blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: June 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 NHL Individual Awards Winners

When it comes to the NHL Awards, a handful are earned on statistical achievement while the rest are won through votes cast by various organizations depending on the award. The chart below shows the award winners for the 2015 NHL season.

NHL Award              Winner 
Conn Smythe Trophy                              Duncan Keith
Art Ross Trophy Jamie Benn
Maurice Richard Trophy Alex Ovechkin
Plus-Minus Award Max Pacioretty/Nikita Kucherov
Hart Trophy Carey Price
Ted Lindsay Award Carey Price
Selke Trophy Patrice Bergeron
Norris Trophy Erik Karlsson
Vezina Trophy Carey Price
Jennings Trophy Carey Price/Corey Crawford
Roger Crozier Award Carey Price
Calder Trophy Aaron Ekbald
Jack Adams Award Bob Hartley
GM of the Year Steve Yzerman
Bill Masterton Trophy                        Devan Dubnyk
Lady Byng Trophy Jiri Hudler
King Clancy Trophy Henrik Zetterberg
Foundation Award Brent Burns
Messier Award Jonathan Toews

2015 NHL First All-Star Team honors went to Price (G), Karlsson (D), Subban (D), Tavares (C), Voracek (RW) and Ovechkin (LW). The 2015 NHL Second All-Star Team roster was Dubnyk (G), Weber (D), Doughty (D), Crosby (C), Tarasenko (RW) and Benn (LW).  

The 2015 NHL All-Rookie Team was comprised of newcomers Jake Allen (G), Aaron Ekblad (D), John Klingberg (D), Mark Stone (F), Johnny Gaudreau (F) and Filip Forsberg (F).

* See also 2014 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2013 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2012 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2011 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2010 NHL Individual Awards Winners.
* See also 2009 NHL Individual Awards Winners.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

NHL Playoff Seeding and Stanley Cup Wins

Tweaks to the playoff seeding system prior to the 1994 regular season awarded division winners with the top three spots in each conference, saving the final five positions for the next highest finishing teams. In the 21 seasons since, a division champion has made it to the Stanley Cup Finals every year but three (2012, 2014, 2015), winning 15 of 21 times.

Realignment before the 2014 regular season reduced the number of divisions in each conference (from three to two) and introduced a revised playoff structure with teams playing through their division (with possible wildcard exceptions). For the purposes of this post we'll continue to ascribe conference standings to team seeding to test the importance of regular season finish on postseason performance, despite different playoff matchup methodology.

The chart below describes Cup Finals since 1994 by seeding and outcome.

Year       Stanley Cup Final Matchup
2015   (4) Chicago over (3) Tampa Bay  
2014   (6) Los Angeles over (5) New York*  
2013   (1) Chicago over (4) Boston  
2012 (8) Los Angeles over (6) New Jersey  
2011 (3) Boston over (1) Vancouver
2010 (2) Chicago over (7) Philadelphia
2009 (4) Pittsburgh over (2) Detroit
2008 (1) Detroit over (2) Pittsburgh
2007 (2) Anaheim over (4) Ottawa
2006 (2) Carolina over (8) Edmonton
2004 (1) Tampa Bay over (6) Calgary
2003 (2) New Jersey over (7) Anaheim
2002 (1) Detroit over (3) Carolina
2001 (1) Colorado over (1) New Jersey
2000 (4) New Jersey over (2) Dallas
1999 (1) Dallas over (7) Buffalo
1998 (2) Detroit over (4) Washington 
1997 (3) Detroit over (2) Philadelphia   
1996 (2) Colorado over (4) Florida     
1995 (5) New Jersey over (1) Detroit
1994 (1) New York* over (7) Vancouver

*   New York Rangers

The only non-division winners to hoist the Cup since the new seeding scenario are New Jersey (5th seed in 1995, 4th seed in 2000), Pittsburgh (4th seed in 2009), Los Angeles (8th seed in 2012, 6th seed in 2014) and Chicago (4th seed in 2015). Interestingly, New Jersey and Pittsburgh both fell short as division champions in the Stanley Cup Final (NJD 2001, PIT 2008), yet won as wildcards.

The Presidents' Trophy winner made the Stanley Cup Final eight times during this span (NYR 1994, DET 1995, DAL 1999, COL 2001, DET 2002, DET 2008, VAN 2011, CHI 2013), claiming the Cup every time but twice (DET 1995, VAN 2011). Amazingly, only once have the top seeded teams in each conference met in the Stanley Cup Final (2001). 

At the other end of the spectrum, Cinderellas seeded 6th or worse have found themselves in the Stanley Cup Final nine times (VAN 1994, BUF 1999, ANA 2003, CGY 2004, EDM 2006, PHI 2010NJD 2012LAK 2012, LAK 2014). Only two have won (LAK 2012, LAK 2014) and only once has a Stanley Cup Final been an all-cinderella affair (2012) when the 8th seeded Kings defeating the 6th seeded Devils to become the first 8th seeded team to win a major North American professional sports championship.  

It's worth noting that 6th to 8th seeded teams in the salary cap era are not quite the underdog they once were as playoffs clubs are more closely aligned in terms of regular season performance than ever before. 

The chart below describes the regular season point differential for all playoff qualifiers and Stanley Cup finalists since 1994 by year.

