• Bad Runs and Playoffs

    by  • October 30, 2013 • Hockey • 16 Comments

    Occasional colleague Dennis King and I had an exchange on Twitter after last night’s game:

    The thing is – I don’t really agree with Dennis that the season’s over. Teams have stretches of eight points in 14 games and make the playoffs with some frequency.

    The 2005-06 Habs went through an eight in 14 stretch in about mid-season. They recovered to make the playoffs with 93 points. They would like have won their series with Carolina that year were it not for an untimely inj…this probably isn’t helping moods so let’s move along.

    In 2007-08, Calgary had an eight in 14 stretch early in the season. They recovered to make the playoffs with 94 points.

    The Flames were joined by the Wild in recovering from a prolonged horrific early season start in 2007-08 as the Wild went through an eight in 14 and still ended up at 104 points.

    Over in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia made it to 95 points after enduring an eight in 14. Washington went through an awful stretch to start their season in which they weren’t getting any goaltending or breaks. Nothing was going in, nothing was staying out. They had an eight in 14 as part of a twelve points in 23 games stretch. 94 points and a playoff spot.

    In 2008-09, Montreal went through an eight in 14 that turned into a 10 in 16 stretch. 93 points and a playoff spot. The Rangers had one of these stretches later that season and made the playoffs with 95 points. Pittsburgh had a bunch of these stretches in 2008-09 and it ultimately led to a 12 points in 20 game stretch. The Pens finished with 99 points (and a new coach) and won the Stanley Cup.

    In the West that year, St. Louis endured a couple of eight in 14 stretches that turned into a 13 points in 20 games stretch. They finished with 92 points and a playoff spot.

    In 2009-10, Boston actually managed a six points in 14 stretch and still made the playoffs with 91 points. This was part of a stretch in which the Bruins were winless in ten. Philadelphia trumped that with a nine in 18 stretch that included a couple of eight in 14s. The Flyers squeaked in with 88 points but went to the Finals.

    The 2010-11 Sabres managed eight points in their first 14 games. They recovered to make the playoffs with 96 points. So did the Kings later in the year and they still cruised in with 98 points.

    13 playoff teams in the seven full seasons since 2005-06 have had runs like this, many of them worse. It’s not the normal thing but then runs like this tend to involve some element of bad luck. It’s pretty easy to see how the Oilers could be around .500 right now and people would look at the injuries and the schedule and think that that’s not so bad.

    All of that said, they really can’t afford a hole that’s much deeper. They’re already going to need some breaks to get out of this but, hard as it may be to believe, the hockey gods don’t just taketh away. They also occasionally giveth.

    So, uh, any time now…

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    16 Responses to Bad Runs and Playoffs

    1. October 30, 2013 at

      What about runs to start a season? Probably more damning I would think.

      • Axel Fant-Eldh
        October 30, 2013 at

        Why would the timing matter?

        I’d be more interested in their FenClose and strength of schedule in those stretches.

        A 8 in 14 with a bad FenClose against poor teams is something entirely different than with good possession numbers and/or a tough schedule.

        Look at the Rangers’ start to this season: 37.27% FenClose through their first five, 56.70% through their next five. Apart from learning a new system they faced: PHO, LA, SJS, ANA, and STL in their first five versus WSH, NJ, PHI, DET, and MTL in their next five.

        I’m not sure about the Oilers’ strength of schedule, but their current FenClose isn’t really indicating that things will improve a lot. Though if their injury issues resolve themselves, things may turn around.

        • dawgbone
          October 30, 2013 at

          I assume confidence.

          If you are 10 games over .500 in January and have this run, you right it off as a blip and maybe pick yourself up.

          You do it at the start of the year and suddenly you are way behind right off the bat.

          • Axel Fant-Eldh
            October 30, 2013 at

            I think player confidence effects are overstated, but confidence effects on the GM is likely a factor.

            A GM is less likely to do a rash move if the bad stretch occurs after a period of solid play than if it is to start the season.

            Timing probably matters a bit, but I think it is less of a factor than PDO, schedule, and injuries.

        • Axel Fant-Eldh
          October 30, 2013 at

          I looked through Buffalo’s first 14 games in 10-11 from the timeonice.com reports and their net possession differentials were +37 Fenwick and +78 Corsi. Not sure about their percentage as I the raw Fenwick/Corsi totals aren’t listed directly but have to be summed up from goals/saves/misses/blocks.

          In any case, Buffalo was definitely getting boned by their PDO to start the 10-11 season. Miller was also hurt for a bit since Lalime and Enroth played more than expected in the back half of that 14 game stretch.

