Saturday, January 26, 2008

How the West was won

Some very interesting stuff from the power rankings. David Johnson's complied a list looking at adjusted winning percentage (eliminating the extra points from shootouts and OT losses) and strength of schedule, and came to the conclusion that the top 11 teams are in the Western Conference, while the only Eastern in the top half of the league are Ottawa and Philadelphia. As he mentions, this might be a little off: Ottawa's probably better than Phoenix, Colorado or Columbus, but their numbers are hurt by the terrible quality of the teams they play. In fact, many of the lower Eastern teams probably have more wins than they should given the poor quality of their opposition, which in turn would inflate the strength of schedule factor for the top Eastern teams.

What this really shows, though, is the depth of the conferences. The top half of the West is very even (except for Detroit), while the East seems far more imbalanced. Overall, the West is 57-31-7 against the East this year. What's interesting is the divisional breakdown: the Northwest leads with a 21-10-5 record (not surprising due to the depth of its talent), but the Central is close behind with a 19-10-2 mark. The Pacific trails with a 17-11-0 record, but it should improve now that Anaheim's on a hot streak since Scott Niedermayer's return. Even the hapless Los Angeles Kings have a winning record against the East thus far (2-1-0). It will be interesting to see if this edge is shown in tomorrow's All-Star game: is it the top talent from the West that's better, or is it the depth? Personally, I think the difference comes back to goaltending and team defence: all of the top five goalies in GAA are from Western teams, as are 11 of the top 15. Any other theories?

Related: Thanks to Tom Benjamin for the link.

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