Year      Playoff Differential      Cup Final Differential
2015  
16pts (113 - 97)             
6pts (108 - 102)^
2014  
26pts (117 - 91)
4pts (100 - 96)
2013*  
22pts (77 - 55)
15pts (77 - 62)
2012
19pts (111 - 92)
7pts (102 - 95)^
2011
24pts (117 - 93)
14pts (117 - 103)^
2010
33pts (121 - 88)
24pts (112 - 88)
2009
26pts (117 - 91)
13pts (112 - 99)^
2008
24pts (115 - 91)
13pts (115 - 102)
2007
21pts (113 - 92)
5pts (110 - 105)
2006
32pts (124 - 92)
17pts (112 - 95)
2004
18pts (109 - 91)
12pts (106 - 94)
2003
30pts (113 - 83)
13pts (108 - 95)
2002
29pts (116 - 87)
25pts (116 - 91)
2001
30pts (118 - 88)
7pts (118 - 111)
2000
29pts (114 - 85)
1pt (103 - 102)
1999
36pts (114 - 78)
23pts (114 - 91)
1998
31pts (109 - 78)
11pts (103 - 92)
1997
30pts (107 - 77)   
9pts (103 - 94)^
1996
53pts (131 - 78)   
12pts (104 - 92)
1995*
28pts (70 - 42)
18pts (70 - 52)^
1994
30pts (112 - 82)
27pts (112 - 85)
Avg
28pts     
13pts     
     

*  Abbreviated 48 game regular season due to lockout
^  Team with fewer regular season points won series

The chart shows that regular season point differentials between playoff qualifiers is narrowing. During the 82 game seasons from 1994 until the 2004 Lockout, 7 of 10 had at least a 30 point gap, compared to only 2 of the past 9 such seasons since. The largest spread during this span is 53 points (1996) and the smallest 16 points (2015), with a 21 season average of a 28 point differential. Interestingly, the last time there was a spread of less than 16 points was in 1965 when just four teams qualified for the postseason.

Similarly, the regular season point differential between Stanley Cup finalists is closing.  Since 1994, only six Finals have boasted teams with a regular season point differential of 7 points or less, with three of those instances occurring over the past four years. The largest gap over the past 21 seasons is 27 points (1994) and the smallest is 1 point (2000), with an average of 13 points.  Only 6 times during this span has a finalist with fewer regular season points than its opponent won the Cup (NJD 1995, DET 1997, PIT 2009, BOS 2011, LAK 2012, CHI 2015).

Cinderella teams tell an inspiring story but statistics show that clubs seeded 6th through 8th rarely qualify for the Final (9 of 42, 21% chance to qualify) and almost never go home a winner (2/42, 5% chance to win). That said, the narrowing regular season point differential between playoff qualifiers and Stanley Cup Final pairings could soon see more cinderella winners.

In short, unless you're the Devils, Penguins or unprecedented Kings, your best bet to win the Cup in the modern era comes with clinching your division (15 of 21 winners), earning more regular season points than your fellow finalist (15 of 21 winners), leading your conference (7 of 21 winners) and taking the Presidents' Trophy (6 of 21 winners). 

That way, you'll have history on your side.

* See also NHL Playoff First Round Upsets.
* See also Presidents' Winners & Defending Cup Champions.
* See also NHL Presidents' Trophy Winners & Playoff Success.

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines

The time-honored tradition of NHL playoff combatants shaking hands upon the conclusion of a series is among the greatest displays of sportsmanship in professional team sports today. Seconds after the horn sounds at the end of a series, players and coaches from both teams convene at center ice to celebrate each other's efforts.

The videos below capture the final moments of play in each series-ending game to date in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs along with the ensuing traditional team handshake line, sorted by round and series end date.

FIRST ROUND

The Ducks eliminated the Jets in Game 4 on April 22, 2015.


The Rangers eliminated the Penguins in Game 5 on April 24, 2015.


The Blackhawks eliminated the Predators in Game 6 on April 25, 2015.


The Flames eliminated the Canucks in Game 6 on April 25, 2015.


The Wild eliminated the Blues in Game 6 on April 26, 2015.


The Canadiens eliminated the Senators in Game 6 on April 26, 2015.


The Capitals eliminated the Islanders in Game 7 on April 27, 2015.


The Lightning eliminated the Red Wings in Game 7 on April 29, 2015.


SECOND ROUND

The Blackhawks eliminated the Wild in Game 4 on May 7, 2015.


The Ducks eliminated the Flames in Game 5 on May 10, 2015.


The Lightning eliminated the Canadiens in Game 6 on May 12, 2015.


The Rangers eliminated the Capitals in Game 7 on May 13, 2015.


THIRD ROUND

The Lightning eliminated the Rangers in Game 7 on May 29, 2015.


The Blackhawks eliminated the Ducks in Game 7 on May 30, 2015.


STANLEY CUP FINAL

The Blackhawks eliminated the Lightning in Game 6 on June 15, 2015.


In an age of results reigning over respect, it's encouraging to see such sportsmanship in professional sport, albeit with notable exceptions (Milan Lucic 2014), abstention (Martin Brodeur 2008Derek Boogaard 2007, Chris Chelios 2007Darren McCarty 1997, Ed Belfour 1995Billy Smith, Gerry Cheevers) and disdain (Dino Ciccarelli 1996) in recent years.

* See also 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.
* See also 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.
* See also 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Handshake Lines.