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March 13, 2009
Numbers On Ice
March 13th Power Rankings

by Tom Awad

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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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Numbers On Ice (03/19)
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Mucking and Grinding (03/15)

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