Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Round 3 picks

I've got some family in town this week all the way from the 'loops — they refuse to listen when I tell them not to come during the playoffs — so this will have to be oh so brief:

Western Conference
(1) Detroit vs. (2) Anaheim

I still honestly believe the loss of Mathieu Schneider is really going to hold the Wings back — although I have to admit that it's going to be mighty interesting watching a 61-year-old Chris Chelios play 25+ minutes a night and get some time on the power play.

Who know? Maybe he's up to that challenge.

Speaking of challenges, though, there are a ton of them for Detroit (namely the pair of Norris nominees that will be hounding their top scorers), and it's going to take a world-class performance by Dominik Hasek for them to win this series.

Anaheim has two aces up its sleeve: unheralded secondary scoring from the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and an unbelievable penalty kill/shutdown game led by Sammy Pahlsson. Combine those and I think things are getting Ducky (again) for the Stanley Cup finals.

And given Anaheim has been to these conference finals three times in four years, I think we have our first quasi-dynasty in recent memory.

Quack, quack.

Prediction: Ducks in 6


Eastern Conference
(1) Buffalo vs. (4) Ottawa

Ah... I don't know.

Honestly, has there been a more pick'em series this year than this one? The Senators have played better through two rounds against obviously overmatched teams, while the Sabres have struggled to dominate what should have been overmatched opposition.

Does that mean Ottawa wins here?

Not necessarily — and especially considering that Buffalo has managed to advance despite not putting up its best game.

I have much respect for Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov, but there are a lot of top-notch skaters on that Sabres blue line as well. I expect the supporting cast, including newcomer Dainius Zubrus — who has been terrific — to really stand out, and it may simply fall to the second, third and fourth liners on either team to pot a few goals to decide this series.

If we can assume the top lines are effectively shutdown by the checking dynamos they're up against, I like Buffalo's chances.

(In this round, anyway.)

Besides, never bet against Chris Drury.

Prediction: Buffalo in 7

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13 Comments:

At 12:20 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger sager said...

61? Chelios is getting younger by the day.

 
At 12:25 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger PDO said...

2004 Conference Final was Sharks-Flames.

Just sayin'... third in 4 years, not 3rd consecutive ;)

Sens win because the Sabres rely too much on the rush to score goals, and the puck possession bites them in the ass against a very strong Ottawa squad.

 
At 2:31 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Yes, the Wings have a problem with their defense depth at this point, and that could be a sufficient argument for making them underdogs. I'm not sure where parts of your arguments come from, though. A better argument would be a straightforward one that the Pacific was just a better division than the Central, and so all of the numbers have to be tweaked.

Yes, Ryan Getzlaf is very good, but the fact that he doesn't get enough attention doesn't mean that he provides better secondary scoring than the Wings have. If you break it down, the Ducks actually got a higher percentage of their goals from their top line than Detroit did. Anaheim's second line does feel sexier than any other group Detroit runs out there, but players like Lang, Franzen, Cleary and Samuelsson have been just as productive as the secondary scoring the Ducks bring.

In the same way, is Sami Pahlsson that much better a shut down defender than Kris Draper? His +/- is actually below water this year, and, while that is certainly a flawed stat, it should give one pause before making bold assertions that he's superior. Detroit has allowed fewer goals this year than Anaheim did, and that's either because Hasek & Osgood are better than Giguere and Bryzgalov, or because the Wings play better defense.

 
At 10:06 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

In the same way, is Sami Pahlsson that much better a shut down defender than Kris Draper?

We'll see, but at the moment my answer is yes. Earl Sleek has written a ton of good material on why Pahlsson's been one of the best defensive players in the league all season, and I had sort of a mini-analysis here.


His +/- is actually below water this year, and, while that is certainly a flawed stat, it should give one pause before making bold assertions that he's superior.

I'm hardly out on a limb by my lonesome on this one.

Besides, any argument involving plus-minus as an indication of defensive prowess is inherently flawed. Let's see some numbers regarding who Pahlsson had to line-up against this season and compare it to the rest of the league.

Besides, he plays with Moen and Rob Niedermayer, and those fellows aren't scoring any goals.

Tough to be a plus player in that situation.


Detroit has allowed fewer goals this year than Anaheim did, and that's either because Hasek & Osgood are better than Giguere and Bryzgalov, or because the Wings play better defense.

The Red Wings allowed just seven fewer goals over 82 games this season, and that was with Pronger missing 16 games and Bryzgalov/Wall picking up 30 starts.

I don't think that's an indication of Detroit's defensive dominance, especially considering Schneider is going to be munching on popcorn for this one.

 
At 10:17 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

And given Anaheim has been to these conference finals three times in four years, I think we have our first quasi-dynasty in recent memory.

That's the best joke I've heard all week. Good one!

 
At 10:18 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Didn't you retire?

 
At 10:42 AM, May 10, 2007, Anonymous Daniel said...

Not that it really matters, and I am sure people will tell me to shut up, but its that whole Central thing again as far as goals allowed. St. Louis, Chicago and Columbus? That has to be worth -20 goals just on paper.

 
At 11:33 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

I think that this round is completely up in the air, but in the wings defense, I'll say that I think that the wings faced tougher opponents than the ducks in the first and second rounds... Also, the ducks will have had a huge break before they get on the ice on Friday.

They ducks might not be prepared for what Detroit is bringing to the table.

In the end, I guess I won't be surprised to see any one of these 4 teams to all the way.

