Earlier this week I discussed the importance of goals-for percentage as it relates to future playoff success, specifically citing a 52.5% GF% as the cut-off for true contender status. This led to a good discussion about strength of schedule and how it might relate to a team’s ability to clear that cut-off, specifically looking at the disparity in talent between the Atlantic and the Metro divisions.
I really don’t believe that strength of schedule has much impact. The parity in the league is to the point that anyone can win on any given night. Look at ESPN’s strength of schedule metric. There’s barely any disparity between teams. Even though Boston, Toronto, and Tampa Bay will have played extra games against bad teams at the bottom of their division, they’ll also have played each other more often. Plus, Florida is no longer a joke.
You can use all sorts of anecdotes to prove your point one way or the other. At the end of the day, everyone is beating up on the Atlantic. An extra game here or there hasn’t made a big difference. Want something palpable? Look at how the Atlantic’s top teams have fared against the West, compared to how the Metro’s best have fared. That’s where the real disparity lies.
Bottom line, you can only beat the team that is in front of you. Consistently doing so over the course of 82 games is how you prove yourself a true contender. The Atlantic’s best have done it. The Metro’s best haven’t as yet.
While we are on the topic of playoffs, Travis Yost had an interesting piece on the importance of regular season head-to-head performance for predicting playoff outcomes. I looked at head-to-head record when I did my deep dive on playoff outcomes a few years back but didn’t derive the same predictability as I did from goal differential, so I dropped the idea. Yost’s article digs much deeper:
The tricky part is that we’re looking at only a handful of games, which means relatively small samples of data. To really tease out how teams have performed against one another, we can look at two varying measures – the percentage of total scoring chances in a team's favour and the percentage of total goals in a team's favour.
It’s an interesting idea, and I wondered how head-to-head scoring chance percentage has done over the past few seasons in terms of predicting outcomes of playoff series. As it turns out, not particularly well. Teams that held a scoring chance advantage through their regular season matchups won only 55% of their playoff matchups. That’s better than nothing, but not better than what goals-for differential can do.
Explosive return to the lineup for Jake DeBrusk who rejoined the second line with David Krejci and red-