2015 NHL Stanley Cup 1st Round Predictions: Too Cool For School

Uploaded by "ali", via Wikimedia Commons; altered by author

Uploaded by “ali”, via Wikimedia Commons; altered by author

I don’t like to predict the playoffs, in part because it makes plenty of people look like geniuses that probably aren’t, and makes geniuses look pretty dumb. And really, that’s because the stakes are high but the influence of luck is pretty drastic — not surprising when a team can advance by only winning 4 of 7 (i.e. barely successful enough to make the playoffs in the first place). Lastly, given a flood of predictions and contests in the wake of the Summer of Analytics, nobody who “wins” their predictions is going to look a lot better than the other person who almost “won.” So I’m exercising my right to fart around.

Rather than try to capture possession in these matchups, I’m going to compare the teams by their z-score (or # of standard deviations from the league average) in three sturdy virtues of the old establishment: truculence, size, and experience. Or, as I’m measuring them, team number of fights, team BMI, and team age. Roughly matching the distribution of occurrences of 4, 5, 6, & 7 game series, I set the z-score difference watermarks as:

Diff Range Games
0 to 0.92 7 games
0.92 to 1.84 6 games
1.85 to 2.66 5 games
2.67+ 4 games

Whomever has the edge in the z-score, wins in the above number of games. The predictions, then:

You can click on each image for an enlarged version. Above, by fights we have St. Louis, Nashville, and Anaheim in 7 games in the West, and Vancouver in 6; in the East, Ottawa in 7, Pittsburgh in 6, and Tampa Bay and Washington in 5.

By mass, in the West we have Calgary in 7, St. Louis and Nashville in 6, and Anaheim in 5. In the East, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Washington in 7, and Detroit in 6.

Finally, by geezers, in the West Nashville and Anaheim have it in 7 games, St. Louis and Vancouver in 6 games. In the East, Pittsburgh and Washington in 7 games, Montreal in 6, and Detroit in 5, because they’re really, really old.

One last thought on the whole playoff predictions thing: it has little, if any, utility for teams, and on the other end playoff outcomes (especially in relationship to expectations) often influence harmful player and coach personnel decisions. For these reasons (plus the luck in the results), the focus should be on getting to the playoffs; chances are, what got you there will give you the best chance to succeed the rest of the way.

I’ll be revisiting these predictions as the playoffs go along, strictly to bring closure to the farting around, but in the meantime I shall be bucking all convention and watching the games.

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