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March 27, 2009
Numbers On Ice
March 27th Power Rankings

by Tom Awad

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As the season nears its end, with only 9 games left for each team on average, it’s a good time to take a look at how teams have been improving or declining over the last few weeks. Since it’s the 4-week anniversary of our initial edition of the Bayesian Power Rankings, I figured I’d compare how each teams’ overall score has changed over the last 4 weeks. As a note to my more astute readers, I made some small changes to how the rankings are calculated: mainly, I have applied a “decay factor” which weights recent games more highly than older games, which reflects better how team strength evolves over the course of a season. As a result, if you go back and check my old columns and calculate the difference yourselves, you will not get exactly the same results I do.

The main trend over the last few weeks has been the relative rise in strength of the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference. The 6 most improved teams since late February are, in order, the Hurricanes, Penguins, Rangers, Maple Leafs, Senators and Thrashers. The biggest droppers are the Blackhawks, Stars, Avalanche, Sharks, Wild and Coyotes. Notice a pattern? In inter-conference games up to February 23rd, the Western Conference won 123 of 216 contests for a 57% win percentage. In the last 4 weeks, the Western Conference has won 15 of 47 games for a less than stellar 32% win percentage. I have no explanation for this shift; I only know that it has happened and that it is pronounced enough to not just be the result of luck. Indeed, for the first time in several years, it will take more points to make the playoffs in the East than in the West.

Here are the power rankings, up to and including games on Tuesday March 24th:

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 T rat of your opponents). Higher means harder.

SPT: Predicted number of points at the end of the year. The standard deviation is about 3 at this point in the schedule.

PO%: Odds of making the playoffs, in percentage.

C%: Odds of winning the Stanley Cup, in percentage.

IMPR: Improvement. Current Total rating – Total rating of February 24th.


   Team	        O rat D rat Trat  Schd  SPT   PO%   C%   IMPR

1  Red Wings	3.59  2.99  0.61 -0.01 117.5 100.0 16.7 -0.04	

Comment: The Wings are still the class of the league.
         While everybody (including me!) is still 
         worried about their goaltending, having 
         the deepest team in the league goes a long
         way towards mitigating that problem.

2  Bruins	3.12  2.54  0.59 -0.04 113.7 100.0 18.5 -0.05

Comment: While their win-loss record has taken a hit
         since February, the Bruins are in every game;
         when they lose it's close, and they still have
         the league MVP in Tim Thomas. 

3  Sharks	3.04  2.60  0.45 -0.03 118.5 100.0 13.0 -0.16	

Comment: The Sharks are having trouble scoring. 
         Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi are 
         having brutal months. On the bright side,
         Nabokov is back on top of his game.

4  Devils	3.02  2.58  0.44 -0.03 108.0 100.0 11.8 +0.13	

Comment: The Devils are as good as they appear and must
         be considered one of the favorites for the Cup
         at this point. Their top 4 forwards of Parise,
         Elias, Langenbrunner and Zajac give them depth
         unrivaled except by Detroit, and Brodeur is 
         rested and on fire.

5  Blackhawks	3.12  2.81  0.31 -0.01  99.7 100.0  6.3 -0.26

Comment: The Blackhawks defense and goaltending has fallen
         off a cliff. In their last 13 games, they have 
         given up 5 or more goals 6 times. That's not a 
         recipe for success. While they could be legitimately
         considered an elite team at midseason, they'll have
         to do better just to beat the Canucks or Flames in
         the first round.

6  Flyers	3.10  2.82  0.29  0.01 102.2  99.9  6.5 +0.08	

Comment: The Flyers have tightened up their goals-against.
         Martin Biron is playing very well, and coupled
         with a very strong offense, the Flyers are officially
         a true threat.

7  Canucks	3.02  2.80  0.21 -0.05  98.8  99.9  4.6	+0.13	

Comment: What do you think will happen when the best 
         goaltender in the league returns from injury?
         I would take Luongo over anyone in the league 
         right now, Brodeur included.

8  Flames	3.22  3.06  0.17 -0.02 101.0 100.0  4.1 -0.05

Comment: Olli Jokinen has been great for the Flames, but
         unfortunately Mikka Kiprusoff has been awful. I read
         somewhere that the Flames have better goaltending than 
         the Sharks and Red Wings, and even with Osgood's sorry 
         play I'd dispute that right now.

9  Hurricanes	2.96  2.81  0.15 -0.02  95.1  94.0  3.2 +0.33	

Comment: The most improved team in the league over the last
         month has simply been on fire. Eric Staal's been
         lighting them up (20 points in 13 games) and Cam Ward
         has been a rock. The Hurricanes were 50-50 for the 
         playoffs a month ago. Now, they're a fifth seed.

10 Capitals	3.07  2.92  0.15 -0.01 105.6 100.0  4.6 -0.10	

Comment: While the top line is still hot, the Capitals don't 
         get any offense beyond Ovechkin, Green, Semin and 
         Backstrom. While that's still great, it puts them
         in bad shape any night their top players are off.

11 Penguins	3.09  2.97  0.12  0.01	95.1  90.3  2.7	+0.24	

Comment: Another team that was iffy for the playoffs, the Penguins
         have put it together both offensively and defensively. 
         Crosby's been much better and Bill Guerin's been great.

12 Blue Jackets	2.82  2.74  0.08  0.04  93.0  90.9  2.4 +0.12 

Comment: After 9 long years, the Blue Jackets are finally headed
         for the playoffs, and Steve Mason is the main reason why.
         Their play over the last month has been very strong. If 
         they find an NHL-caliber power-play, they'll be very 
         dangerous.