        • Justin
          November 6, 2013 at

          Interesting stat: Only three teams 4 (or more) points out of a playoff spot by Nov. 1, recovered in time to make the playoffs in the shootout era.

          Per Elliot Friedman – “Since the shootout entered the NHL, we’ve never had a season in which two teams came from that far back to make it. And only one of the three comeback kings was more than four points out. That was Calgary. The Flames were seven points out in 2006-07, then went 40-22-9 to make it. The other survivors were the Buffalo Sabres (2010-11) and Boston Bruins (2011-12). The Sabres went 40-22-8; the Bruins, 45-22-4.”

          I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but statistically, it seems unlikely.

      • Triumph
        October 30, 2013 at

        I imagine so, but runs to start a season are much rarer than a run from any point. Obviously a stretch like this can be dealt with but the Oilers will have to run off a bunch of wins at some point during the season, something which I don’t think they’re capable of in their current form.

    2. daryl
      October 30, 2013 at

      Got the numbers for the gods taking away? ie any teams that go on a 20-some points in 12 games to start, and then miss? Anytime the gods giveth, they are taketh-ing away from someone. Or they aren’t, and that kind of stuff doesn’t happen, given your post about being harder to make up ground with the Bettman point…..

      • dawgbone
        October 30, 2013 at

        See some Oiler teams from the period where they were bouncing in and out of the playoffs in the early 2000′s.

    3. Pete
      October 30, 2013 at

      You’re bizarrely optimistic this year – it’s like you hit your head on the cupboard or something back in September, and scrambled your personality. Most peculiar. Dellow’s Sunshine & Lollipops, Inc.

      Anyway, yeah, it’s certainly possible that they could go on a nice little run at some point and make the playoffs – it’s early yet, and who knows, really – but I’m with Dennis, and I think they’d need a hell of a lot of good luck to succeed. More good luck than the bad luck they’ve faced so far, for sure. They’re better than they’ve looked, of course, but they’re still not a very good team, and even if things go better starting this weekend, they’re starting a long way back. Plus I’ve seen no real evidence that most of these guys can handle any amount of adversity, and a nightmarish start like this certainly counts as adversity.

      Hope you’re right. Not wildly optimistic.

      • Tyler Dellow
        October 30, 2013 at

        I’m in a weird spot Pete. I’m not wildly optimistic either but I don’t think they’re as bad as the Corsi looks.

        Just working off the close data – last year they averaged 43.7% Corsi close. This year they’re at 44.4. That doesn’t look much better.

        The medians are weird though – last year it was 42.7. This year, 48.2. So that looks a lot better and kind of fits with what I think I’ve seen. They’ve been blown up four times, all on the road, all against teams with history of good Corsi% – Vancouver, LA, MTL and OTT. They’ve also been ridiculously injured – we might get to see the actual team in what, a week or so?

      • Tyler Dellow
        October 30, 2013 at

        Oh, and as far as adversity goes…hopefully Andrew Ference has a long memory because he was part of it.

    4. DRock
      October 30, 2013 at

      A good argument that the season isn’t over and it probably doesn’t matter when the bad streak starts as long as it ends. My question is does it end. Is this team any good? They might be. They should be but it’s hard to say until when or if they start winning. Teams like Boston,Philly and Buffalo had pretty good teams that made the playoffs with a bad stretch somewhere in their season. Some make the argument the oilers could be closer to 500 with some luck. One could also argue they came back from being down 3-0,2-0 and came back to win games based on poor 3rd period performances by the other team. Their only other win against Ottawa, the oilers were outshot and outplayed but managed to win. Point being they could just as easily have a 0-11-1 record. Whether its bad luck or a really bad team is something we’ll all find out over the next 10 games.

    5. Tom Benjamin
      October 30, 2013 at

      I think Tyler is right. It is too early to write them off, but they have to turn it around quickly.

      I’m probably more pessimistic than Tyler, though, because I don’t think they are good enough to go 40-21-7 over the next 68 games. And, unfortunately, several of Tyler’s examples were of teams that barely scraped into the Eastern playoffs. I don’t think 93 or 94 points will be enough in the West.

      That and I think they have to play a lot better without the puck. After the Montreal game, Eakins should have said something like, “Damned right we were motivated by Lars Eller’s comments and it is to the player’s credit that we showed him that we could play like an NHL team. He was dumb to say that, but you know what? I really can’t disagree with him. We do not consistently do a good job covering the ice defensively. Until we get a lot better at preventing those gilt-edged scoring chances, we’re going to find it tough to win in this league.”

      • Woodguy
        October 30, 2013 at

        LAK currently holds the last wildcard spot in the West with 16pts in 13gms which pro-rates to 101pts.


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