other

Oct 132005
 

I new it would happen. I first day I post predictions things go bad and I go 1 for 4. Hopefully I had enough disclaimers, especially about it being very early in the season to make predictions. In any event, we move on to tonights predictions. If things don’t go well tonight I am going to pause posting any more predictions until more games have been played and predictions are (hopefully) more reliable.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers New Jersey NY Rangers Some
Washington NY Islanders NY Islanders Some
Florida Boston Florida Good
Tampa Bay Buffalo Pick N/A
Calgary Dallas Dallas Strong
Phoenix Nashville Nashville Good
Los Angeles Detroit Los Angeles Strong
 Posted by at 5:59 pm
Oct 132005
 

This morning saw the debut of the HockeyAnalysis.com Power Rankings and this afternoon I debut the second HockeyAnalysis.com feature. Game predictions. I was reluctant to debut this so early in the season because these game predictions are determined mathematically based on what teams have done up to this point in the season and since the season is only a week old the predictions may be unreliable. But over the past 2 days my picks in which I had good confidence in have gone 6-2 so maybe it isn’t too early. We’ll see what happens now that I make my picks public.

Like the power rankings, the game predictions have no bias or opinion in them. They are 100% determined by mathematical formula which was derived using data from the 2002-03 and 2003-04 NHL seasons. For each pick I will assign a ‘Confidence’ rating which is also mathematically calculated. The confidence ratings are Strong, Good and Some and are an indication of how likely the outcome is to be. You will also find some game predictions listed as Pick. These games are too close to call and could go either way.

Two more notes before we get to the picks. First, these picks don’t account for recent injuries, trade acquisitions, or the use of a backup goalie. These factors could affect the likely outcome of the game so take note. Second, upsets happen and my predictions may not come true. If you use these to help you bet on games don’t blame me if you lose money. Although I strive for a solid sudcess rate, I make no guarantees as to what can happen.

And without further delay, here are the picks for tonights games.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Carolina Washington Washington Good
Atlanta Montreal Atlanta Some
Minnesota Vancouver Vancouver Strong
Colorado Nashville Pick N/A
San Jose Columbus San Jose Good
 Posted by at 12:38 am
Oct 122005
 

Here is the first edition of the HockeyAnalysis.com NHL Power Rankings. Unlike other power rankings that you see on both mainstream media and hockey fan websites this version of power rankings is 100% non-biased. I have developed a formula to rank teams based on each teams won-loss record, toughness (or weakness) of schedule, as well as a few other factors. Since the season is still quite young there are a few strange ranking showing up but mostly the rankings seem pretty good. One example of this is New Jersey. With a 2-1 record you might think they should be ranked higher but they aren’t because they lossed to Philadelphia, a lowly ranked team, and their wins came against Pittsburgh and the Rangers, two more lowly ranked teams. When they start playing against, and defeating, better ranked teams their own ranking will improve. The “Power Rank” column is the teams ‘score’ produced by the formula. A general rule of thumb is that teams scoring above 10 are above average and those below 10 are below average.

Rank Team Win-Loss Power Rank
1 Ottawa 4- 0 15.0
2 Nashville 2- 0 14.6
3 Edmonton 3- 1 13.7
4 Dallas 2- 1 13.3
5 Los Angeles 3- 1 13.1
6 Buffalo 3- 1 12.8
7 Florida 3- 1 12.5
8 Atlanta 2- 1 12.1
9 Vancouver 2- 1 12.1
10 Montreal 3- 1 11.9
11 Colorado 2- 1 11.7
12 Tampa Bay 2- 2 11.5
13 Detroit 3- 1 11.4
14 Toronto 1- 3 11.0
15 Washington 2- 2 10.1
16 NY Islanders 1- 2 10.0
17 Boston 2- 2 9.5
18 Anaheim 1- 2 9.0
19 New Jersey 2- 1 8.8
20 Phoenix 1- 3 8.2
21 St. Louis 1- 3 8.2
22 NY Rangers 1- 3 7.8
23 Minnesota 1- 2 7.3
24 Philadelphia 1- 2 7.2
25 Calgary 1- 3 7.1
26 San Jose 1- 2 6.6
27 Columbus 1- 2 6.4
28 Carolina 1- 2 5.9
29 Chicago 1- 3 5.9
30 Pittsburgh 0- 4 5.4
 Posted by at 7:21 pm
Oct 072005
 

