Vancouver Canucks Peaking at the Right Time?
In the extremely tight Western Conference (where a mere fourteen points separate twelth place from third place), it might seem difficult to pick a team to emerge from the fray victorious and represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. The Detroit Red Wings, of course, are perennial favourites (although their defense (and particularly goaltending) looks rather suspect, with five of the other eight seeded teams showing fewer goals against). But what about the teams immediately below Detroit in the standings, notably the San Jose Sharks, the Calgary Flames, the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks?
Points don’t tell the whole story: the Sharks, for example, piled up a ton of points early in the season, but have been struggling of late. Let’s instead take a look at these respective teams’ trending.
Here’s a look at how these teams got to where they are today, 70 games into an 82 game season:
Let’s look a bit more closely at the trending: if we plot each of these teams’ point accumulation over time, one game at a time, and add some regression lines, what does that tell us about where these teams are heading?
Interesting: as we can see, the Sharks are on a downward trend, as are the Blackhaws. The Flames, meanwhile, are trending upward, but not as much as the Canucks.
Next, let’s take ten-game chunks and see what that tells us:
This shows an even starker constrast between the four teams: the Canucks have clearly been firing on all cylinders over the past 20 games, while the other three teams are showing the wear and tear of a long season of high-calibre hockey.
Our conclusion? Look for Vancouver to go deep into the playoffs this year. Detroit has managed to outscore opponents and win games despite a leaky defense; that style of hockey historically doesn’t work in the tighter, lower-scoring and more defense-oriented post-season. Calgary remains a force, however San Jose and Chicago appear to be running out of steam at exactly the wrong time of the season.