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 March 13, 2009 Numbers On Ice March 13th Power Rankings by Tom Awad Printer- friendly Contact Author
 Hi everybody, and welcome to the second edition of the Bayesian Power Rankings of Numbers on Ice. This week, in addition to giving each team’s rank, offensive and defensive strength, and playoff odds, I will also point out each team’s strongest and weakest point. This will give you an idea of what teams have to work on, and what is already working, heading into the stretch run. To do this, I’ve sliced up team performance in two dimensions. First of all, I’ve split team performance into Offense, Defense and Goaltending. Offense is scoring goals, Defense is preventing shots, and Goaltending is blocking shots. There is some interaction between the categories (for example, taking penalties leads to more dangerous shots, and so is considered a defensive liability) but that’s the general idea. I’m sure some people will disagree with the way I’ve proposed to assign responsibility; please feel free to comment on it, and if possible to propose a better method that is quantifiable. In a second pass, I’ve divided up team performance according to Power-Play, Penalty-Killing, Discipline (Penalties drawn – penalties taken) and Even-Strength play. Finally, there is an 8th category, the shootout, which applies to both divisions. As I usually do, I’ve used the same basic currency, goals, to quantify team performance in each category, and I have compared each team to the average to determine its level. This is particularly useful on special teams, where people like to throw around numbers (“Detroit is scoring at a 27% rate on the power-play!”) without being able to quantify how significant it really is. In my case, I simply calculated the number of power-play opportunities a team has had, calculate their goal differential (power-play goals score – shorthanded goals against; why do people always ignore goals against when calculating power-play efficiency?) and compare this to how many goals a league average team would have scored. So in Detroit’s case, in 293 opportunities they’ve scored 79 goals and given up 3, for a total of +76; the league average is 0.165 goals / opportunity, so an average team would be up 48.3 goals on the power-play; so Detroit’s power-play represents a contribution of 27.7 goals above average. Here are the power rankings, up to and including games on Tuesday March 10th: Legend: O rat: Offensive rating. The typical number of goals you would score against an average team. Higher is better. D rat: Defensive rating. The typical number of goals an average team would score on you. Lower is better. : Trat: Total rating. O rat – D rat. Your typical margin of victory against an average team. Higher is better. : Schd: Schedule difficulty (the average Trat of your opponents). Higher means harder. : SPT: Predicted number of points at the end of the year. The standard deviation is about 5 at this point in the schedule. : PO%: Odds of making the playoffs, in percentage. : C%: Odds of winning the Stanley Cup, in percentage. : Team O rat D rat Trat Schd SPT PO% C% Comment 1 Bruins 3.12 2.51 0.61 -0.02 114 100 20 Strength: Even- strength play. The NHL's leaders in +/- are almost all Bruins, and it's not by chance: the Bruins have outscored their opponents by an incredible 56 G's at even strength. Weakness: None, but Defense is the weakest point. The Bruins' defense is only average, and the low goals against is due more to the work of Tim Thomas than Chara, Wideman & co. 2 Red Wings 3.44 2.99 0.46 -0.03 114 100 12 Strength: Offense. The Red Wings are the NHL's top offensive team, especially on the power-play. This is a team with Marian Hossa on the second line. Weakness: goaltending, obviously. The Wings have had 8 goals scored against them twice in the last 2 weeks, a trend that will have to change if they have Cup aspirations. 