This is my first, of hopefully many, article involving more in depth statistical analysis. I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts on it and what sort of things they would find interesting to look at. I am working on devising a statistical method to accurately predict which team will win an upcoming game as well as a Power Rankings formula, both of which I hope to unveil in a few weeks time. As part of those projects I have tried to identify what teams win games. Do defensive minded teams win, or do offensive minded teams win. To do this I analyzed all the game results of the 2003-04 season and came up with the following results.

Home Team Record 589-470-171 .548 win%
Team with better offence 634-414-166 .591
Team with better defense 637-414-170 .591
Team with better offence
and defense
444-224-101 .643
Home team has better offence 351-180- 76 .641
Home team has better defense 349-178- 84 .640
Road team has better offence 283-234- 90 .540
Road team has better defense 288-236- 86 .543

A team was said to have better offence if they, over the course of the full season, had more goals for than their opponent. A team was said to have better defense if they had fewer goals against than their opponent.

What surprised me is how little it matters whether you have the better offence or better defense. So long as you are better than your opponent at one of them, you have a good chance at winning. Of course, being better both in scoring goals and stopping them is the best. Also, playing at home is a significant advantage too.

General hockey wisdom is that teams frequently play differently at home than on the road. At home they prefer to play an offense oriented game to put on a show for their fans while on the road they play a more disciplined defensive style game. The fact that home teams score about 10% more goals than road teams would seem to back this up, but it could also be due to the extra fatigue/stress caused by traveling and living out of a suitcase. Whatever the reason, home teams score more goals.

In the above table we used season long (82 game) goals for and goals against data, but what if we use home and road (41 game) goals for and goals against data. i.e. when determining which team has the best offence we look at the home teams goals for in games played at home and the road teams goals for in games played on the road. When we do this the results look quite different.

Team with better offence 656-381-166 .614
Team with better defense 539-514-170 .510
Team with better offence
and defense
284-146- 61 .641
Home team has better offence 446-253-110 .619
Home team has better defense 91- 20- 7 .801
Road team has better offence 210-128- 56 .604
Road team has better defense 448-494-163 .479

Now those are some dramatically different results. The shocking thing is, if you can play good defence at home or good offence on the road, you improve your chances of winning dramatically. Also, it appears to be a big mistake to play defensive on the road.

The five teams with the fewest goals against at home Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Colorado, and Ottawa. The five teams with the most goals on the road are Colorado, Ottawa, Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver, all very good teams with very good records. All of those teams finished with 100+ points except Dallas which ended up with 97. Also, Detroit and Dallas had the two best home record and San Jose finished fourth and Ottawa fifth.

Conversely, the five teams with the fewest goals against on the road are New Jersey, Boston, Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota. The five teams with the most goals for at home are Detroit, Ottawa, NY Islanders, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Two of those teams didn’t make the playoffs and two others had fewer than 95 points.

Moral of the story: Playing offensive at home and defensive on the road isn’t necessarily the best strategy.

 Posted by at 5:23 pm
Oct 072005
 

The season started with a bang in New Jersey last night. Sidney Crosby got his first taste of NHL action, the new look Pittsburgh offense made it’s debut, and New Jersey’s new defense was showcased as well. Here’s what I thought of the game:

Pittsburgh:
This team can put some pressure on the net! The first half of the first period was spent on the Pittsburgh powerplay, and the puck rarely came out of the zone. Mario was his usual patient, all-seeing, brilliant self. Sidney, in his first NHL game, was surprisingly composed and alert. If any other goaltender in the world was in net, he would have had at least two goals. He did manage to finish the night with an assist on the Pens lone goal, but on this night his former high school teammate, Zach Parise of the Devils, would be the more impressive rookie.

Goaltending looked like an issue for Pittsburgh. Thibault was just average in net… he never seemed to settle down. Maybe it was opening night jitters, or maybe he was nervous because he was playing for a new team, but he didn’t look very good. His performance makes me wonder what Eddie Olzcyk plans on doing with Marc-Andre Fleury.

