2015 Playoff Predictions

After three seemingly never ending nights without hockey, the playoffs are finally upon us, with the Habs and Sens, and Caps and Isles set to kick off the postseason tonight at 7. As in years past I’m going to be posting predictions for each matchup as well as overall cup odds throughout the playoffs. Unlike the last 2 years, however, I’m using a new (and hopefully improved) model to predict how well each team will do.

This new model is based partly on work that I’ve completed and written about in the past (for example, a major element is Score Adjusted Weighted Shots), and partly on work that I’ve done but haven’t written about. I’ll hopefully get into more detail on the model later, but at a high level the key factors are:

  • 5v5 Score Adjusted Weighted Shots For Per 60 (over the last 25 games)
  • 5v5 Score Adjusted Weighted Shots Against Per 60 (over the last 25 games)
  • Penalties Drawn Per 60 (full season)
  • Penalties Taken Per 60 (full season)
  • Powerplay Weighted Shot Differential Per 60 (full season)
  • Penalty Kill Weighted Shot Differential Per 60 (full season)

Both the Powerplay and Penalty Kill shot weights are different from the even strength weights, but the principles used in deriving the weights are the same. All these factors are scaled against league average and then used to determine each team’s advantage on offense, defense and special teams. Based on these advantages we can predict each team’s likelihood of defeating their opponent in a single game, and extrapolate these single game numbers to find a total series probability.

So who does our new model think will be accepting the Cup from Gary Bettman this spring?

Team Win Round 1 Win Round 2 Win Round 3 Win Cup
NYR 56.4% 30.8% 18.0% 9.8%
CHI 53.1% 27.3% 16.0% 9.0%
STL 51.4% 27.0% 15.7% 8.6%
OTT 60.2% 32.9% 16.4% 8.1%
WPG 52.2% 33.0% 15.6% 8.1%
MIN 48.6% 23.9% 13.6% 7.4%
WSH 50.9% 25.4% 14.0% 7.0%
ANA 47.8% 29.4% 13.8% 7.0%
NYI 49.1% 24.2% 13.2% 6.6%
NSH 46.9% 21.8% 11.7% 5.9%
DET 53.8% 27.2% 12.3% 5.6%
PIT 43.6% 19.6% 9.7% 4.5%
T.B 46.2% 21.6% 9.2% 4.1%
CGY 54.5% 21.7% 8.3% 3.4%
MTL 39.8% 18.3% 7.2% 3.0%
VAN 45.5% 16.0% 5.3% 1.9%

The New York Rangers lead the initial Puck++ prediction, coming in just ahead of the Blackhawks, and sitting as the (somewhat) clear favourites in the East. New York is favoured to win a series against any club in the playoffs, although interestingly their odds only top 60% versus a handful of teams. Chicago has the top odds in the West by virtue of their first round matchup versus Nashville, and if they’re able to survive a tough second round series against the Wild or Blues, they’ll likely advance to face the Blueshirts in the Cup.

A few other stray observations:

  • This year is more wide open than any year in recent memory. Eleven of 16 playoff clubs have Stanley Cup odds above 5%, compared to only 5 last year. On top of that, no club is projected to have more than a 10% chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug. Even the overall favourites, the New York Rangers, are viewed as having just a 56% chance of getting out of the first round.
  • Out in the West, the winner of the Central looks poised to represent the conference in the finals. The model actually believes that the Blues are a better team than Chicago, but they’ll need to get through a tough first round matchup against Minnesota before they get a shot at the Hawks.
  • Vancouver and Calgary are not very good hockey teams. Both teams enter the playoffs after posting sub-50% Corsi totals for the year, with the Canucks fading down the stretch to a 47.5% Score Adjusted mark over their last 25 games. And although Calgary’s discipline gives them the edge in the first round, don’t look for them to make it much further. The model views them as heavy underdogs against both Anaheim and Winnipeg.
  • Ottawa is the largest favourite of round one, with the model having them winning against Montreal 6 out of 10 times. It’s not just in the first round that the model likes the Sens though – Ottawa is predicted to come out on top against both Tampa and Detroit, with their odds against each club sitting at 59.8% and 58.8% respectively. It’s not until the conference finals that the Sens are expected to fall, as they would enter as underdogs versus all the Metropolitan qualifiers excluding Pittsburgh.
  • The Islanders-Capitals series is projected to be the tightest of the first eight, with Washington’s advantage sitting at barely two percentage points. Entering the first round as an underdog is a big fall for the Islanders, who were one of the better teams by Weighted Shots for a good portion of the season. If they’re able to rediscover some of the magic that drove them through the first half of the year, look for them to pull off the upset.
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