Good systems, good scoring and good luck get teams into the playoffs, but once they are there, it is often about which teams get hot at the right time. Good systems and talent certainly help this happen, but a goalie stealing a playoff series or even the Stanley Cup is not a real oddity in the NHL.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written on shot metrics, you’ll know that most of the teams that make the playoffs have a good mix of shot generation and shot suppression strength.
Below are the regular season unblocked shots rates for every playoff team from the 2005-06 season through the present season presented in the form of their deviation from the league average for each metric that season. Teams above the horizontal axis gave up shots at a higher rate than league average whereas teams below it gave up shots at a lower rate. Teams to the left of the vertical axis took shots at a lower rate than league average and teams to the right took shots at a higher rate. It makes logical sense that being in the bottom right quadrant (give up less shots, take more shots) is the best place to be.
It really should not surprise anyone to find the majority of the Stanley Cup winners and finalists in the lower right quadrant. The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins team is the only Cup winner on the left side of the vertical axis, but when we look closer, we see they were much better going into the playoffs than their season-long metrics suggest.
After the firing of Michel Therrien and subsequent promotion of Dan Bylsma, the Penguins turned their season around and ended up winning the Cup.
The 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes and 2010-11 Boston Bruins are the other Cup winners above the horizontal axis and anyone who remembers those series will tell you the goalies absolutely deserved to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Then 21 year old Cam Ward came in to save the Hurricanes’ bacon posting .940 (Round 1), .917 (Round 2), .901 (Conference Final) and .920 (Stanley Cup Final) Save Percentages (all situations).
36 year old Tim Thomas’s performance for the Boston Bruins in the 2010-11 playoffs was nothing short of masterful. In all situations, Thomas posted .926 (Round 1), .953 (Round 2), .916 (Conference Final), and .967 (Stanley Cup Final) Sv%.
Where do this season’s playoff teams stack up at 5v5 play with the playoff teams of the past?
At this point, it is fair to say that there isn’t one specifically dominant team to point to as a favorite. The Calgary Flames are the oddball this season as the Colorado Avalanche were last season. Many of the matchups in Round 1 of the playoffs are very difficult to predict. Below is a breakdown of some interesting metrics, each team’s strengths and weaknesses as well as some notes on which teams seem to be getting hot or going cold in certain areas of play.
*Click on the tables below for a larger image
Save Percentage: 5v5 and Penalty Kill
Shooting Percentage: 5v5 and Power Play
Special Teams: Goals Against/60 Penalty Kill and Goals For/60 Power Play
Eastern Conference Matchups
Western Conference Matchups
All of these matchups are pretty tough to call and as we all know, anything can and will happen in the playoffs, but I’ll take a shot at guessing the winners anyway.
Enjoy the playoffs!
**All raw data used herein was collected from war-on-ice.com**