New Jersey:
This team definitely is not the Devils of old. The absense of Stevens and Niedermayer was glaringly obvious. Matvichuk struggled to finish hits… Crosby slithered away from him a few times. McGillis was absolutely atrocious on the point during powerplays. But the bright spots for this crew are their puck-movers. Rafalski looks like captain material out there… his presence is dominant, especially considering his diminutive stature (5’9″, 191 lbs.). Malakhov, although slow on his feet, looked better than ever with the puck. Paul Martin continues to grow in his game and will one day be a top defenseman.

To anyone who watched the game, the star was obvious. Marty Brodeur stood on his head and made the Penguins shake theirs on too many occasions to count. Also, with the two-line pass rule gone, he set up his teammates several times with tape-to-tape passes that some NHL defensemen aren’t even capable of making. If he continues to play like this, the Devils are a very legitimate threat for the Stanley Cup.

Finally, there was one more big difference between the new Devils and the old Devils… they didn’t sit on their lead. In seasons past, the Devs used to trap their way to victory whenever they’d get an early lead. This team, however, under Larry Robinson’s guidance was aggressive to the end. Their five-goal output was evidence of this.

I did get to see bits and pieces of other games, thanks to the Center Ice digital cable package. I remember turning on the Leafs-Senators game and being amazed by the flow. The teams seemed to go back and forth nonstop creating big plays and opportunities at every turn… very exciting game. The Rangers victory over the Flyers took a lot of people by surprise. It seemed to me that the Rangers were outworking the Flyers down low… something New York hasn’t been known for since the mid-90s. Forsberg was great, though, and as soon as Hatcher comes back Philly should be OK.

The general impression I got was that teams are still struggling with the new penalties. I hope referees start calling diving more often because I saw a lot of innocent players sent to the box as the result of Oscar-worthy acting performances. I also saw a lot of two-line passing. That one new rule is having a major impact on the game and I, for one, am happy to see it. The new goalie restrictions on where the puck can be played just seemed silly. Skilled goalies just retrieve the puck before it crosses the goal line, and stay-at-home netminders just continue to play the puck the way they always have. Hopefully this rule will have a shorter life span than the ill-fated crease rule.

 Posted by at 9:18 am
Oct 062005
 

I watched all of the Leafs-Sens game last night as well as some portions of several other games. Here are my random thoughts from what I saw.

Leafs
Overall they looked very good and only some weak defensive play resulting in Alfredsson’s second goal put a damper on an otherwise good night. If they can play like that every game they will have a very good season. They looked big, strong on the puck, and their average speed didn’t appear to be major liability. Losing Sundin to injury in the first period seemed to hurt the Leafs a lot, especially on the power play.. It has been a common problem for the Leafs the last several years but I really think they need to shoot more often while on the power play. For the most part while on the man advantage they controlled play in Ottawa’s zone but just didn’t generate the number of scoring chances they should have from 11 power plays. The new guys did their part though as Jeff O’Neill had eight shots on net and Lindros had five while the rest of the team only recorded 12. There is no reason why Kaberle should only have 1 shot from all that power play time.

Senators
Although they got the win, any realistic Senator fan has to be somewhat concerned by last nights game. The Senators took way too many penalties and the Leafs managed to keep the Senators offence under control for most of the game. The other thing that might concern Senators fans is that Brian Murray’s plan to distribute the offence over three lines appears to have failed so far. Although Alfredsson played well most of the game, he simply couldn’t generate much offence playing with Fisher and Neil. And maybe more concerning is that the second line of Schaeffer, Smolinski and Havlat haven’t been producing much offence through the pre-season and now into the regular season. In 21 combined games so far they produced just 4 goals and 9 points. If the Senators are going to have a successful season they need that line to contribute more goals.

