Friday, March 20, 2009

It's not how you start...

Over at ESPN.com, Pierre LeBrun takes a look at how teams have done in the second half of the year (meaning, the second 41-games). It's an interesting little piece, but we don't think it goes far enough in what it means. First, let's break those standings down by conference. Teams in yellow are in their respective top-eight:


You can see that Montreal in the East is really sucking wind at this point, the worst team in the Conference in the second half of the season. Over in the west, you have to think the youngsters in Chicago have hit a wall. Parenthetically, the high-water mark of the Blackhawk season might have been the Winter Classic. Going into the home and home with Detroit that ended in the outdoor game, Chicago had a .712 winning percentage going into those games (20-6-7). They haven’t been that high since losing both games to Detroit.

But back to this second half thing. If you look at that spiffy color coded table, you can see that the West has followed comparatively true, first half and second, reflected in the fact that seven of the top-eight second half performers are also still in the playoff mix. Only those Blackhawks have fallen out. If you look at potential playoff seedings, as in “if the playoffs started today,” the West would look like this (second half ranking in parentheses):

Detroit (1) vs. Nashville (7)
San Jose (5) vs. Edmonton (8)
Calgary (6) vs. Columbus (4)
Vancouver (3) vs. Chicago (11)

Looking at those matchups, one might think Chicago is set up for a quick and quiet exit. They are slumping, and despite being a current #5 seed in the West, they would face a #4 seed that is actually playing higher than their seed indicated (Vancouver is third in the West in it second half record). Similarly, Calgary – the #3 seed at the moment – could be primed to be “upset” by the Blue Jackets – the #6 seed – based on their respective second half records. San Jose and Edmonton are both playing worse than their current seeds, while Detroit and Nashville have second half records that might be closest to their respective seeds (not good news for Nashville).

Things are more interesting in the East, where there is a real jumble. Ottawa, Atlanta, and Toronto are also-rans in the full-year standings, but which have pushed themselves up the charts in the second half. In addition to the Canadiens’ fall from grace, you’d have to be very concerned about the Hurricanes and the Rangers, their most recent records (6-2-2 and 6-3-1, respectively, in their last ten games) notwithstanding. The potential matchups would look like this (second half ranking in parentheses):

Boston (6) vs. Carolina (10)
Washington (4) vs. Montreal (15)
New Jersey (1) vs. New York Rangers (11)
Philadelphia (7) vs. Pittsburgh (2)

Clearly, you don’t want to be that team facing either Pittsburgh or New Jersey in the first round. Both teams are playing far above their full-year winning percentage levels. Philly and New York are in the potential bulls-eye there, and given their second half performances, you might not like their chances. Boston and Carolina looks like it might be a war of attrition or an aesthetic disaster, given their respective second half performances. And if you’re a Caps fan, you might be fairly drooling over the prospect of getting the Canadiens in the first round.

4 comments:

this space for rent said...

Well, second-half win % isn't always an indicator. Look at the Caps last year for proof of that.

I'd be interested to see which teams have been the most consistently good between the first and second halves of the year, because I think those are the ones that are likely to be dangerous in the playoffs. They've been through the ups and downs, weathered the storm, and are steering a steady course. Look for teams in the upper third for both first and second halves.

The Peerless said...

It is an indicator, just not a perfect one. We're not claiming that every one of the higher four records will defeat every one of the lower four in second half results. Just that it might be a better predictor of how matchups will go than full year records.

How teams did in October and November put them in a position to make the playoffs, but those records are next to irrelevant as a predictor of success in April.

The Peerless said...

What I really suspect is going to be relevant here is how teams have done after the trading deadline. Those are the rosters they'll carry forward into the post season

tg said...

I'd much prefer to see the Caps play NYR or Montreal in the first round. I'm finding myself rooting for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to continue winning (even though that makes me feel extremely dirty) so that they can play each other in the first round and just beat the crap out of each other. I'm also finding myself rooting for New Jersey to do well and Boston to sputter, setting up a second round matchup for the Caps with Boston.