Note: This FanPost was submitted this afternoon, and I wanted to make sure it gets the visibility it deserves, so it's been moved to the front page. - Dirk
Some friends and I were discussing pregame last week how streaky the Preds have been so far in the season, with all of our wins and losses seemingly coming in bunches. Surely, we thought, the Preds must be the streakiest team in the league. Well, I was curious and decided to crunch the numbers and find out...Here is a chart with a bunch of stat geek info that shows all the data I'm examining to decide which teams really are the streakiest:
One method would be to divide every team's season into a series of streaks, such that a W-L-W-W stretch, for example, would be 3 streaks: a 1-game win streak, a 1-game losing streak, and then a 2-game winning streak. The teams with the least total overall streaks (or, in reality, flips between losing outcomes and winning outcomes) could be described as the streakiest since their seasons thus far will mostly have consisted of a series of like outcomes in a row. Here are the teams with the least flips between winning and losing at the midseason (20-24 seems to be typical for the league overall)
1. STL - 13
2. NAS - 14
3. NYI - 15
4. WAS - 17
5. TOR - 18
This method tells an incomplete story however, as the Islanders and Maple Leafs are only on this list because of massively long losing streaks punctuated by occasional wins. Thus their seasons have mostly consisted of "streaks" (of the losing sort) but would not be what I consider streaky, rather just terrible. A list of teams with the fewest 1-game streaks would seemingly help that since teams with very long stretches of wins or losses (because the teams are great or awful, respectively) broken up by single uncharacteristic games would be excluded. The list should mainly include teams that win or lose in clusters, which could be defined as being streaky. The league average seems to be around 8-12, so the 2 and 3 for STL and NAS are eyebrow-raising:
1. STL - 2
2. NAS - 3
3. WAS - 6
4. TOR - 7
5. MIN - 7
A lot of the same suspects, but still maybe not the best method. Another way to think about it might be that streaky teams seem to win or lose in long bunches, so if you take the average win streak length and the average losing streak length and add them together you'd have a list of teams that both win and lose in bunches, as opposed to teams that merely win or lose in bunches:
1. STL - 3.00 + 3.67 = 6.67
2. NAS - 3.29 + 2.86 = 6.14
3. NYI - 1.86 + 3.63 = 5.48
4. WAS - 3.00 + 2.33 = 5.33
5. TOR - 2.00 + 2.78 = 4.78
This method still doesn't filter out the teams with very long average streaks tilted only to one side of the equation. It is getting pretty apparent anyhow though that STL and NAS are the runaway leaders in what I would define as streakiness and seem to be consistently at the top in every measurable metric. But another way of thinking about streakiness is that it isn't simply that the results happen to end up being clustered together as all W's or all L's but also that the performance of the team is significantly affected by the streak itself. In other words, a team on a win streak will just keep winning at a rate they probably wouldn't win at all things being equal. A way to measure this is to look at the winning percentage of teams after a win and after a loss, and compare them to the team's overall winning percentage. If a team has a much higher winning percentage following a win and a much lower one following a loss compared to their typical winning percentage, you could say that that team is predisposed to streaks as opposed to just winning or losing randomly but at a set pace. This would eliminate teams that have had very long winning or losing streaks and only focus on teams that truly have a "streak mindset." Here's a chart that shows those numbers:
Note that a positive number in the Diff column means that the team's winning percentage is increased and a negative number means that it's decreased. To come up with a list of teams that are most affected by streaks I've taken the differences between a team's win percentage after a win and after a loss and added them together:
1. STL - .427
2. NAS - .380
3. WAS - .267
4. NYI - .250
5. TOR - .152
After this point on the chart the differences get so minor to just become random chance and not part of a larger trend. Here again though we see the same teams as in the previous metrics. At the top the numbers are the most pronounced. Both of those teams are singificantly more likely to keep win streaks going and losing streaks going alike. To focus on Nashville (since they were the focus of this exercise in the first place) the data shows that they are winning a respectable 53.5% of their games overall. After a win however they are winning basically 70% of their games, a rounding difference away from the best rate in the league and a better rate than the 1st place team's overall winning percentage. In other words, on the heels of a win the Preds are arguably the hardest team to beat in the NHL. And after a loss? Well, their winning percentage drops to a meager 31.6%, good for 3rd worst in the league by that metric and 3rd in overall win percentage too. In other words, yikes, they are one of the easiest teams to beat when coming off a loss in the previous contest. For a team that's currently 5th in the Conference, that's pretty astounding.
So to answer the original question: without a doubt, the streakiest team in the league at this point in the season has been St. Louis, followed pretty closely by Nashville, and no one else is really close. Those two teams are far and away ahead in every measurable I can think of. So what does this mean for the rest of the season? First off, stats are just stats, and "past performance is no indicator of future results" as they say on the television. That said, the sample size isn't small at this point so there's something to think about here.
For Nashville, the fast start was attributable to a healthy roster and the current hot streak attributable to Trotz putting a fire under the guys. The losing streaks can largely be attributed to a decimated roster at points in the season and incredibly long road stretches. Since the schedule is shifting massively back towards home games to close the season, and--presumably--the injury bug can't keep striking forever, and some of the injured guys will be returning later in the season [if, if, if, I know...] things are looking brighter for the second half and a hopeful playoff run. This team is well coached and seem to have chemistry and the depth and talent level on ice can only go up as the injuries heal, so the losing streaks should get shorter, going forward. It's harder to claim that the winning streaks will get longer, but long stretches of home games in Feb and Mar sure can't hurt.
Flip side of the coin: who is the least streaky? Which team's record is most likely to resemble a series of coin flips? A: Buffalo. They lead or are second in every metric on the other side of the equation, and are significantly more likely lo lose after a win, and win after a loss compared to their normal winning percentage. Florida, Tampa and Colorado are also contenders. So if you're a fan of those teams, don't let a losing streak phase you--but don't get your hopes up after a win, either...