The Shoot-Out
Ummm, maybe I would have a different opinion had the Leafs won the shoot-out, but I doubt it. People talk about how interesting the shoot-out is, but to be honest it wasn’t one tenth as interesting as the actual hockey game. It just seemed that going from a fast paced, hard hitting, nail biting regular game and overtime to a slow paced shoot-out was a bit of a let down. The shoot-out takes about 10 minutes to take place but most of that is just watching players stand around waiting for one of them to take 5 seconds skating down the ice on a breakaway. And when you think about it, all it proved was that the Senators have more pure talent than the Sundin-less Leafs, but didn’t we already know that?

Other Notes
In other games, I think last night showed that despite the new rules and smaller pads, good goaltending is still a key component of the game. Hasek and Belfour played great, and Theodore saved 29 of 30 shots to get Montreal the win. Luongo once again over came a sub-par defence and stopped 34 shots to give the Panthers a 2-0 shutout win. And Martin Brodeur looked nothing short of awesome in stopping 17 first period shots from the Pittsburgh Penguins and 36 of 37 overall in a 5-1 Devils win. Conversely, in Philadelphia, Robert Esche struggled at times giving up 5 goals on 27 shots allowing the Rangers to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win 5-3. Nikolai Khabibulin’s carrer in Chicago didn’t get off to a great start as he gave up 5 goals on just 24 shots to the Ducks from Anaheim.

I was watching bits of the first period of the Buffalo-New York Islanders game (not sure why, just was), and some guy names Chris Campoli really caught my eye. He is a rookie defenseman for the Islanders and he completely dominated while quarterbacking one Islander power play and scored his first career goal in his first NHL game shortly after. I am not sure he will have any kind of long-term success but for those couple minutes he was excellent.

And finally, so far things look positive in the NHL’s desire for more goals. As you may have noticed from the table in the top-right corner of this page goals per game after 15 games is up to 6.33 from 5.00 in 2003-04. Of course it is still way too early to say whether it will continue but so far so good.

 Posted by at 4:21 pm
Oct 062005
 

The “New” NHL is less than 2 hours away and it is time to really see what effect the new rules will have on the game. To do this I have created a tracking table to track this years goals per game average vs that of 2003-04. I hope to keep it updated frequently, especially early in the season, and will make the first update tomorrow.

If you are interested in using the goals per game 2003-04 vs 2005-06 comparision image as shown below on your website you may but you must link back to http://www.hockeyanalysis.com should you do so. You can grab the image from http://www.hockeyanalysis.com/images/goalspergameaverage.jpg. I hope to update it every few days throughout the season.

For example, the following HTML code could be used on your website:

<a href=”http://www.hockeyanalysis.com”><img src=”http://www.hockeyanalysis.com/images/goalspergameaverage.jpg” / ></a>

The above will give the following:

Goals per game average comparison

 Posted by at 2:55 am
Oct 052005
 

There seems to be a common thread when discussing the Leafs chances this upcoming season. That thread is that the Leafs will struggle to make the playoffs. I seriously disagree with that claim. The basis for that claim is that they lost way too much talent and the guys they brought in are just way too injury prone. But let’s look at each player that has left and gone and see where things stand.

Gone is Gary Roberts who had 28 goals, 48 points in 72 games in 2003-04. Now, in my mind, it is not a stretch of anyone’s imagination to believe that Jeff O’Neill can equal or match what Gary Roberts provided the Leafs in 2003-04. O’Neill is coming of a substandard season in 2003-04 in which he suffered from some nagging injuries but the four seasons before that he played in 82, 76, 82, and 80 games scoring 30, 31, 41, and 25 goals. There is no reason to believe that O’Neill can’t score 30 goals this year and be a more than adequate replacement for Gary Roberts.

Gone is Alexander Mogilny who had 8 goals, 30 points in 37 games. Ok, this is an easy one. There is every reason to expect that Mariusz Czerkawski will exceed what Mogilny provided the Leafs offensively. Czerkawski is coming off a 25 goal, 49 point season with the Islanders and 20 goals is certainly an easily attainable goal, even 30 goals isn’t out of the question. While not a great defensive player Czerkawski could actually benefit from the new rules and I think Czerkawski can be a nice replacement for Mogilny. At least for the contribution to the Leafs that Mogilny made in 2003-04.

