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Behind The Numbers, 11/29/10 November 29, 2010

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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As anyone with Comcast could tell you, there was an outage last night which affected a whole bunch of customers, including yours truly. That’s unusual for Comcast–they’re usually fairly reliable–so I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t work on what I promised yesterday. But I’m back online now, so here goes.

First, take a look at the Games Remaining chart. Up top, there’s a tab that says “The 2011 Charts.” Give that a click, and surf around the three charts I’ve got under there. The one I’m going to focus on for now is Games Remaining.

When I was doing yesterday’s update, Detroit’s line caught my eye. Early on, there’s not much on the schedule which separates one team from another. All teams start with 24 division games to play, 40 conference games to play, and 18 inter-conference games. A priori, you might think that the NHL likes to keep the schedules fairly consistent across the league, not giving any one team a lot more or less of one game type. Surprisingly, that’s not the case.

Below are three charts. The first shows teams listed by games within their division, the second shows non-division games, and the third shows inter-conference tilts. This is as of all games 11/28/10.

DIVISIONAL GAMES

4-5 6-7 8+
LAK 4
PHX 4
SJS 4
BOS 5
CAR 5
DET 5
NJD 5
NYI 5
NYR 5
CGY 6
CBJ 6
FLA 6
MIN 6
PIT 6
TBL 6
VAN 6
ANA 7
CHI 7
COL 7
DAL 7
EDM 7
PHI 7
ATL 8
BUF 8
NSH 8
STL 8
TOR 8
MTL 9
WSH 9
OTT 10

CONFERENCE GAMES

7-9 10-11 12+
DAL 7
NSH 7
STL 7
ATL 8
MIN 8
VAN 8
LAK 9
NJD 9
OTT 9
CAR 10
MTL 10
CGY 11
COL 11
EDM 11
FLA 11
NYI 11
PHX 11
TBL 11
TOR 11
ANA 12
BUF 12
CBJ 12
NYR 12
PHI 12
PIT 12
BOS 13
SJS 13
WSH 13
CHI 14
DET 15

INTER-CONFERENCE GAMES

1-5 6-7 8+
DET 1
TOR 3
WSH 3
BOS 4
CBJ 4
EDM 4
CHI 5
COL 5
FLA 5
MTL 5
OTT 5
SJS 5
ANA 6
CGY 6
NYI 6
PHI 6
NSH 7
PHX 7
PIT 7
STL 7
TBL 7
ATL 8
CAR 8
DAL 8
MIN 8
NYR 8
VAN 8
LAK 9
NJD 10

First, let’s look at the Capitals, since that’s my team. If you think the Caps have played a ridiculous number of divisional games, you’d be right. Only Ottawa has played more divisional games than the Caps’ 9 Southeast tilts. Remember, there are only 24 divisional games in the season, so the Caps have now played 37.5% of their division schedule already, and it’s not even December yet. In fact, as of right now, the Caps have as many games to play against the Western Conference as they do the Southeast Division. That will change this week–the Caps are visiting St. Louis and Dallas–but we’ll be right back at that quirk in exactly one week after visits from the Thrashers and Panthers. Colorado visits Washington two nights after all that, and that quirk then goes out the window. But consider this: when the Caps get on the plane out of Tampa on January 12, they will have completed fully two-thirds of their Southeast slate. Much is made in the NHL about playing well against your division, but the Capitals will have the bulk of their Southeast schedule on the books less than a week after “twelve drummers drumming.” Most of their work down the stretch will be against the rest of the East, along with a heavy dose of the Western Conference.

A couple of years ago, the NHL was finishing up each season with heavy divisional play–almost a mini division tournament to decide the final points of the season. This year? Not so much. In fact, of the 15 games the Caps play in March, only three are against the Southeast, and five are against the West.

Another perspective: New Jersey already has ten inter-conference games on the books. The Caps don’t play their tenth game against the West until February 12th. So a decent part of their stretch run–nearly one-third, it turns out–is going to be against the Western Conference. (In case you’re curious, on February 12th, New Jersey will have 16 inter-conference games completed, and will have only two remaining for the regular season.)

So yes, the Caps will need to do well against the Southeast, but they need to do it soon, because there won’t be many Southeast match-ups down the stretch. In fact, in the final three full months of the Caps’ regular season–from January 9 through April 9–the Caps have ten Southeast games, and that’s it. No team plays fewer divisional games in the final three months of the regular season, and only three other teams (Atlanta, Calgary, St. Louis) play that few. So the Caps won’t be able to influence the Southeast as much as they’d like to in the second half of the season.

So that’s what’s going on with the Capitals. Now, the team that jumped out at me was Detroit. I couldn’t believe they’d only played one game against the East so far, but it’s true. It was less than a week ago, in fact, down in Atlanta. The Wings have also had a fairly light Central schedule so far, playing a meager five games. In fact, Detroit is going to have the most control of its divisional fate in the entire league coming down the stretch. The Wings play 15 division games in their final three months: no team plays more, and only Los Angeles and San Jose play as many. The bulk of Detroit’s schedule so far has been conference games: they’ve played a league-high 15 of them out of 40, which is 37.5% (there’s that number again.)

Another interesting schedule belongs to the Senators: ten division games so far, a league high, and 11 Northeast games in the final three months. So the Sens won’t be seeing much of their division for the next month and a half or so.

There’s probably a lot more that can be said of what I’ve got here, but I think I’d better leave it to better scribes than myself. My fellow hockey bloggers are welcome to expand on what I’ve got here, and h/t’s would be appreciated. Thanks.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
NUMBER FREAK

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