08 December 2009
In Olympic years, everyone's schedule gets analyzed to the point that complaining about a team's schedule is like complaining about the weather. Every team has a complaint, most are valid, and no one really cares at all. Luckily this isn't a complaint about the Avs schedule, but more a warning towards other teams: The Avs have had an absolutely brutal schedule up to this point, and are still sitting at 4th in the West.
More After the Jump
What I think gets missed when looking at some of the Avs terrible stats is the context in which they were created, and that context is the schedule. So far the Avs have played a brutal 65.6% of their games on the road, or 1 in 3. That is by far the most in the league (San Jose is next, I think, at 58%). After the Blues tilt, the Avs will get 7 of their next 10, and 19 of their next 30 games at home (63%). That home ice advantage is significant because not only are the Avs 7-2-2 at home this season, but Home teams, in general, win 55.5% of their games, and nearly every referee in the league is biased towards the home team (And there's proof thanks to Behind the Net and Japer's Rink). In fact last season the Avs had a + differential in penalties at home (152 calls for vs 145 calls against) but on the road they were miserably called against (155 calls for and 173 calls against). That's a huge discrepancy, and the Avs are going to benefit greatly by being on the PK less, and the PP more. The Avs have not only had had the hardest schedule in terms of home-ice, but they have had a brutal schedule in terms of playing good teams.
How good has the Avs opponents been? Well many of the stats guys have discounted the Avs accomplishments this season have relied on this adjusted Corsi number, in which the Avs rank dead last, that can be found over on Objective NHL. (This data hasn't been updated since Nov. 14th, so I'll just have to rely on it.). Look at the very last row in his spreadsheet, and it's essentially the SF/SA ratio when teams are at even strength. Now the Avs have horrible numbers there, which is a big reason why some are discounting the Avs as flukes, but at the time the Data was published, the Avs average opponent had a Corsi F/A of 1.124. In layman's terms, the Avs were, on average, facing a team as good as the Sharks or Capitals every single night. Now since that high point the Avs have faced some weaker teams and are currently down to an opponent Corsi F/A of 1.057 (well using data from Nov. 14th). This is still well above league average (1.000), and I'd be willing to guess that 1.057 (Which falls somewhere between the Penguins, Predators, Kings, Leafs (WTF!?!), and Canucks) would be in the top-5 in terms of opponent strength, but certainly in terms of top-10. (And that's a number I don't have the time to compile for 30 teams)
What does this all mean: That the Avs have played a likely top-5 schedule in terms of opponent strength and the worst schedule as far as home/away. A very strong argument can be made that the Avs have had the hardest schedule in the NHL so far, and have come out of that brutal stretch with 40 points 5th in the Western Conference in points % despite, on average facing a team as good as the Kings have been (4th in the Western Conference.)
So, as people claim that the Avs will trail off, it may not be nearly as dramatic as people are suggesting. Not only is their schedule going to be a hell of a lot easier, but they are going to be playing those lesser teams at home, with home-ice advantage.
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