Friday, September 26, 2008

East vs. West

This might be old hat for some, but here's a look at how the schedule will be divided up this season as the NHL moves away from ridiculously division-heavy play:
Each team will play the teams in its division three times at home and three times on the road, for a total of 24 games. Each club will continue to play 40 games inside its conference but outside its division (10 opponents) twice at home and twice on the road. That brings the in-conference total to 64 games and maintains the integrity of a conference-based playoff system.

The remaining 18 games in the 82-game schedule will involve each club playing each club in the other conference at least once, home or away, with the three remaining games being devoted to interconference “at-large” scheduling.
In essence, interconference play goes from 10 to 18 games this season, deemphasizing the importance of division alignment in the final standings. (In other words, if the Atlantic Division is once again tough and the Southeast weak, it's more likely that, let's say, four Atlantic teams and only one Southeast team qualify for the playoffs. There are, after all, fewer points to be had from interdivision play, and it's more difficult to beat up — or be beat up by — your own division.)

What we should also see is the divide between the two conferences play out a little bit more, as there'll be nearly double the interconference matches on the schedule (from 150 to 270, or 12.2% of all games to 22%).

Here's a refresher on the key differences between the East and West, based on last season's statistics:


East West NHL
GF/G 2.77 2.67 2.72
GA/G 2.80 2.63 2.72
G/G 5.57 5.30 5.44
SOG/G 29.6 28.5 29.1
SOGA/G 29.9 28.3 29.1
SV% 0.9059 0.9068 0.9064
PIM/G 13.45 14.46 13.96
PP% 18.5% 16.9% 17.7%
PK% 81.3% 83.2% 82.3%

Hopefully that's rather straightforward.

Essentially, it shows two rather different leagues. In the East, there are close to 5.6 goals scored per game, almost 0.2 more per game than in the West (which equals about 105 more over the course of a season or about seven per team).

There are also more shots on goal in Eastern games, 59.5 to 56.8, but the goaltenders have a save percentage which is only about 0.1% lower.

Western Conference teams take more penalties and, as a result, spend more time both on the power play and penalty kill, but last season on the whole scored 61 fewer man advantage goals than in the East.

If we look at only the teams that made the playoffs, the average club in the East scored 2.82 goals per game and allowed 2.63. In the West, games involving playoff-bound clubs averaged only 5.22 goals per game, with those teams scoring 2.74 and allowing 2.48.

Keeping the puck out of the net, in other words, is apparently what's winning games. Teams that make the playoffs, in both conferences, don't score significantly more than the conference as a whole, but allow far, far fewer goals against.
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2 Comments:

At 12:25 PM, September 26, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

Keeping the puck out of the net, in other words, is apparently what's winning games. Teams that make the playoffs, in both conferences, don't score significantly more than the conference as a whole, but allow far, far fewer goals against.

I remain convinced that the Bettman Point system that bestows bonuses for teams that play tie games, rewards defence more than offence. It is no surprise to me that teams with the better defensive records are compiling sufficient points to make the playoffs.

Thanks for the summary, James.

 
At 2:28 PM, September 27, 2008, Anonymous Andre said...

Very true, Bruce. I think a good post could possible on the three "wild-card" teams each team faces twice from the other conference. A comparison of which teams have the toughest "wild-card" teams and which ones have the easiest.

 

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