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Caps open playoffs as favorites, but it doesn't mean much

The top-seeded Caps enter hockey's second season as a favorite to win it all, but it's no surprise that they've tried to stray from that label. Barry Svrluga writes:

Since hockey came up with its current postseason format, the National Football League has staged 16 Super Bowls, and 14 times at least one top seed has played for the championship. But over the same time period, hockey's Stanley Cup finals have been without a top seed eight times. The National Basketball Association has arranged its playoffs like hockey does since 1984, and a top seed has lost to the eighth seed just three times in 52 tries, each a monumental surprise. In hockey? "It seems like it happens every year," Capitals forward Eric Fehr said.
Try every other year. In 30 top seed-vs.-eight seed series (one in each conference every year), the eighth seed has won better than once every four tries.

Click here to read the full story, and then check out this sortable chart on how the highest-scoring regular-season teams have fared in the playoffs.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  April 14, 2010; 2:28 PM ET
 
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Next: Tomorrow's probable lineups

Comments

Right. I am SO tired of this. So tired.

Since 1994 when the NHL went to the conference seeding format - which is all that matters at this point - it used to be four division winners with #1 in a division vs. #4, etc. - the Cup has been won 6 times by a #1 seed. That's 40%. No other number matters, really, because to say that one of the other 14 teams won the Cup is like taking the field vs. Tiger in a Major and then claiming some sort of insight when the field wins. The Cup, in the 15 years since this format has been adopted has been won by these seeds:

#1 - 6
#2 - 4
#3 - 2
#4 - 2
#5 - 1

Pretty straight-forward. Anyone who puts forth any idea that ANY team would rather not be a #1 is crazy. I mean, really, we have teams battling like bandits down the stretch for a #2 seed. And why? An extra round of home ice. They don't say "Well, 11 times in 15 years a #2 seed hasn't won the Cup", do they?

Yes, it's the playoffs. Yes, the game changes. Yes the game is all 5-on-5 if tied and no flukey OT or SO. Guess what? Best team 5-on-5 in hockey. Best record. Best goal differential. A goalie who's 20-0-3 since the New Year. I'm nervous because this team is ready to win it all. It may not happen but I'll enjoy the ride a front-runner and take my chances.

Give it a break...please.

Thanks

Posted by: saintex | April 14, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

dont you people realize I have work to do?

Posted by: zyvo23 | April 14, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

yikes. so none of the recent top scoring teams have won the cup. uh oh.

Posted by: zyvo23 | April 14, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

yikes. so none of the recent top scoring teams have won the cup. uh oh.

Posted by: zyvo23 | April 14, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Yup. Book it, we're doomed. The statistics say so.

That's why they play the games, folks. Tarik, please stop giving yourself a heart attack over the stats and at least try to find something positive to say? Really?

Posted by: kittypawz | April 14, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Can we please talk about turtlenecks some more?

Posted by: Fro_ | April 14, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The old school Caps fans probably like these odds, so that the team can lose, people will stop coming, Ovie will get traded, and we can go back to worshiping Dale Hunter and Olie kolzig.

Posted by: LesGrossman | April 14, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

And as far as the sortable stats on the league's leading scoring team, only 5 of those 15 were also a #1 seed. 3 were #2 seeds, 3 were #4 seeds, 1 was a #5 seed, 1 was a #6, 1 a #7 and 1 a #8. So, let's throw out the #5 - #8 seeds scoring leaders because they weren't anywhere close to the best teams in their conference - not even division winners.

That leave 11 actual teams with three of them not division winners.

Of the 5 that were #1 seeds and lead the league in scoring we have a Cups Final loser, a Conference Final loser, a second-round loser, and two (the furthest ago: Quebec and Detroit) that went out in the first round.

To even compare this Caps team to a #8 seed Vancouver, a #7 Seed Ottawa, or a #6 seed Pittsburgh, it comical.

Oh, I have a stat: Of the last 25 Stanley Cup champions, no team with an Alex, Nick, and Mike on the first line has won the Cup.

Discuss.

Posted by: saintex | April 14, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Also, as far as that chart goes, each year that Pitt/Detroit/NJ/Quebec (which became Colorado) show up on that chart were years that were part of eras where those teams won multiple cups.

Of the other teams on that list I don't think any sane individuals ever thought that any of those teams actually had a chance. High scoring teams that obviously didn't have it.

The Caps appear to have it. They have a chance. And if they don't get it this year, it will most likely part of a larger body of work in which they do get it at least once.

Posted by: LesGrossman | April 14, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why people are getting so upset about the statistics. They don't mean anything will or will not happen this spring but it is a little ignorant to ignore stats that don't look favorably on the Capitals.

On that note, I think the statistics dook look favorable on the Caps. The #2 seed has lost 14 of the 30 times it has played the #7 seed since 1994. That is much worse than the #1 seeds record. Just be happy the Caps aren't a #2 seed.

