who is at the top of the list as most of us knew Los Angeles, Toronto, Philadelphia, Phoenix, etc. had weak goaltending and the bottom teams are no surprise either as all those teams are known to have good goalies. What is a surprise is the magnitude of the goals that can be blamed on the goalies and the number of goals that goalies saved for their teams. As bad as the Kings goalies were, seeing them be the blame for as many as 46 even strength goals is quite amazing. Similarly, seeing that Lundqvist saved his team nearly 40 goals on his own is quite amazing. If anyone wants to argue that goaltending isn’t the most important position in hockey they just need to look at these statistics.

May 292007
 

Yesterday Bettman had his state of the NHL press conference and two big topics were covered, or at least generated the most media interest. First is the sale of the Nashville Predators and whether they are going to move. Second is the possibility of an NHL team in Winnipeg. In both instances some in the media are misinterpreting what he said.

First let’s talk about Nashville. He did his best to try to persuade everyone that the Predators are going to stay in Nashville talking extensively about how they have a 14 year lease and the city if it chooses can guarantee that they will stay in Nashville. But when pressed on the issue and the fact that the Predators leaving Nashville might be a foregone conclusion Bettman said “That’s why I answered the question the way I did.” In other words, he was choosing his words with a purpose of trying to maintain fan interest in Nashville rather than trying to reflect reality. Let’s face it guys, the Predators are done in Nashville and it is only a matter of when, not if, no matter how Bettman wants to formulate his words. Liepold doesn’t want them anymore and Basille only wants them to move them. Basille didn’t buy the Penguins because the league told him he wouldn’t be allowed to move them. Basille is not going to buy the Predators if he can’t move them because if he just wanted to own an NHL team why not buy the NHL team that is closer to home (Pittsburgh) and has maybe the two best young talents in the NHL today (Crosby and Malkin) along with a soon to be star defenseman (Whitney) and possibly a soon to be star goalie (Fleury). Basille wants a team and wants that team in the city of his choosing which would be Waterloo.

And now for Winnipeg. Everyone is getting excitited by the fact that Bettman said the NHL returning to Winnipeg was ‘interesting and intriguing thought.’ People are jumping all over that and reading it as Bettman would approve of a team returning to Winnipeg but the reality is, he isn’t anywhere close to that state of mind. In fact, he was mostly just referring to an article he read (or heard about) in the National Post and he later went on to clarfiy his statement: ‘When I say it intrigues me, it’s something I haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about or researching.’ In other words he has never really personally thought about the NHL in Winnipeg. There has been several news stories talking about the idea of a team back in Winnipeg for a number of months now and back in December people were talking about it as a possible destination for the Penguins but even with all that talk it never prompted Bettman research it or even think about it much. In other words I don’t think people of Winnipeg should get too excited about having Bettman push for a team to return to Winnipeg any time soon and certainly not before Kansas City or possibly Las Vegas or Portland or Seattle get a team.

May 282007
 

I had been planning on doing this for a while but finally got around to it the past few days. I have set up a new subdomain at stats.hockeyanalysis.com where I am going to post all sorts of statistics. The first statistics are for the 2006-07 season and contain team goals for and against data for players while that player was on the ice. If you then click on a players name you can find out who that player has played with and against and how much ice time they played together or against each other. Also contained in the tables are goals for and against while that pair is on the ice together or one the ice playing against each other.

For example, we can take a look at Bryan McCabe and even strength goal production while he is on the ice with teammates. From that table you will see that McCabe has played the most even strength ice time (520:46) with Tomas Kaberle and during the time they were on the ice together the Leafs gave up 25 goals or 0.960 goals per 20 minutes. We can then compare that to how well each player performs when they are not playing together. McCabe played 867:41 even strength minutes when Kaberle was not on the ice and in that time 34 goals were given up by the Leafs for a rate of 0.784 per 20 minutes. Similarly, Kaberle played 682:30 at even strength without McCabe and during that time the Leafs gave up 31 goals for a rate of .908 goals per 20 minutes. In other words, McCabe seemed to perform much better defensively when not with Kaberle and Kaberle performed slightly better defensively when not with McCabe (or maybe they both played with better defensive defense partners). With that knowledge, one might want to consider if playing these two guys together is the best option. A similar analysis can be done with goals for statistics when playing with each of his teammates as well as defense and offense when playing against various opponents.