Gone is Joe Nieuwendyk who had 22 goals, 50 points in 64 games. It also wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination that Eric Lindros can match those numbers, or at least come reasonably close to them. If Lindros was able to play 64 games 15-20 goals and 40-50 points is certainly not a stretch of the imagination.

Gone is Owen Nolan who scored 19 goals, 48 points in 65 games. This is where Jason Allison comes in. Although they are different types of players, if Jason Allison is healthy it is easy to assume that he match Nolans numbers and quite possibly surpass them, although the distribution between goals and assists might differ since Allison is a center and Nolan is a winger. But it certainly wouldn’t surprise me that if Allison can play 65 games that he would get 50+ points.

I know everyone is going to say, but what if Lindros and Allison do get injured. Well, if you read my above analysis, I am already factoring in that they will miss 17 or 18 games. Could the miss more? Yeah, sure, but they could miss fewer too and neither you, I, nor anyone else can predict which it will be, but predicting 17-18 games missed seems like being reasonably cautious without being overly pessimistic.

There is also no reason to believe that young guys like Antropov and Ponikarovsky will not improve or that Tucker can’t produce more offensively when placed in a more offensive role.

And what about Belfour? What if he gets injured. Well, sure, if Hasek gets injured in Ottawa, or Kipprusoff gets injured in Calgary, or Brodeur in New Jersey, or Turco in Dallas, those teams will all struggle to make the playoffs too. But what I do know is that over the past 7 seasons that Ed Belfour has played he has played in 61, 61, 62, 63, 60, 62 and 59 games plus another 17, 23, 23, 10, 0, 7, and 13 playoff games. To me that is a model of consistency so predicting Belfour might miss a significant portion of the season seems a bit pessimistic. Now, I do realize that he did have back surgery after the 2004 playoffs but that was 15 months ago, has been cleared to play for almost a year, has shown no ill-effects so far, and by all reports is in excellent condition.

The core of the Leaf defence is the same as 2003-04 led by McCabe, Kaberle, Klee and Berg. Added is Alexander Khavanov who should prove to be a good #4/5 defenseman as well as another guy who can play the point on the PP. The sixth defenseman duties will be spread around between the best of Wozniewski, Kronvall, Colaiacovo, Wade Belak, Brad Brown and Karel Pilar if he can ever overcome his health issues. I know you are going to ask, what about Leetch? Well, Leetch only played a handful of regular season games with the Leafs and so was only a limited factor in the Leafs very successful 103 point season. They were a very good team before he arrived.

So, when all is taken into account, predicting the Leafs will get 95 points in the upcoming regular season is not that crazy and if Allison can produce anywhere near the level he did prior to his injuries, reaching 100 points is certainly not out of the question.

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Oct 052005
 

(Also posted on The Devil’s Advocate)

Offense
Subtractions: So far, the only forwards to leave the swamp are Jan Hrdina and Jeff Friesen. Hrdina never seemed to fit in too well in New Jersey, and Friesen suffered from chronic underachieving. Friesen was a terrific playoff performer, however, and in that regard he will be sorely missed. Expect more forwards to leave in the next month to clear space in the cap-cramped Meadowlands. Patrik Elias signed a 1-year deal with the team, but will miss at least one month due to hepatitis recovery.

Additions: Alexander Mogilny is back in a Devils sweater. Last time he put one on, Larry Robinson was coach and he paired up with Scott Gomez… the end result was a 43 goal season for Almo. Well guess what… Robinson is behind the bench again and he’s back on a line with Gomez. His hip is an issue of concern, but everyone around him is confident that he will hold up. The only other forwards the Devils inked are tough-guys Darren Langdon and Krzysztof Oliwa.

Overall: This squad is very similar to the one that played last season. Madden, Brylin, Pandolfo, Gionta, and Gomez are still there. Langenbrunner continues to play like a grinder stuck in a scorer’s body, which fits perfectly in Jersey. Kozlov adds size up front to an otherwise small offense. Rasmussen and Marshall the other big forwards who are guaranteed regular ice time. One player to watch out for is Zach Parise, who may finally be ready to make his NHL debut. Veteran Pascal Rheaume and rookies Aleksander Suglobov and Adrian Foster will be ready to go from Albany if the Devs ever call upon them. This is among the deepest offensive units the Devils have had in recent years.

