Time to polish the Crystal Ball...

By now, every blogger worth his mouse has chimed in with playoff predictions, and it's finally time to post mine for all to see as well. Keeping in mind some of the statistical analysis I've done earlier this season, I wanted to see how the concept of Shot Quality might inform an opinion of how the first-round matchups might shake out, so that's where I'm starting from.

So here's the process: I've broken down all the shots* from the 2006-7 regular season, by range (0-9 feet, 10-19, 20-29, etc. all the way up to 60+). There are four angles I've taken with that data. First, how many shots per game does each team take from each range? Secondly, what is their scoring percentage from each range? Thirdly, how many shots does their opponent yield per game from each range, and lastly, what scoring percentage does the opponent give up from each range? This should tell us how each offense is performing relative to the quantity and quality of the shots their taking, how well they're converting scoring opportunities, and how that offense will interact with the opposing defense. The end result is an Expected Goals/Game for each team, which I'm using as the starting point for first-round playoff predictions. I'll provide a post for each first round matchup, along with some qualititative analysis (in other words, extraneous factors that these numbers might not describe). Another factor here is that instead of using simple season-long averages, I'm using Exponential Smoothing to give greater weight to recent performance (the damping factor of 0.97 means that the last regular season game bears about twelve times as much weight as the first game in these figures).

For now, I'll present some of the tables I'm using. The first shows the current average shots per game taken by each playoff team, from the ranges indicated. The two highest values in each column are shaded green, the two lowest are shaded pink:

So what jumps out here? What strikes me is the way the New York Rangers are taking lots of shots from close in. They boast the highest per-game marks in each of the three closest shooting ranges, and given how much everyone likes to talk about how important "tough goals" are during the playoffs, it appears that Rangers are doing the best job of creating those chances. As far as "offensively challenged" teams go, I'd probably cite the Stars and Canucks as teams generating the least dangerous offense.

On the defensive side, the table looks the same, except the shading is flipped low numbers (good defense) are green, and high numbers are red:

Interestingly, just the Rangers are taking close-in shots, they're also yielding more than their fair share as well. Other porous defenses include the Islanders and Thrashers, which are all giving up very high amounts of shots from 29 feet in, whereas Buffalo does the best job of defending the front of the net.

In posts to follow I'll break down the details (along with further data) behind each of the first-round matchups, and I think you'll be surprised with what some of the results say...

*"All shots" in this case excludes Empty Netters and Penalty Shots.

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