“They peaked on the proper time.” We’ve heard that expression used to explain late-blooming Stanley Cup playoff juggernauts for years. The 2018-19 St. Louis Blues are the final word instance: final place in early January, second-half turnaround, finest file within the league over their remaining 10 video games, eventual champions.
Just like the beer-bellied, balding former beginning quarterback trudging into his high-school reunion, you don’t wish to peak early, proper?
In the event you’ve adopted my work lengthy sufficient, you’ll know I get pleasure from difficult hockey adages to see in the event that they ring true after we dig in to the info. Are the 2018-19 Blues the norm or the exception? How a lot does it matter to play your finest hockey within the stretch run of a season?
On one hand, it’s exhausting to check the info from each workforce and each season with out understanding the subjective conditions. The 2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks, for example, struggled down the stretch as a result of their celebrity Patrick Kane was out with a damaged collarbone. He returned for Recreation 1 of the postseason, and Chicago was off and operating to a 3rd Cup in a five-year stretch. Additionally, groups that clinch playoffs spots early usually have the luxurious of load-managing their prime gamers, which may result in a dip in workforce efficiency in meaningless video games.
I counter that notion with: The info nonetheless matter in that context, too. Whether or not a contending workforce is legitimately scuffling with a full-strength roster or just dulling its senses with video games that don’t impression the standings, how both situation interprets to playoff efficiency is significant info.
So if we have a look at groups that made deep playoff runs up to now 10 postseasons, what number of of them carried out nicely within the remaining 10 video games of the common season? I’ll outline “deep” as being one of many remaining 4 groups standing in a given yr.
For the sake of this train, I’m discounting the 2019-20 season, as a result of groups went greater than 4 months between enjoying regular-season and playoff video games because of the pandemic, so the connection between late-season efficiency and playoff destiny clearly was very totally different. I changed 2019-20 with 2011-12 to offer us a correct 10-season pattern.
Right here’s how the convention finalists of the previous 10 (non-bubble) seasons fared of their remaining 10 regular-season video games. To keep away from falling into the “good groups win, Captain Apparent” lure, I’ll embrace the groups’ full-season season ranks within the standings too, as we have to see if general season efficiency correlates stronger to deep playoff runs than peaking late.
|Season||Crew||Remaining 10 video games||Rank||Full season|
– The typical factors proportion of the previous 40 convention finalists over their remaining 10 regular-season video games was .634. Their common rank within the standings over their remaining 10 video games was 11th. Their common rank within the full-season standings, nevertheless, was even increased at seventh.
– 37.5% of the convention finalists had top-five information within the league over their remaining 10 video games; 37.5% had top-five full-season information. 47.5% had top-10 information over their remaining 10 video games; 70% had top-10 information within the full season.
– Solely 12.5% had bottom-10 information over their remaining 10 video games, and simply 5 of the previous 40 convention finalists had been even beneath .500 over their remaining 10 video games.
It doesn’t appear to be completely crucial so that you can obliterate your competitors just like the 2018-19 Blues and be the finest workforce within the NHL down the stretch, however the overwhelming majority of convention finalists had been at the very least first rate groups down the stretch, with 87.5% enjoying at the very least .500 hockey. That tells us you ideally don’t wish to be dangerous in your remaining video games of the season. Nonetheless, the correlation is clearly stronger between being a great workforce all season and making a deep playoff run.
So whereas the late-season surge is a enjoyable narrative, it’s not as constantly as necessary as being a powerful workforce wire to wire. Peaking late? We’ll name it barely overrated but in addition not a nasty factor to do.