(Belated) Playoff Predictions

So now that the playoffs are already one game in, it would seem like a good time to post predictions right? Luckily, none of my predictions look too far off so far, although there’s still lots of time for things to go wrong.

The method I used was relatively straightforward: using the shooting %, save % and Fenwick Close % (% of non-blocked shot attempts taken by a team when the score was tied or the lead for either team was 1 goal) from 2007-2012 (data from stats.hockeyanalysis.com), as well as all the individual game results from NHL.com I created a model to predict who would win when a pair of teams with a given shooting %, save % and Fenwick Close played (I also included whether the game went to a shootout, though that doesn’t make a difference in our predictions here).

Then I ran the data from this year through the current bracket to simulate a series of potential playoffs and found the number of times that each team made it to each round and won the cup, shown in the table below.

Team

2nd Round

3rd Round

Stanley Cup

Win Cup

Chicago

79.68%

51.63%

32.88%

20.48%

Boston

80.40%

51.57%

31.94%

17.90%

Los Angeles

58.54%

33.61%

18.47%

10.16%

Pittsburgh

64.16%

37.26%

20.12%

10.02%

Montreal

57.36%

33.97%

17.08%

8.13%

Vancouver

55.46%

31.02%

14.22%

7.21%

Detroit

55.72%

20.17%

9.09%

4.07%

St. Louis

41.46%

19.50%

8.65%

3.94%

NY Rangers

58.20%

23.73%

9.96%

3.82%

San Jose

44.54%

17.95%

8.10%

3.62%

Ottawa

42.64%

18.22%

8.37%

3.42%

Anaheim

44.28%

19.32%

6.55%

2.60%

NY Islanders

35.84%

14.57%

5.80%

2.14%

Washington

41.80%

14.25%

4.72%

1.40%

Minnesota

20.32%

6.81%

2.04%

0.62%

Toronto

19.60%

6.44%

2.02%

0.48%

The one minor tweak I used was to adjust the shooting and save percentages to account for the shortened season. I took a weighted average of each teams save and shooting % with the league average save and shooting percentage over the past 5 years to create a “regressed” model. It’s not perfect by any means: it doesn’t take into account injuries or changes to a team’s lineup. But it should give a decent estimate as to who is likely to win a given matchup and progress deep into the playoffs.

Unsurprisingly, Chicago tops the list of cup contenders with a roughly 1 in 5 shot at winning it all. Following the Hawks in the West are the defending cup champs, Los Angeles, who may be in a similar position as they were last year, having a record that doesn’t necessarily reflect their underlying possession stats. The Kings have been held back by Jonathan Quick’s low save % all season (lowest 5v5 Close save % of all playoff teams), but have been a dominant puck possession team, and should be a threat to make another run provided Quick can hold up (and avoid handling the puck).

Boston is actually favoured over Pittsburgh to take the East, being a superior puck possession team and having the advantage of playing the Leafs in the first round. The Pens’ odds may be held down by having to play the Islanders in the first round. While the model puts them as only slight underdogs in a series vs. Boston, they’re only 64% favourites to win their first round series.

The team that continues to defy the laws of gravity (Toronto) sits at the bottom of the chart with only a 0.48% of winning the cup, and less than a 1 in 5 chance of advancing past the first round. While the Leafs have got by all season on the back of James Reimer and an exceptionally high shooting %, they’ll need to start taking care of the puck more if they want to make a run. They’re joined at the bottom by last year’s Icarus, Minnesota, who raced out to a quick start in 2011-2012 on the basis of a high PDO (team shooting % + team save %) only to come crashing back to earth when regression pulled them down.

The Capitals seem to have the toughest first round matchup or any division winner, and along with the Ducks are the only division champs not expected to move on (although the Blues are also underdogs). The Caps made a late run to overtake the Jets in the last few weeks of the season seeing their PDO rise from 0.979 on February 25th to 1.016 on April 22nd. The Caps are in tough against a Ranger team that finished in the top 5 in Fenwick Close but which has underperformed all year.

Anaheim is in a similar situation, facing a better possession team who hasn’t been able to put the puck in the net when it needed to. The Ducks have the advantage, however, in being up 1-0 at this point, and they’ll need to continue to win on home ice where the model has them as a slight favourite.

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