Note: These statistics are available for every player who played a game in the NHL last season except for goalies. Goalies are currently not included but I hope to add some data for them in the future as well as other player data.

Note 2: If you want to browse these statistics the best place to start off is <a href="“>at the index.

Note 3: These numbers are used fairly significantly in my player rankings algorithm.

May 262007
 

Ottawa at Anaheim

Ottawa (road) Anaheim (home)
Predicted Winner Anaheim (Some)
Fair Odds +122 -129
Overall Record 48-25-9 48-20-14
Home/Road Record 23-12-6 26-6-9
Last 10 Games 6-2-2 5-3-2
Past Games
  • None

It cannot be argued that the Senators and Ducks have been the best teams in the eastern and western conferences these playoffs. The Senators made it to the Stanley Cup losing just 3 games and the Ducks lost just 4 on their route to the Cup and only a strong team in Detroit gave them any kind of challenge. So, the question becomes, which team is better. Well, during the regular season the western conference was by far the better conference as teams in the west compiled an outstanding 82-48-20 record against teams in the east and only Chicago and Columbus had sub .500 record. It could also be argued that Minnesota was a better team than Pittsburgh, Vancouver was a better team than New Jersey and Detroit was as good or better then Buffalo. All-in-all, I think Anaheim had the tougher path to the Stanley Cup than Ottawa.

For Ottawa, they finally obtained playoff success by playing a significantly different style of game that they have in past playoffs and even different that how they played in the regular season. In past playoffs and in the regular season they tried to play an offensive style game and in large part tried to out score their opposition. In the playoffs they have played the opposite style of game by trying to give up fewer offensive chances and goal than the opposition do and by capitalizing on turnovers and power plays. The statistics back this up in dramatic fashion. In the regular season the Senators averaged 32.3 goals for and gave up 30.2 shots against. In the playoffs they have average fewer shots for per game (30.23) and significantly fewer shots against per game (24.4) and the differences would be even more dramatic if you adjusted to a per 60 minute basis because of the longer overtimes in the playoffs.

With that in mind, I think the question for Anaheim becomes, can Anaheim’s offence break through Ottawa’s defensive play? Well, the Anaheim Ducks have average 32.3 shots per game and 2.42 goals per game these playoffs against Minnesota, Vancouver and Detroit, all very solid defensive teams so I think they should be well prepared for a defensive-minded team in Ottawa. If the Ducks can get close to 30 shots a game on Ray Emery they should get enough offence to win the series. What the Ducks bring that the Senators have not faced yet in these playoffs is a far more aggressive, physical forecheck and I think we need to watch how Ottawa’s defence handles that. In particular, watch the Redden-Meszaros pairing because at times in the past those guys have backed down from the physical play. If Ottawa’s defence is at all intimidated by Anaheim’s physical play the series won’t go well for the Senators.

The other reason Ottawa has made the finals is by the offensive production of Ottawa’s top line of Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley. That trio has combined to score 23 of Ottawa’s 46 goals in the playoffs while the rest of the Senators forwards have combined for just 17 goals in 15 games. The challenge for the Ducks is to figure out how to stop Ottawa’s big line and a huge part of that is going to be placed on the shoulders of Selke Trophy nominee Samuel Pahlsson and Norris Trophy nominee Chris Pronger. This is going to be an interesting match up because while Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley have never faced anyone close to the calibre of Pronger in these playoffs, the Ducks have never faced a line the quality of Ottawa’s top line either. If the Ducks can hold Ottawa’s big three to no more than one goal a game they will be in good shape but that will be tough, particularly if the Ducks take too many penalties.

The final thing I want to point out before I make a prediction is what I pointed out prior to the Sens-Sabres series. Back then I mentioned I thought it was important to put some pressure on the Senators by winning early and maybe putting some doubt in the minds of the Senators players. The same holds true in this series. In all three of their series so far the Senators have come out playing hard in game one and ended up winning all three game ones in relatively dominating fashion. The Ducks need to turn that around and take it to the Sens as much as the Sens are likely to take it to them in game one and let the Senators know that they have a tough series on their hand and nothing is going to be easy. Two factors that might come into play here is whether the Senators will be a tad rusty after having a full 8 days off and whether Ottawa will be at all affected by the travel to the west coast, something they haven’t done all season. What happens in game 1 of this series could set the tone for the rest of the series so it should be interesting to watch.