Posted by: sgm3 | April 14, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

@saintex

Great post. I am so tired of this "curse of the Presidents' Trophy". It's the NHL"s version of an urban myth.

I like your "field" vs the "no. 1" characterization of this statistical advantage.

Even I, despite my lack of deep mathematical ability, have enough math to understand percentages. And the percentage by which the no. 1 team in points in regular season has gone on to win the SC is better than the percentage for any other placement by any other team. Not that the no. 1 team is assured of a win, of course. Just that statistically that team has much better odds.

Everyone remembers the unexpected, the major upset. The expected is just that: the expected.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | April 14, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

he old school Caps fans probably like these odds, so that the team can lose, people will stop coming, Ovie will get traded, and we can go back to worshiping Dale Hunter and Olie kolzig.

Posted by: LesGrossman | April 14, 2010 3:01 PM

what are the odds of bandwagon fans actually learning the game?

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The only statistic I care about is maintaining at least a 0.571 winning percentage for each round.

Posted by: MyPostIDisAfake | April 14, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

saintex, Svrluga isn't saying that there's a Presidents' Trophy curse or that the Caps should be afraid of being the number one overall seed. Rather, what he's writing and what you're saying are essentially the same thing:

It's hard to win the Cup.

In other sports, there's less parity between teams in the playoffs as there is in the NHL.

And the parity is a good thing. It's one of the reasons we love the NHL playoffs. Any team can win a series.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 14, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The numbers don't mean anything. Just like the odds at Roulette. I've never seen a bigger group of worry warts ever in my whole life.

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I'd be happy there are more fans than there used to be. Seems like a good thing. I guess we could go back to being a crappy team and having 9,000 people in the arena.

The fact that fans are considered bandwagon is pretty funny. I moved here four years ago, never had a team near where I lived, and pick up with the Caps.

I know. I have season tickets and I know nothing about hockey.

Can we get off the old school and bandwagon thing? It's old and silly.

Posted by: saintex | April 14, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Well if you have your season tickets I'm sure you know how to act during the game. I have no problem with folks like you. I welcome you guys.

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

beaupre, true enough. I just get bothered by the titles. OFB has a good piece on it today.

Be cool, be loud. Good enough for all of us.

The nerves are tingling.

Posted by: saintex | April 14, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Fans in D.C. are just glad to finally have a team to be proud of again. There's an entire generation of fans who grew up in the 1990s that has never known a successful D.C. sports franchise. The Wizards had a brief run of being above-average. The Redskins were the best team in 1991, but I certainly don't remember that.

For the first time in 19 years, we can say the WASHINGTON Capitals are the best (alright, I guess the 1997-98 Caps were pretty good).

Posted by: MyPostIDisAfake | April 14, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Tarik, please stop giving yourself a heart attack over the stats and at least try to find something positive to say? Really?

Posted by: kittypawz | April 14, 2010 2:57 PM

-----

In this case it was Lindsay who posted and Barry who wrote the article.

Posted by: JillC | April 14, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

the regular season records don't mean that much in the NHL and it's more important to be hot at the right time... is that news to some people???

Posted by: joek443 | April 14, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I went to watch a minor league game in Portland Oregon about eight years ago. The family behind us had no clue and were all about the fighting. Which is funny in itself.

They were asking us questions about the penalties and stoppages, and we were more than happy to answer.

It's just the individuals that ruin the game experience by walking up and down the aisles, during game play, yipping about baby daddy drama for the whole section to hear non-stop, being so drunk the rows around them need raincoats, etc, the list goes on and on. Cheer for the team, don't boo. Boo the refs.

Hey, I drink. Doesn't give me an excuse to act like an idiot like these other fools.

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

True. We had Caps' fan on Caps' fan violence in the 400s at the Bruins' game. Nice.

Posted by: saintex | April 14, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Well i'm sure one of them was a dbag and deserved it.

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Can we please talk about turtlenecks some more?

Posted by: Fro_ | April 14, 2010 2:58 PM


@Fro_: That's "turtlenecs", Düüüde!

Posted by: Rhino40 | April 14, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

@Capsyoungguns

I agree completely.

You are never going to be guaranteed of anything. All you want is to give yourself the best percentage chance of winning. This is what the #1 seed does. It does not guarantee anything and only gives about a 30% chance of winning. But a 30% chance of winning is much greater than any of the other 15 positions.

Posted by: sgm3 | April 14, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't know anything about the stats being against the Caps but I do know that Montreal is easily going to win this series. Why? Because Habs fans on every Canadian website say so. And everyone knows that playoff series are decided by trash talking on message boards and comments sections. Why even play the series at all? Just give the Habs a first round bye and send the Caps to the golf course right now. Habs fans are about as delusional as Pens fans

Posted by: TempusFugitRGV1 | April 14, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I can only thank God that tomorrow night ALL of these meaningless stats/odds will vanish with the drop of the puck.

