Monday, April 11, 2011

Boston's Cherry-Picking Season Is Over

Third-ranked Boston. 103 Points. 246 GF, 195 GA.


Or not?

The Boston Bruins did a classic job on this season. They got the points where they should, they scored in bunches and they rode the best save percentage of all time to place 3rd in the East.

The stats that look unbeatable, and maybe feel unbeatable if one only chooses to remember the final meeting between these particular teams, only look that way thanks to the placement of more than a few cherries.

A look at their record broken down in a few ways:

Vs. Eastern Conference teams: 38-18-8
Vs. Western Conference teams: 8-7-3

Vs. Eastern Playoff teams: 16-11-5
Vs. Western Playoff teams: 3-6-2

Vs. Eastern Non-Playoff teams: 22-7-3
Vs. Western Non-Playoff teams: 5-1-1

Vs. Playoff teams: 19-17-7
Vs. Non-Playoff teams: 27-8-4

More often than not, when faced with a team that proved themselves over a season to be of superior calibre, the Bruins would lose the game. They lost 24 times in 43 meetings in fact, Their record is like that of a team that lost six 7-game playoff series 3 game to 4.

Oh, but they won games. A ton of games against feebler opposition. 27 wins out of a possible 39.

In regular season percentages, this shows that the Bruins were a 0.744 team against non-playoff opposition and barely middling (0.523 with OTLs credited) against decent opposition. In the more unforgiving playoff win-lose method, they are a 0.690 team against weaklings and a weak 0.442 against opposition that is still alive now.

This is classic cherry picking and it shows up the Bruins as a real challenge to the Cup, in my opinion. It's one thing to impress against the Islanders and quite another to put up results against the contenders.

This is not to say that the Bruins didn't best some playoff teams in a season series -- they did. But they were essentially 0.500 against Eastern playoff teams and poor against the West. Part of their problem right now is their poor record was in large part fuelled by the 2-3-1 showing against the Montreal Canadiens.

But don't all playoff teams do this?

I haven't done the full analysis. But I did look at one other team (guess which?)

Vs. Eastern Conference teams: 36-21-7 (38-18-8)
Vs. Western Conference teams: 8-8-2 (8-7-3)

Vs. Eastern Playoff teams: 17-11-4 (16-11-5)
Vs. Western Playoff teams: 6-2-1 (3-6-2)

Vs. Eastern Non-Playoff teams: 19-10-3 (22-7-3)
Vs. Western Non-Playoff teams: 2-6-1 (5-1-1)

Vs. Playoff teams: 23-13-5 (19-17-7)
Vs. Non-Playoff teams: 21-16-4 (27-8-4)

The Habs were actually better against teams that eventually made the playoffs than against those that didn't -- handy when those that made the playoffs are those left to be played. Where the Bruins cherry picked their way to a deceptive points total, the Canadiens total actually belies some of the underlying achievements.

The playoffs are the great equalizer, they say. And a playoff series begins a fresh season. This may be so, but coming in wouldn't you rather be supporting the team that has shown it can win a lot of hard fought games with tough opposition than the one who took the easy lobs and fluffed a lot of the sterner tests?

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