Some Pre-Playoff Thoughts



Not exactly Flame related (well maybe a little), but here’s some thoughts bumping around my head as the first round kicks off tonight.

– Thanks to the lock-out shortened season, there are surprisingly lousy teams who made the cut this year. Toronto is the top of the list – they have absolutely abysmal underlying numbers, their bench boss is half mad, and I can’t imagine Nazem Kadri is going to continue to lead the league in PDO forever. He’s a quality youngster, but he’s not the next Crosby.

If the Bruins don’t win that one in 4 or 5, I’ll be very surprised.

– Speaking of Crosby, I wrote something today at the SNEWS that discusses why they may be more vulnerable than most people think heading into round one versus the Islanders. Short version: terrible possession rates down the stretch which probably only has a bit to do with injuries to the stars. The rest is likely roster construction. As a result, if Crosby/Malkin can’t stay healthy, the Pens are a middling team at best, and perhaps worse than that.

Of course, it’s good news for the franchise if the Pens bow out in the first round because it would improve the seeding of their first rounder, which the Flames own. On the other hand, a lot of folks are also cheering for Jarome to go the distance.

– The Islanders probably aren’t getting a lot of love, but they could very well upset the PIT. The first line of Tavares and Moulson is legit while Frans Nielsen heads up the support unit. Grabner, Okposo, Boyes mean the stars aren’t doing it alone while the blueline isn’t half bad with Hamonic, Streit, Visnovsky and the under-appreciated Andrew MacDonald.

The Islanders finished with a fenwick close rate of 52.01%, good for 11th best in the league – better than Vancouver (51.68) and, yes, the Penguins (49.87%). Check to see if hell has frozen over, because the Islanders are actually a pretty good team.

– The Blues/Kings series is going to be a war and unfortunately one of the best overall clubs in the league is going to exit the first round. For those wondering who I favor, it’s the Kings (who have the best possession stats in the league again), but not enough to put any money down. The Blues had a weird season wtih up-and-down goaltending and don’t possess any true superstars, but they are solid top-to-bottom.

– The Wild, Capitals and Ducks are the other pretenders with the Leafs in the first round. Anything can happen in 7 games of course, so don’t bet your mortgage against them, but they all made it thanks to a spike in percentages and little else. The Caps, Ducks and Leafs, for instance, finished with worse score close possession rates than the the Flames, and Calgary tried to lose down the stretch. 

The Wild are more middling than terrible, but they are facing a juggernaut in Chicago, so…

– Detroit is the 7th seed but a favorite versus Anaheim to start. Someone is going to get good value laying money on the Red Wings.

– Flip a coin for the Canucks and Sharks. Not a lot to seperate the two clubs – neither is a heavy hitter in the realm of the Hawks or Kings, but neither is a pretender in the post-season either.

– The Ottawa Senators is another good darkhorse pick now that Erik Karlsson is back. I was skeptical about the kid after his spike in offense last year, but he looks legitimately elite. He swings the play in the Sens direction by a large degree, so is one of the few high impact single skaters who can tip the scales in his club’s favor.

Not that MTL is going to roll over. After being awful last year, they are a full value playoff squad this year. They have their own high-end blueliner in PK Subban too. Maybe the Flames should have offer-sheated him instead.

– Speaking of good value, take the Rags over the Capitals. Ovechkin has been red hot for WAS this year, but it’s percentages driven. He stopped driving play consistently a few years ago and his shot rate (while still good) is nowhere near what it was at his peak. The Rangers, on the other hand, control play pretty well this season and couldn’t buy a goal for whatever until recently. Plus, Lundqvist.

If I was forced to pick, here are my winners in the first round:


DET over ANA (6)

CHI over MIN (5)

SJS over VAN (7)

LAK over STL (7)


OTT over MTL (6)

NYI over PIT (7)

NYR over WAS (6)

BOS over TOR (4)

  • Scary Gary

    I hope you’re right about the Penguins, they’re paper thin D was one of the main reason they lost out last year. I think they’re a Letang injury away from getting bounced again.