 
At 11:57 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

...in the wings defense, I'll say that I think that the wings faced tougher opponents than the ducks in the first and second rounds.

I've been hearing this quite a bit, but I'm not entirely convinced it's true. If you look at team's records after Christmas, only two western teams had more wins and points than Detroit did--Vancouver and Minnesota. They were the two best penalty-killing teams in the league, and their goaltenders are Jennings and Vezina/Hart material.

Sure they proved to be one-line threats that couldn't score on the power play, but just because the Ducks made it look easy doesn't necessarily mean that it was.

 
At 1:01 PM, May 10, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

I hear what you're saying, and I thought Vancouver was so good that they'd go all the way before the playoffs started - but - I watched those games, and as soon as I saw vancouver play they way they did in the first round against dallas, I knew they wouldn't get past the ducks.

Vancouver and Minnesota looked good before the playoffs started, but for the past few weeks, they haven't really looked all that great... Which is really all that counts.

 
At 6:26 PM, May 10, 2007, Blogger J.R. Hippe said...

I'm not sure who's going to win the East, but I think this series will be over quickly in five games. Unfortunately it's not going to live up to the hype.

 
At 6:57 PM, May 10, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Besides, any argument involving plus-minus as an indication of defensive prowess is inherently flawed. Let's see some numbers regarding who Pahlsson had to line-up against this season and compare it to the rest of the league.

Sure. This is, indeed, one of the problems with +/-. So, don't go by it as gospel. The problem is that none of the attempts at correcting it are very satisfying. At Behind the Nets, there are several major problems with the stats. (That's not a knock, by the way, this stuff is really tough, and I always like to see progress.) The first is that there are obvious sample size problems; does anyone really believe that the Senators are more likely to win if, every time Dany Heatley is on the ice, they decide to play a man down? Also, there is a much bigger problem involved in the second order question of who your opponents have spent their time on the ice against than the description of the methodology suggets. This is really something that needs to be handled in some sort of reiterative process. Actually, almost the whole thing cries out for some sort of reiterative process, because the data is badly cross-polluted.

Besides, he plays with Moen and Rob Niedermayer, and those fellows aren't scoring any goals.

And Kirk Maltby was lighting up the lamp?

The Red Wings allowed just seven fewer goals over 82 games this season, and that was with Pronger missing 16 games and Bryzgalov/Wall picking up 30 starts.

The Ducks scored just four more goals over 82 games this season, and that was with Zetterberg missing 19 games, Schneider missing 14 games, Samuelsson missing 29 games, and no one other than the aforementioned Maltby playing in all 82. Now, this sense of fragility is a reason to think that the Ducks may have an advantage, but it also suggests that if we're going to try to adjust goals for and goals against for games lost, it's going to tilt in the Wings' favor, rather than the Ducks.

Not that it really matters, and I am sure people will tell me to shut up, but its that whole Central thing again as far as goals allowed. St. Louis, Chicago and Columbus? That has to be worth -20 goals just on paper.

And the Kings and Coyotes didn't have a positive effect on the number of goals the Ducks scored? A first order analysis (adding up goals for and goals against for the other four teams in each division) suggests that Anaheim had a slight boost in scoring goals, and Detroit had a slightly greater boost in preventing them. The total difference is small, probably amounting to 5-8 goals over the season. This is a really crude guess, though, so take it for what it's worth.

I've been hearing this quite a bit, but I'm not entirely convinced it's true. If you look at team's records after Christmas, only two western teams had more wins and points than Detroit did--Vancouver and Minnesota.

Hot streaks are a horrible tool for predicting future success. Unless there is a specific reason to think that the post-Christmas team was more representative of the team that played in the playoffs, you should just ignore this sort of analysis. It's an exercise in Fun with Endpoints, which is a real no-no. If, for instance, you use December 18th as the starting point for the Canucks instead of December 25th, you get somewhat different results. Why should that week be discounted entirely, while the week after Christmas be given full weight? It also means that you are deliberately choosing to operate with a smaller sample, which is something that needs to be justified.

Again, I have no problem with anoinitng the Wings as the underdog in this series; I'm doing the same myself. However, I think that that's pretty much entirely a response to the injuries on the blueline. If Schneider and Lebda were as healthy as anyone else at this point, I'd have a hard time finding much of a difference in quality between these two teams.

It isn't the cranky Wings fan in me coming out; it's the cranky statistician. I just think that, having decided that the Ducks are the favorite in this series, there are some folks who are working from that belief and then hunting up evidence to support the conclusion they already came to.

Don't push me, or I'm going to remind everyone that I called Ottawa's resurgence to the top of the standings and Toronto's demise back in November. We really don't need that sort of arrogance around here, do we?

 
At 1:00 PM, May 11, 2007, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Hot streaks are a horrible tool for predicting future success. Unless there is a specific reason to think that the post-Christmas team was more representative of the team that played in the playoffs, you should just ignore this sort of analysis.

a) I don't know if I'd call 45-50 games a 'hot streak'. Why wouldn't this be more representative of the team you'd see in the playoffs than games played 5 months ago?

b) There is justification for using roughly this timeframe: Luongo finding his game (or his team finding the way to play in front of Luongo), and the return of Marian Gaborik, who was quite the game-breaker for them (though to be fair, he returned a couple weeks after Christmas).

I dunno, I've been questioned quite a bit about using it, but I guess I fail to see what the big deal is. Last year I noted how well the Sharks and Ducks played in the latter half of the season (personnel was a big factor), and it seemed to hold true in the playoffs.

 

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