Oooo, a post with labels!

From the official Oilers team site's preview of tonight's match:

"Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed public bone) is doubtful."

OK... There must be a story here. Was he showing this 'inflamed public bone' to little kids in the park and is the team having trouble posting bail?

Seems to be an epidemic in the seedy world of pro hockey.


Souray going to the all-star game... This is really a no-win situation for Sheldon. He earned his invitation to the glorified shinny game by racking up points on the power play with his killer slapshot. Unfortunately for him,

1) There are no PPs in the all-star game*
2) Booming slapshots are frowned upon in the all-star game.
3) Highly skilled forwards will be itching to go 1-on-1 with the lumbering defenseman and deke him out of his skin-tight jersey.

* Well, the way refs have been calling games this year, we might see only five or ten minors. Heck, if someone tried the 'ol tape on the skate blade gag I wouldn't be surprised to see the perpetrator get nailed for hooking and the victim (coughbrierecough) go off for diving.


The Habs aren't on a losing streak. They're gunning for a good seed for the playoffs. If it's a given that winning the division is out of the realm of possibility (which is true), then #4/5 seed is not looking too good.

Whoever is in 4/5 will be facing Ottawa or Buffalo. Ottawa is better than their record. They were just slumming for the first half of the season. And Buffalo, while they bear an uncanny resemblance to a top ringette squad, still has to be considered the team to beat in the East. The 6/7 seeds are the real plums in the East.


Hot topic: the new sweaters.

Opinions vary. By reading the articles, you can quickly see which guys (call them the "new jersey" devils) are suckers for consumer gimmickry like air pockets in running shoes or razors with 47 teflon-coated blades or toothbrushes with revolutionary patented design features that do nothing but add $$$ to the price.

I strongly doubt the benefits of adding "Bead Away" technology or Ventilated "Play Dry" fabric. If there were real beneficial changes to be discovered, they would have been driven by those with a real interest: hockey players and hockey teams. This third-party "research" baloney is nothing but crass marketing of another product for us to consume. That Brian Jennings, the NHL's executive vice president of consumer products marketing, is doing the talking really says it all.


Further Reading (you'll need it, with my post frequency lately)

Yes, I already mentioned these guys, but I don't think I pimped them enough. As far as mainstream media blogging efforts go, they're the cream of the crop. They play to their strengths, updating constantly and often providing information that your average fan blogger just doesn't have access to.

I can't believe I've been ignorant of this blog for so long. It's candid, offers a fresh perspective, and is chock full of astute observations. The writing is superb. I'll read anyone who can tie Foucault in with hockey.

A philosophical view on hockey with lots of interesting ideas.

I'm off to read some archives...

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Reason for Pessimism

I've finally been moved to post by something that has been as rare as hen's teeth this season: a whale of a hockey game. There is nothing quite so youthfully exuberant as a teenager screaming expletives in ecstasy on a HD broadband broadcast. Shootouts still suck, though.

Anyone who watched that game will recall a 4-on-3 PP in overtime. Ryan Parent was the right defenseman for Canada for nearly the whole penalty kill. He had several opportunities to clear the puck, but couldn't because he was on his backhand. A right-handed shot in that position could have easily relieved the pressure. That, my friends, goes a long way in explaining why Bob Gainey valued David Fischer so highly in the last draft.

Now down to brass tacks.

With roughly half the NHL season gone, the Habs appear to be in very good shape. They've put up the second most points per game in the East. Does that make them contenders? Let's see...

There is an item at The Hockey Project (RIP) that rates teams across eras using a measure called Pythagorean Dominance:

Pythagorean Dominance (PDOM) = (PW% - .500) / CB

The PW% is the Pythagorean win% of the team in question, (GF² / (GF² + GA²)). CB is the competitive balance, which is simply the standard deviation of the league-wide win percentages.

I tinkered with the formula a bit (used the season's average PW% instead of just .500, and used the standard deviation of the PW% instead of the win%) to come up with this list of recent Cup champs and runners-up:

No champ in the last 17 seasons has had a PDom less than .55. The average is 1.15, so let's call any team with a PDom over 1.0 a serious contender.

Here are this season's teams with PDom over 0.55:

At 0.80, which is good for 6th in the league, the Habs look like dark horses. They're better than the average Cup loser since 1989. Sound encouraging Habs fans? Well, unfortunately the Canadiens' goal differential has been propped up by an outrageous differential in empty net goals. They have scored 9 and allowed only 1 this season.

Here are the PDom ratings of the last eight Cup finalists, once ENGs are removed:

As expected, they're not too different from their PDom ratings when ENGs are included. Now, here are the PDom ratings of teams this season when ENGs are omitted:

The top five all retain the same positions, and all remain above 1.0. The mighty Canadiens drop below the 0.55 threshold, all the way down to 11th place at 0.45.

All of the best team ranking systems out there utilize goal differential. Right now, the Canadiens' freakish ENG differential is making them look better than they really are. It's not unusual for good teams to have a positive ENG differential. After all, a good team is more likely to be leading by a goal late in the game than a bad team. But a +8 after half a season is huge. In the last four seasons, the biggest ENG differential over a whole season was +11 ('04 Isles and '03 Sens). Only four teams have had a +10 or better. This cannot continue.

Although they're an amazing +21 (50 GF, 29 GA) on special teams so far this season, Montreal is -12 even strength (60 GF, 72 GA). Even if they can maintain the red-hot special teams (which is unlikely), that does not bode well for playoff hockey when the number of penalties drops.

Don't get me wrong - we're seeing an above-average team this season. But unless we see some serious improvement at even strength, I can't consider them serious contenders.

Time for a commercial break.