    Tavares! Finally he will get the attention he deserves playing in the playoffs.

  • Kent,

    If both the Blues and Pens are bounced in the first round would the Flames then be drafting 6th, 17th and 19th or around there or would they be picking 6th, 25th and 29th ( I think that’s right ) as it stands now.

  • seve927

    It always comes down to goaltending, but I agree the Isles have a chance. The Kings possession rate has taken a hit since they’re playing Regehr hard, St. Louis is better since the trade deadline. The Blues get some bounces this year and oust the Kings.

    Bruins, and Red Wings good bets, Ottawa and the Rangers get my vote. I wouldn’t count Minnesota out. They’re much better since the deadline as well, and I’ve got to think Chicago is just playing a little over their heads. I’d still expect them to win, but before I looked at the numbers closer, I thought sweep. I think this could be a bounce back year for Vancouver as well, if Schneider is ready to go.

  • RKD

    I don’t about the Islanders, it’s been years since they’ve been in the post-season. Regardless of possesion numbers. The Pens have way too many weapons and the Isles as good as they have been aren’t the Philly of last year who took out the Pens.

    I’m cheering for Jarome to go the distance, 49 points in 54 playoff games. The Islanders the only team in the east with a below .500 home record to make the playoffs.

    The Sens on one had have a lot of trouble scoring goals, despite taking the Rangers last year to 7. It was very hard to get the offence going until Alfredsson scored. Price is 8-15 in 23 playoff games so if he’s not playing well the Sens have a good shot.

    I think the Bruins beat the Leafs, the Bruins like the Canucks don’t look like the teams of old. Not as intimidating nor play with that bulldog runover mentality like two years ago.

    The Blues and Kings will be a great series, despite adding Leopold and Jay-Bo the Blues would have to physically match the Kings which they couldn’t do last season. The Kings are a really deep team.

  • beloch

    Perhaps it was just emotion over his departure, but when Iginla first left I was ready to cheer hard for the Penguins to win the cup. After the Iggy mansion went on sale I felt much more ambivalent. I still want to see him win a cup before he retires, but if he’s not coming right back to Calgary next season the Flames might as well get a half-way decent pick out the deal!

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Yup, me too. Iggy can win his cup next year.

        Can you hear us Shevvy!

        EDIT: actually that would be an interesting FN poll. Do you want iginla to win his cup:
        A. Yes, This year – go Pens!
        B. No, the Flames need a higher pick.
        C. Yes, next year and not at the Flames expense.
        D. No, he’s Dead to me.

        unless it’s hijacked by by Shelvyville.

    • Stockley

      Between Iggy putting his house up for sale so soon and the “I can’t believe I’m finally out of here!” smile he was displaying at his departing press conference my opinion of him is a little tarnished. He looked a little too happy for a guy who kept saying all the right things about Calgary being home, wanting to stay, etc. I guess I didn’t see enough ‘bitter’ in his bittersweet departure, all he seemed to be showing was the ‘sweet’. Or maybe I’m the one who’s bitter… either way, I hate seeing players win cups as mercenaries. If he signs elsewhere next season or stays in Pitts and gets his cup it will feel less dirty to me.

  • Willi P

    Kent says “If I was forced to pick, here are my winners in the first round”

    Good on ya, not even forced and pick anyway.

    Lubo was asked to pick the Hitmen Oil King game 7 winner tonight on the Fan960 today and wouldn’t. Supposed to be the “junior hockey expert”.

    I’ll pick for him…Hitmen.

    Sorry for the Hitmen hijack again but they deserve some exposure.

    • MWflames

      Pretty sure that isn’t correct.

      All 8 teams eliminated in the first round will draft in the next 8 spots after the 14th – highest placing team to not make the playoffs

      Those positions will be determined by pre playoff standings with the highest drafting at 22. So if the Isles beat the Pens, we would probably be looking at the 22nd overall.

      Steinberg probably assumed the Pens would be the Islanders. The only way that makes sense.