3 Sharks 3.10 2.67 0.43 0.01 117 100 13 Strength: Defense. The Sharks keep their shots against low, and the trio of Boyle, Blake and Vlasic is the best top 3 in the league. Weakness: None, but Goaltending is the weakest point. While both Nabokov and Boucher have played reasonably this year, they are the only average link on an otherwise exceptional team. 4 Blackhawks 3.14 2.71 0.43 0.02 103 100 10 Strength: Even-strength. The Blackhawks are one of the most balanced teams in the league, and they're +36 at even strength. Weakness: None, but Penalty Killing is the weakest point. Even here they're above average. 5 Devils 3.02 2.62 0.40 -0.06 108 100 11 Strength: Even-strength. The Devils are another balanced team, and with their only real superstar injured for the year they've succeeded as the result of a team effort. Weakness: None, but Offense if you have to pick one. Even here they have three of the top forwards in the league in Elias, Parise and Zajac. 6 Flyers 3.11 2.86 0.25 -0.02 102 98 6 Strength: Penalty-Killing. The Flyers are one of the top 3 short-handed teams in the league, in large part due to their 16 short-handed goals. Weakness: Defense. 7 Flames 3.17 2.99 0.18 -0.02 101 100 5 Strength: Offense. A strong attack can only profit from the addition of a strong scorer like Olli Jokinen. Weakness: Goaltending. Mikka Kiprusoff is having a sub-par year, and there's no real alternative. 8 Capitals 3.12 2.95 0.16 -0.05 104 100 5 Strength: Offense. Tell me you're surprised! Weakness: Goaltending. Everyone wondered what the Capitals were thinking when they hitched their fortunes to Jose Theodore in goal. We're still wondering. 9 Canucks 2.97 2.83 0.15 0.00 96 93 4 Strength: Even-Strength. The Canucks are a very balanced team, and they're +23 in even- strength situations, 4th in the league. In contrast, they're -8 in all other situations. Weakness: Penalty- killing. The Canucks' penalty killing needs work, especially since they're one of the 10 most penalized teams in the league. 10 Penguins 3.03 2.95 0.08 0.02 94 78 2 Strength: Even-Strength. The Penguins special teams are atrocious, but they make up for it with strong 5-on-5 play. Weakness: Power-Play. Did you expect a team with Malkin and Crosby to be ranked 28th in power-play? Me neither. 11 Hurricanes 2.89 2.81 0.08 -0.04 93 66 2 Strength: Penalties. The Hurricanes have drawn 64 more man-advantage situations than they've given up. Weakness: Power-Play. Now if only they could take advantage of all those situations… 12 Sabres 2.92 2.85 0.07 -0.02 90 41 1 Strength: Goaltending. Ryan Miller has really been the MVP of this team. Weakness: Even- strength. For a pretty good team, the Sabres are an unacceptable -12 at even strength. 13 Wild 2.68 2.64 0.04 0.00 87 45 1 Strength: Goaltending. While he's had a bad stretch the last 2 weeks, Backstrom is still one of the NHL's elite goaltenders. Weakness: Offense. With their main offensive weapon permanently injured, the Wild have struggled with a no-name offense which has been one of the worst in the league. 14 Jackets 2.81 2.77 0.04 0.02 90 70 2 Strength: Even-Strength. The Blue Jackets are +23 at Even- Strength, which goes a long way towards explaining how they're almost a lock for the playoffs. Weakness: Power- Play. The Jackets' power-play is the worst in the league, a major sore spot they'll have to address if they're to improve any further. 15 Panthers 2.89 2.86 0.03 -0.01 94 76 2 Strength: Goaltending. Tomas Vokoun is a god, and won't be a finalist for MVP only because most don't understand that letting in 2 goals when you face 45 shots is awesome. Weakness: Defense. Why is he getting 45 shots against? 