#206: Stanley Cup Final 2011
This is an off-year for hockey.
Not only did my "vaunted" system have its worst year (regardless of what it predicts in the final round), but many of the experts were correct in picking their Stanley Cup Finalists.
That almost never happens (the latter, more so than the former).
For the Conference Finals round, the System and the Experiment were at odds in both contests, and the Experiment ended up being correct in both cases. The System is an abysmal 7-7, and the Experiment is 11-3 in predicting winners.
I think during the offseason, I'll have to go back and run the Experiment series by series and see what it comes up with for the last few seasons.
The San Jose Sharks, this blog's projected Cup winner since Round 1 went out pretty much with a whimper (and say what you will about Vancouver's alleged diving).
The Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, nearly was able to finish the job, but taking another series to a 7th game on the road still made the system's pick look bona fide.
#1 Vancouver vs. #2 San Jose
Well, statistically for the series, San Jose held an average of over 7 shots more per game than the Canucks, although Vancouver won that battle in each of the first two games. The last two games (Canuck wins 3 and 4 of the series), however, was half Sharks goalie Antti Niemi buckling too easily and half Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo being amazing.
In Game 4, Niemi allowed four goals on 13 shots. While it's true that three of the goals came when Vancouver had a two-man advantage, that was a situation where a championship goalie needs to rise. On at least two of those occasions.
In Game 5, San Jose hammered Luongo with 56 shots in 4-plus periods and could only put two past him.
Apparently, an earlier prediction about San Jose and Detroit destroying each other in advance of a showdown witn Vancouver was more accurate than the system.
#3 Boston vs. #5 Tampa Bay
Once again, statistically, the advantage in the Shots-on-Goal department went to Tampa (+3.6, on average, for the series). In fact, they won the shots battle in every game but the final one. And, despite Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson's best effort, they were unable to generate any offense on the other end in the final game.
Tampa also seemed to catch goaltender Tim Thomas off guard for much of the series, hanging five goals on him four times (winning three) - but only scoring one goal in the remaining games combined.
Roloson blinked in Game 2, when a 5-goal output by his offense would have been enough to win just about any night, and the complete game the Bruins put together in the series finale was enough to get the job done.
Now, to the future...
Stanley Cup Final
#1 Vancouver vs. #3 Boston
According to one source, in the past 20 years or so, no team has won the Stanley Cup when they give up an average of 30 shots or more per game in the regular season.
This trend was officially bucked when both the Canucks and the Bruins advanced to the Final to become the last teams standing.
At first glance, Vancouver appears to have a slight edge. Boston shoots the puck, just slightly more per game than Vancouver, but they gave up two more shots per game on average. That would make Vancouver the System's pick.
But, as with the Boston/Tampa series, this will likely come down to goaltending. Much of the focus in the run-up to this Final has been Canada vs. one of the Original Six.
I prefer to look at it as a duel between fellow Vezina Trophy candidates Thomas and Luongo. For the season, Thomas has the better save percentage. That would likely make Boston the Experiment pick.
Either way, this series looks like it's going to be a lengthy one. Boston's size and presence in the offensive zone vs. Vancouver's finesse and quick strike ability.
On a recent radio show, I said this series would probably be pretty boring, but after looking at these numbers, this might be the best Final that hockey fans will have seen in a long time.
At least the champion will have gone at least a generation without having won one...
Here's the results of the final math.
System says Vancouver in 6 (official pick - gotta stick with it this postseason)
Experiment says Boston in 7 (will likely use this system next year if the past few seasons also reflect a strong corrolation)
FYI, the fight statistic here in the postseason - in 82 games, there have been 10 fights. There was one fight in each of the conference finals. Several misconducts assessed, but only two fights (12.2% for the postseason). While it could be better, that's a favorable percentage for my taste.
Your comments are always welcome.