Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two Early Season Trends

We have been absent these last few weeks - we have been more concerned with the conclusion of the baseball season. Now that that has ended (in glorious triumph), we are free to contemplate the nobler sport of hockey.

The beginning of the season is so difficult for the numbers-oriented person - he is quick to seize on trends, but then must chastise himself to remember the mantra of sample size.

We Still Think, In the Face of Seemingly All Evidence, that the Colorado Avalanche will struggle to Make the Playoffs

All the rabbit's feet, lucky pennies, or horseshoes lodged in one's own posterior cannot explain what the Colorado Avalanche are doing this season. The Avalanche are being outshot by 129, yet they have 17 more goals than their opposition.

Now one may say - but Triumph, are not the Avalanche so far ahead that they only need coast into the postseason? Perhaps. The average amount of points to get into the Western Conference playoffs since the lockout is 93.25, or 1.137 points per game. The Avalanche need only average 1.03 points per game the rest of the way. 1.03 points per game averaged out to a season is 85 points, a threshold which only nine teams failed to make last season. So - we cannot say that the Avalanche are an underdog to do this, especially in light of Craig Anderson's play. We're going to say that anyway.

The Carolina Hurricanes are the anti-Avalanche

The bags under Paul Maurice's eyes probably have their own bags at this point, as the Hurricanes have lost 11 straight. We still maintain they are not a poor team. They are outshooting their opposition by 20 - by itself, this number does not mean very much, but their 6.3% team shooting percentage is unsustainable. Expect the Hurricanes to return to mediocrity - although alack for them, this will likely not mean a playoff berth. The average Eastern Conference 8th seed has gotten 92.75 points. For Carolina to reach 92 points, they will have to play 105 point hockey from here on out - something which only five teams did last season.

With both of these examples, we have to be careful in the interpretation of 'regression to the mean'. The word to be emphasized in that common phrase is 'mean'. There is no reason why Colorado's fortunes should reverse - they should merely sag. Anderson's performance will get worse and the team's shooting percentage will decrease, but these numbers will not flip-flop. Likewise with Carolina. Both are probably around 90 to 95 point clubs - but because of the viccisitudes of Fate and October results, one will glory in April hockey while one cowers in April golf.

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