Defense
Subtractions: Almost too monsterous to mention. Scott Niedermayer packed his bags and took a pay cut to play with his brother in Anaheim. Scott Stevens, the team’s leader in every sense of the word, has hung up his skates after a masterful career. Both of these guys played on all three Stanley Cup teams in New Jersey, and with them a ton of skill, heart, and experience has left.

Additions: Lou wasted no time filling in the holes, er, craters on D. Before the lockout started, Richard Matvichuk was signed. Within hours of Niedermayer’s departure, Brian Rafalski was re-signed and Vladimir Malakhov and Dan McGillis were brought in.
Overall: This ain’t your daddy’s Devils defense. But that’s not to say they aren’t good. This crew is still among the most solid in the East. The top six guys have a nice balance of size and puck-moving ability. Colin White, Dan McGillis, and Richard Matvichuk will provide the muscle, while Rafalski, Malakhov, and Martin will bring the skill. Martin’s game advanced very quickly in his rookie year, and he is expected to be even better this season. David Hale and Sean Brown are two solid D-men waiting in the wings if their services are needed.

Goaltending:
Martin Brodeur is still a Devil. ‘Nuff said.

The Big Picture:
The Devils not only lost their captain when Stevens retired, but a large piece of their identity. If this team can resolve its identity crisis quickly, they’ll be very good. The ’95 Cup team rallied around the team’s lifers… guys like John MacLean, Bruce Driver, and Ken Daneyko. The ’05 version has it’s own ensemble of lifers… guys like Colin White, Brian Rafalski, Scott Gomez, Patrik Elias, Sergei Brylin, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Brian Gionta, and of course Marty Brodeur. Lamoriello has done a fine job of assembling a solid core of guys who know no way other than the Devil way, and this group is as solid as any. Even the guys he brought in – Vladimir Malakhov and Alex Mogilny – have won a Stanley Cup in New Jersey before. Unfamiliarity shouldn’t be an issue here.

Back behind the bench is Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson. Last time he was here, he had a two year stint that featured two trips to the Cup Finals, and in his second season his team led the league in scoring. Vladimir Malakhov has said that he wouldn’t have returned to the NHL unless he could play for Robinson. The players love this guy, and a better man couldn’t have been picked to step up in the wake of Pat Burns’ battle with cancer.

On paper, the Devils have the makings of a top team. Their first line alone (as soon as Elias gets healthy) has the potential to put up monster numbers. Zach Parise has been dominant in the World Juniors, AHL, and pre-season… look for this kid to make a bid for the Calder in this, the year of Sid. Jamie Langenbrunner would be a second line scoring threat for a lot of teams, and even a first liner for some, but he will likely be a third liner for New Jersey… a testament to their depth at forward. Brian Gionta had a strong finish last season on the Deviled EGG line, look for him to pick up where he left off. Madden, Brylin, and Pandolfo are all best-known for their defensive abilities, but all of them have a scoring touch as well. Madden’s breakaway speed could help him have an offensive breakout year.

Finally, let’s not forget who’s in net here. Brodeur is arguably the best goaltender in the world right now. Any team with him in net has a chance to go the distance. There are only four goaltenders in the NHL right now whose names appear on the Cup. Unless you have a world-class netminder, consider your season done. The Devils will never have that problem with #30 between the pipes.

That said, the Devils will finish second in the Atlantic. Their blend of size, speed, youth, and veteran presence on D will be a nice fit in the new NHL. Their offense will surprise a lot of people this year, as it is loaded with speed and talent. When playoff time comes around, we’ll see if they can overcome their two big losses, but as far as the regular season goes, they should be fine.

 Posted by at 4:30 am
Oct 042005
 

I have started a free fantasyhockey league for all HockeyAnalysis.com readers. To join, go to CDM Sports Free Hockey Pool, create a team and join KrushersGroup using the Access word “hockeyanalysis” (without the quotes). Hope to see you all there. It should be fun. Must be entered before games start tomorrow.

 Posted by at 4:55 pm