Ok, so now for my prediction. I think dealing the Ducks with their aggressive, physical play, something the Senators have not faced these playoffs, will be a huge challenge for Ottawa in this series. That aggressive play will mean the Ducks will take some penalties and give Ottawa lots of chances on the power play which will keep them in the games but I think 5 on 5 Anaheim will be the better team and will break down the Senators defensive game. I also think Giguere is a better goalie and will out play Emery and the Ducks aggressive fore check will allow them to capitalize on Emery’s rebounds. In the end I think the Ducks take the series. Prediction: Ducks in 6.

May 242007
 

As you have probably all heard by now, it seems Jim Basille (of RIM) is planning on buying the Nashville Predators. The thing is, Basille has very little interest in owning the Nashville Predators, he wants to own the Waterloo Blackberries (name made up by me). But this is where things get complicated regarding the Predators lease agreement on their arena. There seems to be an opt out clause in the lease if paid attendance averages under 14,000, but the city has the option of ‘topping’ up that number to 14,000 to ensure the team stays. Estimates on paid attendance have been as low as 12,000 for this past season.

So, knowing Basille wants to move the team and needs low attendance to break the lease to do that, what incentive does Basille have in maintaining a $40 million payroll to ice a good, entertaining team and lose money in the process? Right, very little. His only interest would be to keep young players that will be good players when he gets his team to Waterloo a couple years from now. So, say goodbye to unrestricted free agents Kimmo Timonen, Paul Kariya, and Peter Forsberg. But why stop there? Why not trade Steve Sullivan for a prospect or draft pick. He certainly won’t be around to play 3 years downt he road. Or he could trade high priced players like Tomas Vokoun, Jason Arnott and Marek Zidlicky.

The Nashville payroll was pushing close to $40 million this past season and were one of the better teams in the league. Don’t be surprised if it is $8-10 million lower (closer to the league minimum threshhold) next season with a team that may struggle to make the playoffs.

May 222007
 

For about 15 years the NHL has been doing everything it can to gain a larger American fan base. It moved two Canadian teams to the U.S. and rapidly expanded from 21 teams to 30 teams with the main purpose of bringing hockey to the U.S. south and becoming more of a national sport. There are now teams in Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, Tampa, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Anaheim and San Jose and aside from maybe Dallas and San Jose, who have had some success, all have been relative failures in attracting significant numbers of new fans. The NHL has utilized glowing pucks, changed rules, went to 4-on-4 overtime hockey, brought in the shootout, cracked down on fighting, cracked down on hooking, cracked down on obstruction, cracked down on hooking again, put regular season and playoff games on in the afternoon, cracked down on hooking and obstruction again, shut down the league for a full season so those new small market teams in the U.S. can better compete financially, and are now even talking about bringing in crazy rounded bubble nets all in the hopes of building a bigger American audience. But Instead of generating a bigger American audience TV coverage has been demoted from the all sports network ESPN, to Versus which has limited availability across much of the country. On top of that NBC pays nothing to broadcast a handful of regular season and playoff games, the TV ratings are dismal, and the few fans that do exist and want to watch hockey get shafted when NBC decides not to show overtime of a semi-finals series clinching game so it can show an hour of pre-horse race coverage.

It is time for the NHL owners to realize that Gary Bettman’s master plan of ‘if you expand, they will watch’ has not worked, is not working, and will not likely ever work. It is time to realize that the NHL has a better hope of growing their fan base in cities like Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and even Columbus or in a new market like Portland or Seattle than in Nashville, Miami, Carolina and Phoenix. You can have a Stanley Cup winning team in Carolina or one of the best, most entertaining teams to watch in Nashville but the new fans they generate pales in comparison to the new fan interest that has been generated in Buffalo now that a quality, stable franchise exists or in Pittsburgh now that that franchise is getting better on the ice and looking more stable off the ice. If Buffalo and Pittsburgh can generate huge new fan interest in those smaller American cities, just imagine how many new fans could be created if Chicago or Boston got a better product on the ice or started marketing their franchises better. The sooner the NHL begins to realize that the future of the NHL in the U.S. is in Boston and Chicago and St. Louis and not in Miami or Nashville or Phoenix the better.

