2014 NHL Playoffs: Analytics Survival Guide

As always, Henrik Lundqvist will be key in any sort of significant playoff run. - Bruce Bennett

With Hockey Analytics getting some limelight lately around the NHL, let's take a brief look at the 16 playoff teams set to square off in the greatest playoff setting sport knows.

With the (correctly projected) collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the hockey analytics debate has surfaced once again and is more contested in mainstream media than ever before. Many still aren't convinced of the value in these new statistics but I am a firm believer, as some of you longtime readers of Blueshirt Banter may know. What awaits you below is the analytic "cliff notes" of sorts for each playoff team - just enough to get you through a conversation with your hockey friends while also thoroughly embarrassing any bandwagon fans.

Looking for a layman-term written analytic primer? Sean McIndoe over at Grantland wrote up one of my favorites last summer. All charted stats referenced come from ExtraSkater.com, in 5v5 Score Close situation. Let's hit it, starting with the wild, wild West:

Colorado Avalanche v. Minnesota Wild

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

COL

47.4

46.8

102.2

MIN

48.2

48.6

99.9

The Avs: Will the shooting luck continue? 2nd ranked in Shot% for the year, 6th when you break it down to the Power Play. They live and die with Varlamov (0.927 Overall Save%, 0.933/0.892 at Evens and on the PK).

The Wild: Another club that lived on their goaltending (0.928 5v5 Close Team Save%), but they can show up to outplay their opponent on occasion. If the Wild stay out of the box, they have a chance.

St. Louis Blues v. Chicago Blackhaws

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

STL

53.1

53.1

100.4

CHI

55.7

55.2

100.1

The Blues: Despite their injury problems, the Blues have been fine in the possession department. The issue lies with Ryan Miller (sub-0.910 lately) and their cold shooting (have only scored three or more goals five times since the Olympic break - 24 GP).

The Hawks: Coming in as the 2nd best Fenwick For % team, the Hawks are contenders. If Corey Crawford can get a little hotter either at Evens (0.925 for the season) or on the PK (0.864), they'll be tough to beat.

Anaheim Ducks v. Dallas Stars

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

ANA

49.8

50.2

103.4

DAL

51.3

51.9

99.8

The Ducks: While improved under Boudreau, this season is all about their Shot% at evens (10.7% 5v5 Close - 1st in the league, next closest was COL/DET at 8.6), as they're 22nd in PP%. Their goaltending has been solid, but not elite (except Gibson's 3 GP), especially since Hiller has fallen off the map lately.

The Stars: A "B+" team across the board: solid offense, solid defense, solid goaltending. If Lehtonen gets hotter and Anaheim's shooting goes cold, they could "shock" some people.

San Jose Sharks v. Los Angeles Kings

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

SJS

53.8

54.6

99.7

LAK

57.3

56.7

99.4

The Sharks: Niemi needs to be slightly better for the deep run they're capable of (only 0.919 EV Save%). Otherwise, they're the 3rd best possession team in the NHL.

The Kings: Quick has been very good (0.929% at Evens) while the team struggled with their shooting all year. Since the Olympic break (22 GP), they have scored 3 or more goals 15 times, so clearly the positive regression started and it needs to continue.

NBC should be pretty happy, as I think it will be a Chicago v. LA or SJ conference final. At that point it's a crapshoot. Onto the Easy East...

Boston Bruins v. Detroit Red Wings

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

BOS

55.0

54.1

102.7

DET

51.3

51.2

101.4

The Bruins: Normally that PDO should scare someone, but the Bruins are probably just that good. Rask has been lights out (0.941% at Evens), and they've got the 3rd best PP% in the league. Only a power outage when it comes to their shooting will likely trip them up.

The Wings: Many will point out that they beat the Bruins three times out of four this year. They only out-possessed the B's in one of those games. Their hot shooting of late will need to continue, while Howard (0.910 overall, getting killed on the PK (0.866)) will have to up his game as well to beat the Bruins.

Tampa Bay Lightning v. Montreal Canadiens

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

TB

51.5

51.7

101.0

MTL

47.2

48.4

101.5

The Bolts: If Ben Bishop can't get back in time (0.932/0.900 EV/PK Save%) Tampa Bay may be in trouble unless they thoroughly out-possess Montreal (which is possible), or Anders Lindback gets hot quick.

The Habs: Hot Shooting and Hot Goaltending can solve all. Carey Price is having an "on" year, 0.934 at evens and 0.895 on the PK. Their shooting has been hit or miss since the Olympic Break, scoring three or more goals 10 times in 22 GP.

Pittsburgh Penguins v. Columbus Blue Jackets

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

PIT

49.7

50.2

100.7

CBJ

50.8

50.8

100.8

The Pens: The good? 1st overall PP in the league and Marc-Andre Fleury (this generations Martin Brodeur) has been above average rather than his usual league average or worse this year. The bad? Their bottom six depth is a joke and they've been a bottom-half possession team since Christmas.

The Jackets: CBJ turned the corner right before Nathan Horton's return and haven't looked back since he hit the ice. While it will be more of a challenge with him out for five more weeks, I still trust Sergei... BOBROVSKY (0.931/0.900 EV/PK Save%) to knock off the Pens in 7.

New York Rangers v. Philadelphia Flyers

Team

Corsi For %

Fenwick For %

PDO

NYR

53.2

53.6

98.7

PHI

49.2

48.2

99.4

The Rangers: Henrik has returned to form, going from an overall 0.906 on 12/20 to ending the year at 0.920. Their shooting has returned post-Olympic break (19 of 22 GP with 2 or more goals, 11 with 3 or more), and the "risk" of "losing the room" in exchange for an elite scorer in MSL has worked out thus far.

The Flyers: Steve Mason has been uncharacteristically good and their PP is good for 8th in the league. Their shooting has been a bit hot lately and it appears their possession game by game is either good or poor in the second half of the year.

In general, these playoffs should be very entertaining as always. When it comes to Rangers-Flyers in Round One, I have two thoughts. First off, disrupt the area in front of Mason and continue to put pucks on net; his track record does not bode well for him. Secondly: stay out of the box. While Henrik has been good shorthanded at 0.891 PK Save%, Philly was 3rd overall in the league in PP GF - this would take away one of their easiest avenues to goals. Happy Stanley Cup Playoffs!

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