We’re finally here.
After eight grueling months, the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks will play into the beginning of their ninth month of hockey, vying for the Stanley Cup.
I’ve made predictions for each round based on a loose methodology – eyeballing and selecting based on monthly 5v5 Corsi differentials and expected goals for percentage (xGF%).
So far, the picks have turned out well. 12 of 14 picks have been correct (the two misses were the Red Wings and Islanders in round 1). Here’s a look at the Conference Finals predictions: NHL Playoffs – Pens and Sharks Look Good in Conference Finals.
Below is one last stab at my entirely unscientific, loosely statistical foray into prognostication.
The Penguins and Sharks followed a similar trajectory in monthly Corsi differential at 5v5. Both teams started the year slowly, peaked near season’s end, and have hovered comfortably above 0 in the playoffs. The Pens were especially strong in March and enjoy the edge in May as well.
The Pens win out in this category, though the Sharks are no slouches here.
Except for a November dip for the Penguins, both teams have been better than 50% in expected goals for percentage – no surprise there. The Sharks have shuffled around the 55% mark while the Pens have remained between 55-60% since December.
We’re looking at the the Stanley Cup Finalists here, so the differences are small and the margins thin. But the Penguins have the edge in this statistic as well.
Corsi Differential for Individuals
*for a larger view, click here.
As we know have three series worth of results, we can look at the overall Corsi differential for skaters on each team as well.
The top of the chart is a fairly even blend of Penguins and Sharks skaters. Hertl, Kunitz, and Vlasic own the top three spots. Braun, Letang, Dumoulin, Donskoi, Crosby, and Hornqvist come in next highest. Essentially, the two teams have the top of the chart split.
There’s a little more distinction at the bottom where the Sharks own the bottom five slots – Dillon, Karlsson, Polak, Tierney, and Spaling. Cullen and Kuhnackl have struggled most for the Pens.
If we’re trying to declare a winner here, that’s tough. Each team’s best players have posted positive totals (except for Marleau and Kessel, I suppose) and that top of the Corsi differential chart is essentially a tie. However, San Jose’s depth players have struggled most. As the series wears on, the Penguins likely have a deeper roster of capable puck managers.
Penguins win series in 7, claim Cup
Based on monthly Corsi differential and xGF%, the Penguins look to have a slight edge in this series. Both teams boast strong marks in these stats but the Pens have been better. Expect the Penguins to ride their speedy, puck possession attacking style to another Cup and for the Sharks to be a tough out in a long, exciting series.
This one will be fun to watch.
Pens in 7.