At the beginning of round 1, I wrote a post offering my picks based on expected goals for percentage and Corsi differential. The predictions turned out to be reasonable.
Predators (undecided, which seems so wrong with round two starting tonight)
San Jose (correct)
Panthers (wrong, Islanders took the series)
Red Wings (wrong, Lightning won the series)
Five out of seven (with one series hanging in the balance) is just slightly better than a coin flip. Let’s see if we can do it again based on regular season xGF% and Corsi differential per 60.
*all charts can be found here. You can choose all matchup pairs (or any pair of teams you wish).
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals
The Penguins have led the Capitals in expected goals for percentage since December despite Washington’s incredible regular season. It’s reasonable to expect Pittsburgh to continue to carry this category in this series, though it’s worth noting that the Caps improved their expected GF% as the season went on.
Again, by December, the Penguins were on the upswing. Their Corsi differential per 60 rate outpaced the Capitals for the majority of the season. Washington dipped into the negatives in several months but never by much. Still, advantage Pens.
Final Verdict: The Capitals are a great team and it’s hard to choose against them. But the Pens are a better team by these metrics and I expect them to win.
Pens in 6.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Islanders
The Lightning led the Islanders in expected goals for percentage on average for all but one month. The Isles tailed off as the season wore on, which is troubling. Advantage goes to Tampa Bay here.
The Lightning boasted a strong Corsi differential rate throughout the season and led the Isles all season. The Lightning dipped over the stretch run and the Isles bottomed out. Tampa Bay has the edge here too.
Final Verdict: To the extent that these indicators help us to make predictions, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the clear choice. I’ll take the Bolts in six games.
Lightning in 6.
Dallas Stars vs St. Louis Blues
There isn’t much to choose between the Stars and Blues in average monthly xGF%. The two teams flipped and flopped relative positions month-by-month. By April (only a few games) the two teams we even – fitting. This category is a wash.
Much like expected GF%, St. Louis and Dallas flipped relative rankings in Corsi differential throughout the regular season. The Blues held the category over the final stretch of the season but, again, there isn’t a clear advantage for either team here.
Final verdict: These two seem destined for a drawn-out series. The Blues seemed to have the edge in these particular stats by season’s end, so I’ll side with St. Louis. Barely.
St. Louis in 7.
San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators
Admittedly, this graph is a little busy. That’s what happens when round 2 starts before round 1 finishes. At publishing, it isn’t known if the Sharks will face the Predators or Ducks – so, we’ll have to check all three.
The Sharks were consistently strong in xGF% by month throughout the year. The Preds had a midseason swoon. The Ducks peaked in December then tailed off over the final four months of the year. The Sharks have the edge, likely, though the Preds would be close if they make it to round 2.
The Sharks started slowly in Corsi differential before a strong showing from December on. The Preds only suffered one month with a negative differential. The Ducks bookend a positive season with slightly negative showings in October and April.
The Sharks aren’t clearly dominant here. Again, the Preds seem the more dangerous competitor, the Ducks seem least likely to beat the Sharks.
Final verdict: It’s tricky to find any clarity in this jumble. There’s lots of reasons to like the Sharks regardless of their second round matchup. I’ll side with them. However, if the Predators advance to round two, they could pose problems for the Sharks.
Sharks in 6.