13 Sabres	2.94  2.94  0.00 -0.01  86.5  12.7  0.2 -0.10	

Comment: Unfortunately, the injury to Ryan Miller has cost the 
         Sabres their playoff berth. His absence has been the 
         main cause of the drop-off over the last month, which
         has put them just out of reach.

14 Wild	        2.59  2.63 -0.04  0.00  85.5  24.1  0.4 -0.16	

Comment: The Wild have fallen apart over the last 4 weeks,
         with their already weak offense getting weaker and
         the usually stellar goaltending being ordinary. Since
         I anointed Backstrom as one of the league's best players
         3 weeks ago, he's done everything possible to prove me 
         wrong.

15 Ducks	2.85  2.90 -0.04  0.00  87.7  47.5  0.7 -0.03

Comment: While the Ducks haven't been playing much better
         than they were a month ago, the fall of the Wild
         and Stars means they're in position to sneak into
         the 8th spot. They've certainly picked a good time
         to go on a 4-game winning streak, but they'll still 
         get Detroit or San Jose in the first round.

16 Blues	2.77  2.81 -0.05  0.03  86.2  31.0  0.5 +0.02
	
Comment: Still hanging on by their fingernails. Had Paul Kariya 
         been healthy this year, we would be talking first-round 
         matchups right now.

17 Senators	2.80  2.89 -0.10 -0.03  83.8   3.5  0.0 +0.15

Comment: Amazingly, the Senators have rediscovered their offense
         under Cory Clouston. Too late for sure, but it gives us
         hope for next year. Aren't you glad you didn't blow up 
         your big three now?

18 Panthers	2.76  2.85 -0.10 -0.03  90.3  42.3  0.6 -0.12	

Comment: The Panthers have chosen a terrible time to slow down. 
         While not disastrous, their offense has been even weaker
         than usual. Vokoun is once again the only thing between 
         them and oblivion.

19 Oilers	2.91  3.01 -0.10 -0.01  88.8  58.7  0.7 +0.04

Comment: Must the Oilers do this to us every year? 
         8th place, here we come!

20 Canadiens	2.96  3.06 -0.11  0.02  92.7  74.1  0.9 -0.07

Comment: The Canadiens were starting to pull it together
         when coach Guy Carbonneau was fired, and ever since
         they've been weak again. They look like they'll still
         limp into the playoffs, but it'll be a quick end to their
         centennial year.

21 Predators	2.62  2.74 -0.12  0.00  86.7  34.8  0.4 +0.00

Comment: The Predators didn't seem like they had a prayer
         in February, but the offense has picked it up. 
         Probably too little too late.

22 Rangers	2.62  2.75 -0.13 -0.01  93.6  82.4  1.0 +0.19

Comment: Wow, what an effect Sean Avery and John Tortorella have had!
         A month ago my colleague Timo Seppa asked "What's wrong with
         the Rangers?" Ever since he asked, nothing!

23 Stars	2.83  3.00 -0.17  0.03  83.7  12.9  0.1 -0.24	

Comment: In a Puck Prospectus poll on March 8th, I picked Dallas
         to finish 7th in the West. Ever since, they've collected
         4 points in 8 games and have dramatically fallen out of 
         the playoff race. Brad Richards is injured and Turco is 
         terrible.

24 Thrashers	3.05  3.22 -0.17  0.02  74.9   0.0  0.0 +0.15

Comment: Couldn't the Thrashers have played this way all season?
         In the last 12 games: Kovalchuk, 8 G and 12 A; Kozlov, 4 G
         and 12 A; Lehtonen, 0.926 SV%.

25 Maple Leafs	2.98  3.27 -0.28 -0.01  82.7   0.9  0.0	+0.17

Comment: Another team reduced to the role of spoilers, 
         the Maple Leafs have played it to perfection.
         Toskala has actually been good after a sham of 
         a season, and Alexei Ponikarovsky is scoring at 
         a point-a-game pace.

26 Kings	2.66  2.96 -0.29  0.06  78.8   0.4   0.0 -0.12

Comment: The Kings were still in the playoff conversation
         a month ago, but a weak offense has turned their
         outside shot into no shot. They'll be a good team
         someday.

27 Islanders	2.65  3.08 -0.43  0.03  65.2   0.0   0.0 +0.12

Comment: The Islanders are showing signs of life! 
         Still, they'll need an offense. Their only
         players with 30 points or more are defenseman
         Mark Streit, Bill Guerin (now with Pittsburgh)
         and 38-year-old Doug Weight.

28 Coyotes	2.59  3.06 -0.47  0.04  75.7   0.0   0.0 -0.15

Comment: The Coyotes go from bad to worse. A lot of 
         people are calling for coach Wayne Gretzky's
         head, and there's no question that anyone else would
         be gone. Seriously though, have you looked at this
         roster? I like Shane Doan, but Shane Doan does 
         not a team make.

29 Avalanche	2.64  3.11 -0.47  0.05  72.6   0.0   0.0 -0.23

Comment: The Avalanche are cold as ice. While their 
         goaltending has been awful all year, now their
         offense is as well. Last 10 games: Wolski, 0 G,
         4 A, -3. Hejduk, 2 G, 3 A, -6. In 4 games, Raycroft
         has a 0.883 SV%.

30 Lightning	2.72  3.21 -0.48 -0.01  71.8   0.0   0.0 -0.06

Comment: A miserable season nears its end. The bright spot
         in the last month has been Steven Stamkos, with
         6 G and 5 A in 10 games.

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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<< Previous Article
Prospectus Q & A (03/25)
<< Previous Column
Numbers On Ice (03/19)
Next Column >>
Numbers On Ice (04/03)
Next Article >>
Driving To The Net (03/30)

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