The NHL needs to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a regional (i.e. northern U.S., Canada) sport, and you can even get national TV deals when the majority of your audience is regional, and then grow from there. NASCAR is a perfect example. For the most part it is a regional sport with the majority of their events in the south and with the majority of their fans in the south, but lat time I checked they have some pretty good TV contracts and are now in the process of expanding their region. The NHL is trying to do it the other way around and it is failing miserably. There is no reason why if you gained enough interest in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minnesota, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and maybe even a new market like Seattle that one of the major networks would be interested in broadcasting hockey. No offence to Nashville or North Carolina but these aren’t exactly major TV markets when compared to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, or Chicago. Just increasing interest 10% in each of those cities will do far more good than doubling or tripling the interest in Nashville. But unfortunately through the NHL’s misguided vision NHL in Chicago has been all but destroyed, Boston seems to be following the same path, and even Detroit is starting to have trouble selling out playoff games. It is time the NHL changed course and started focusing on promoting the game in traditional hockey markets and getting rid of the gimmickry used to promote the game to non-fans who aren’t really interested in being fans.

Edit: Dan Wetzel has a similar story about the NHL possibily making changes to playoff OT rules against the interest of the traditional hockey fan.

May 152007
 

I have lived in Ottawa for almost 7 years now and during that time Senators fans have complained about two things, the rough physical play of the Leafs that resulted in many playoff failures and the boring defensive, wait for a mistake by the opponent, hockey of the New Jersey Devils. Surprisingly, I am not hearing many complaints now that the Senators have decided to play a more physical neutral zone trap, wait for turnovers and powerplays to attack style of game.

If I were a Sabre’s fan, I would be furious at my team for not competing. Outside of Ottawa’s big three, Buffalo’s forwards are faster, more skilled and much deeper than Ottawa’s but they refuse to put the effort in to win the battles necessary to win the game. When they do they get some success like in the dying minutes of regulation in game 2 when they won the battle along the boards, shot the puck towards the goal and Brierre put the puck in the empty net. Or late in game 3 when some hard work had Ottawa penned in their own zone for what seemed like a full minute struggling to get the puck out. But for the Sabre’s that effort has been too little too late. With one loss in OT and another one goal game, had they just played hard for just 10 more minutes they could have had a win or two.

It amazes me how some people gave the Detroit Red Wings so little respect and so little chance of beating the Anaheim Ducks. I have heard many people picking the Ducks to win the series in as few as 4 or 5 games (which won’t hapen now) but the Wings are a team with oodles of playoff experience and who has finished atop the western conference standings 3 seasons in a row and 4 out of the last 5 seasons and trailing only Dallas in 2002-03 by 1 point. I think people get too mesmerized by the Pronger-Niedermayer combo of the Ducks and don’t give enough respect for Detroit’s all round veteren team.

Is it just me or are these playoffs much less interesting than most years. While some of the hockey has been good there haven’t really been any overly intriguing series or story lines outside of maybe the Senators figuring out how to play playoff hockey. There has only been one series last 7 games and that series, Dallas vs Vancouver, featured probably the least interesting hockey. Only twice has a team staved off elimination, Minnesota winning game 4 vs Anaheim and Dallas winning game 6 vs Vancouver. In all other series whenever a team won got their third win they immediately won their fourth the very next game. There have been no real upsets or underdog teams making a run like the Oilers of a year ago. There are no teams ravaged by injuries with unsung heros doing their best to help their team survive like the Sabres and their defense injuries a year ago. There are no rookie goalies, or rookies of any kind, playing with the poise of a veteren helping his team to the promise land like Cam Ward of the Hurricanes a year ago. For the most part these playoffs have been a storyless playoff with little intrigue unless you have rooting interest in a team still playing.

