Edit:There is another version of this article available in pdf which includes more explicit mathematical formulas and an example worked in gruesome detail.
We all know that some games are easier to play than others, and we all make adjustments in our head and in our arguments that make reference to these ideas. Three points out of a possible six on that Californian road-trip are good, considering how good those teams are; putting up 51% possession numbers against Buffalo or Toronto or Ottawa or Colorado just isn’t that impressive considering how those teams normally drive play, or, err, don’t.
These conversations only intensify as the playoffs roll around — really, how good are the Penguins, who put up big numbers in the “obviously” weaker East, compared to Chicago, who are routinely near the top of the “much harder” western conference? How can we compare Pacific teams, of which all save Calgary have respectable possession numbers, with Atlantic teams, who play lots of games against the two weak Ontario teams and the extremely weak Sabres? Continue reading