16 Canadiens 2.96 2.98 -0.01 0.05 96 87 2 Strength: Penalty-Killing. The Canadiens are #7 in the league short-handed. Weakness: Defense. Nothing on the Canadiens has been exceptional this year, but the shots against need some work. 17 Blues 2.83 2.88 -0.06 0.02 85 25 0 Strength: Power-Play and Penalty-Killing have both been above average. Weakness: Even- Strength. Unfortunately, the Blues have been -23 at even- strength, which is why their playoff hopes are fading fast. 18 Stars 2.88 2.96 -0.08 0.00 86 35 1 Strength: Defense. The Stars have been one of the NHL's top defensive teams for years, and this hasn't changed much. Stephane Robidas has been exceptional. Weakness: Goaltending. Turco started off the year horrendously, and while he stabilized a bit the last 2 weeks have been terrible. 19 Predators 2.65 2.75 -0.10 0.00 86 40 1 Strength: Penalty-Killing. Weakness: Offense. The Predators are 25th in the league in goals for. 20 Ducks 2.82 2.94 -0.12 0.05 84 23 0 Strength: Power-Play. Teemu Selanne has scored 14 of his 20 goals with the man advantage. Weakness: Penalties. This has been a problem for the Ducks for a while, and it's still costing them. They've been short- handed 71 times more often than their opponents. 21 Oilers 2.89 3.03 -0.14 0.01 88 54 1 Strength: Even-Strength. Weakness: Penalty-Killing. The Oilers hold their own even, but their special teams are awful, in particular the penalty-killing, where they can't score and surrender too many goals. 22 Kings 2.77 2.95 -0.18 0.00 82 16 0 Strength: Defense. This is good for the Kings, because it's an area that's harder to address. Weakness: Offense. The Kings need far more offensive depth than they have to compete. 23 Thrashers 2.99 3.17 -0.18 -0.01 74 0 0 Strength: Offense. Weakness: Defense. This has been the formula in Atlanta for over 5 years and it's been a failure every time. Score 3 goals, give up 40 shots, hope your goaltender steals the game. It didn't work then and it's not working now. 24 Senators 2.70 2.90 -0.20 -0.01 79 2 0 Strength: Defense. Weakness: Offense. Once the NHL's premier offensive team, the Senators now struggle to score, especially at even strength. Trading Spezza wouldn't have changed that, so they were smart to hold on to him. 25 Rangers 2.58 2.81 -0.24 -0.01 91 50 0 Strength: Penalty Killing. The Rangers are the #1 Penalty- Killing team in the NHL, the one area they truly excel at. Weakness: Offense. The Rangers are the #30 offensive team in the NHL. Last. If anyone wants to know what's "wrong" with the Rangers, they could start here. 26 Maple Leafs 2.92 3.29 -0.36 0.01 81 2 0 Strength: Offense. The Maple Leafs are an above-average offensive team, and don't rely on one single player to score. Weakness: Goaltending. I don't know if I've ever seen a team with as bad goaltending as Toskala, Joseph and Pogge have provided this year. 27 Avalanche 2.72 3.08 -0.37 0.03 74 0 0 Strength: Shootout. The Avalanche are 8-1 in shootouts this year, first in the NHL. Weakness: Even-Strength. With a weak offense and weak goaltending, the Avalanche are -26 at even-strength, 28th in the NHL. 28 Coyotes 2.60 3.03 -0.42 0.05 76 1 0 Strength: Penalties. The Coyotes have had 39 more man- advantage situations than they've given up. Weakness: Even-Strength, although it's a bit of a catch all. The Coyotes are weak across the board. For a team that's been "rebuilding" for so long, they don't have much to show for it. 29 Islanders 2.62 3.09 -0.47 -0.04 65 0 0 Strength: Penalty-Killing. The Islanders are 9th in the league short-handed, good at both scoring and preventing goals. Weakness: Even-Strength At a league-worst -47, the decent special teams can't make up for a terrible performance at other times. Only the goaltending of Yann Danis is NHL-worthy. 30 Lightning 2.74 3.24 -0.49 0.02 70 0 0 Strength: Goaltending. This is refreshing, because since the departure of Khabibulin the Lightning have had a goaltending problem, and it seems as if Mike Smith is the answer. Weakness: Defense. The Lightning are 30th in shots against (worse than the Thrashers!), they don't have an NHL-caliber blue line, and their best defensive player is a forward, Martin St. Louis. Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Tom by clicking here or click here to see Tom's other articles.

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