May 082007
 

Ottawa at Buffalo

Ottawa (road) Buffalo (home)
Predicted Winner Buffalo (Some)
Fair Odds +118 -122
Overall Record 48-25-9 53-22-7
Home/Road Record 23-12-6 28-10-3
Last 10 Games 6-2-2 7-3-0
Past Games
  • 2006/10/07: Buffalo 4 at Ottawa 3
  • 2006/11/15: Ottawa 4 at Buffalo 2
  • 2006/11/18: Buffalo 1 at Ottawa 4
  • 2006/12/16: Ottawa 3 at Buffalo 1
  • 2007/01/03: Buffalo 3 at Ottawa 6
  • 2007/02/07: Ottawa 2 at Buffalo 3
  • 2007/02/22: Ottawa 5 at Buffalo 6 (SO)
  • 2007/02/24: Buffalo 5 at Ottawa 6

My Opinion: This is the first and will be the only divisional matchup of these playoffs but despite that fact it pretty much features the best two teams in the eastern conference. It should be a dandy of a series as well as it is a rematch of last years second round matchup as well as a continuation of a fairly heated regular season rivalry. Despite the fact that Ottawa won the season series with 5 wins I think Buffalo goes into this series as the favourite. I, and many others, thought Buffalo was the elite team in the east prior to the season and I don’t think they have done anything to alter my opinion of that. But Ottawa has been pretty dominant so far in these playoffs so one can’t write them off yet. For Ottawa to win this series though they need all 6 of their defensemen to come up big defensively as Buffalo features a four line attack far beyond anything Ottawa has seen in the playoffs so far. Ray Emery also needs to come up big and do a better job controlling rebounds because I can assure you that Buffalo will get more traffic in front of the net to capitalize on those rebounds than either Pittsburgh or the Devils did. Offensively the Senators need to get more production from the second, third and fourth lines as the only forwards other than the big 3 to score in the New Jersey series were Fisher, Vermette and McAmmond with one goal apiece. If the rest of the forwards just score 3 goals in 5 games against the Sabres the Senators may very well be preparing for the golf course in short order. For the Sabres, I think the key to the series might be to get on the Senators early in the series and put some pressure on them. So far Ottawa has never trailed in a series and has never been in a must win situation. If the Sabres can win game one it might change the psyche of the Senator and knock their confidence level down a bit and that can only help. In the end I think the Sabres are a faster team with more consistent and deep offense and probably better goaltending so I will stick with them as my pick to come out of the east. My Prediction: Sabres in six

Anaheim at Detroit

Anaheim (road) Detroit (home)
Predicted Winner Detroit (Some)
Fair Odds +120 -126
Overall Record 48-20-14 50-19-13
Home/Road Record 22-14-5 29-4-8
Last 10 Games 5-3-2 5-1-4
Past Games
  • 2006/10/18: Detroit 1 at Anaheim 4
  • 2007/01/02: Anaheim 1 at Detroit 2
  • 2007/01/07: Detroit 2 at Anaheim 4
  • 2007/03/26: Anaheim 0 at Detroit 1

My Opinion: I have never really been sold on Anaheim’s strategy of being a top heavy team relying significantly on 2 or 3 defenseman and one line to produce most of their offense. They also have a lot of youth on their team which I also think is not ideal in the playoffs. But so far in these playoffs they have pretty much dominated their opponents winning both series in 5 games. But, I think that is partly because of the matchups they faced. Both Minnesota and Vancouver were largely one line teams relying on just a few players to produce offense. This is ideal for the Ducks as they could use their high end talent on defense and solid goaltending to shut down that one line and all is good. But the Red Wings are a different beast and one that I think will give the Ducks a much tougher challenge as they have more depth and experience than either Minnesota or Vancouver which will put some pressure on Anaheim’s less talented depth players, particularly the defense. The biggest concern I think the Red Wings have is the loss of Mathieu Schneider, their #2 defenseman. Not having Schneider in the lineup means ancient Chris Chelios will be required to take on more ice time. So far Chelios has been up for the task but one has to question whether he can play upwards of 25 minutes a game over the course of a long, physical series. In the end I think the Red Wings will have enough defense to largely shut down the Ducks offense and will be able to score enough goals to squeek out a series win. My Prediction: Detroit in 7