      I agree with Kent, that Isles will match up surprisingly well against Pittsburgh. However, the team has very little playoff experience which will be a big difference maker.

      I’d love to see our pick move up, but I’d bet Pens in 6.

          • schevvy

            I remember last year, it was 27/28 for conference finals, 29 for runner-up, 30 for winner. The rest was regular season based. Ex: Vancouver, even though they lost in round 1, picked 26, because they won the Prez Trophy.

          • Truculence

            If I recall correctly, 26 and under are ordered by having eliminated division leaders occupying the highest spots in accordance with their totals, with non-division leaders then being arranged by diminishing points totals.

            So if Vancouver and St. Louis were eliminated in the first round, Vancouver would pick higher since they were a division leader, despite the fact they had fewer points than St. Louis.

          • gotommygo

            ‘If I recall correctly, 26 and under are ordered by having eliminated division leaders occupying the highest spots in accordance with their totals, with non-division leaders then being arranged by diminishing points totals.’

            I think that’s right, so to improve our draft picks via St Louis and Pittsburgh we should be cheering for the underdogs.

            Assuming St. Louis doesn’t make it past the 2nd round, our draft position will improve for every team above them (plus division leaders) that also don’t make it past the 2nd round. There are seven: Chi, Pitt, Ana, Mon, Bos, LA, and Wash. At least 3 of these won’t make it, so the worst the pick could be is 23nd overall. If all 7 don’t make it then the pick will be 19th.

            The Pittsburgh pick will only improve if both them and Chicago don’t make it past the 2nd round.

      • T&A4Flames

        I asked about this before I finished reading comments. My understanding is that the div leaders get lower picks and then all other playoff teams. Meaning if PIT get knocked out 1st rnd, the best we could do, as per Steinberg, is 25th (27-29 to conference finalist, CHI with highest points in div leaders @ 26, PIT next highest- 25th). STL did not win a div. so they could get as high as 20th I believe.

  • schevvy

    You’re using very flawed models to try to predict playoff performance. Your regular season numbers are based off a relatively small sample size (48 game shortened season) and you’re using them to predict an even smaller sample (4-7 games).

    The result is predictions based off poor logic. As an example you picked the Kings to beat the Blues due to former’s “possession numbers” and tonight the Blues absolutely dominated the Kings from a possession standpoint.

    • SmellOfVictory

      What else is he supposed to use? Whether or not Penner goes for pancakes over eggs for breakfast? Which direction the wind is blowing?

      The only prediction that I take potential issue with is LA over StL, because while LA has been better season-long, StL added one very good defenceman and one decent one at the deadline, and LA added one crappy one to whom they’re giving way too many minutes.

      • gotommygo

        I just find “advanced” hockey stats to be an overrated indicator of performance in general. They’re a vague approximation of success at best. Not to say they’re useless, they’re just relied on far too much in blogs like this.

        • SmellOfVictory

          They’re certainly not perfect (I think it’s a general consensus that roughly 1/3 of outcomes in hockey are determined by stuff outside of advanced stats, much of which would be called “luck” for lack of a better term), but it’s better than anything else that I’m aware of, if you’re looking for predictive tools.

  • schevvy

    Wow, you literally just chose the team with the better regular season Fenwick numbers in every match-up with the exception of Ottawa.

    But who can blame you? That Detroit/Pittsburgh final in 2012 was insane.

    And I couldn’t believe when San Jose beat Tampa in the 2011 finals. San Jose’s possession numbers were just no match for any of their competition along the way.

  • T&A4Flames

    Kent or someone with more understanding on the draft. Correct me if I;m wrong but, in relation to the playoff teams, the picks go as follows;

    SC Champ- 30th

    Runner up- 29th

    Other conference finalists- 28th & 27th (lowest points picks 1st)

    Other regular season div. winners get next lowest picks (based on reg season points)

    All other playoff finalists pick according to reg. season points regardless of playoff results in 1st 2 rounds.

    Is this correct? Anyone?