Posted by: hockeypuck1 | April 14, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

So...I'm going to the game tomorrow and want to make a sign making fun of Plekanec's turtlenecks. Any ideas?

Posted by: VarlyisNarly | April 14, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Its 3 teams according to your chart Tarik, not 2, that made the Finals. Detroit made the finals last year - your chart somehow forgot to point that out. Perhaps their missing .02 goals per game for was the difference in their 7 game series....

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | April 14, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey, wait a minute, what's wrong with worshipping Dale Hunter?

Posted by: _Mark | April 14, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy. The Caps are done. Tell Ovi to schedule his tee time in Moscow next week. Good night. Drive home safely!!

Posted by: coolcraig | April 14, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Tarik you've really been a pain in the you know what lately.

Posted by: CapsandRavens | April 14, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I think that prior year President's Cup info is interesting, but in the end, the Caps have the best team in the East, hands down. It's just a matter of whether they will find the same kind of post-season success that they have in the regular season.

Under Boudreau, this team has an unbelievably good regular-season record, yet has lost two out of three playoff series (Pens '09, Flyers '08) and barely beat an awful Rangers team.

In sports, there are always teams that seem to excel in the regular season, but for some reason struggle in the post-season. That "shouldn't" happen to this team because it is so skilled, but they certainly need to mow down the competition this year and not fall in an early round. That would be disastrous, IMHO.

Jeff

Posted by: PensFan98 | April 14, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The article didn't include the most important statistic of all: no team with a Russian captain has ever won the Cup. The Caps are doomed. They should pack it in now because statistically they have 0% chance of winning the Cup. In fact, the playoffs should be canceled. Just give the Cup to the team that statistically has the best chance of winning.

Posted by: ablake70 | April 14, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

So...I'm going to the game tomorrow and want to make a sign making fun of Plekanec's turtlenecks. Any ideas?


Posted by: VarlyisNarly | April 14, 2010 4:04 PM

@VarlyisNarly

I envy you, but ecen if I had tix I couldn't make it 'cause I'm working till 7:00 :( How about this one?

"How many necs could a Plekanec plek if a Plekanec could plek necs?"


Or maybe:

"Nice Turtlenec, @$$hat!"

Posted by: Rhino40 | April 14, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The article didn't include the most important statistic of all: no team with a Russian captain has ever won the Cup. The Caps are doomed. They should pack it in now because statistically they have 0% chance of winning the Cup. In fact, the playoffs should be canceled. Just give the Cup to the team that statistically has the best chance of winning.

Posted by: ablake70 | April 14, 2010 4:46 PM


@ablake70: I know: we can reverse that mojo by giving the "C" to Brooksie for the duration of the playoffs.

Then the Red Jesus can have it back at the beginning of next season.

Posted by: Rhino40 | April 14, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The stats have a place in the game. They don't explain every aspect of play, but they do give us reference points.

One thing worth considering this year is that the condensed schedule is closer to the playoff schedule than the typical regular season. Thus, success in the regular season may be a better predictor of success in the postseaon this year.

Also, the Capitals have other factors working well for them. Among their weaknesses are poor numbers on the PK, ineffectiveness playing four on four, and surprisingly low success in OT (which may be explained by the former).

Well, there are fewer penalties called in the playoffs, so the Caps may find themselves in fewer PK situations. And OT in the postseason is five on five, something at which Washington has excelled all year.

Look at the stats in their entirety, and you may find that this year's squad is more prepared for a long playoff run than, say, last year's young San Jose team or the 2006 Red Wings, who were not the beneficiaries of the last condensed schedule.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 14, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

A certain blog had this scintillating power play observation for the series: "All things being equal, you have to give this one to the Capitals, but whichever team gets to put their powerplay on the ice more often is the one who's going to have the advantage here."

Who woulda thunk that??? :)

Posted by: blackjack65 | April 14, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

The article doesn't explain that the NFL playoffs are single elimination with the higher seed getting the home field advantage.

And in the NBA, higher seed has home court which is a huge advantage in that sport. Don't know why, but could be because the best five players on each team play 90% of the minutes. Imagine if the game were slowed enough so that Ovi, Backie, Semin and Green all played 45-50 minutes a game. Caps would be 70-12 like some of those Bulls teams from the 90s.

Comparing hockey to football and BB is comparing apples to oranges and watermelons.

Posted by: tominfl1 | April 14, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Imagine if basketball had a rule that no player can play more than 24 of 48 minutes per game (which approximates the most a hockey player can play).

There would be far more playoff upsets as generally the best teams have a lesser supporting cast that would now have to carry half the game.

Posted by: tominfl1 | April 14, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

The article doesn't explain that the NFL playoffs are single elimination with the higher seed getting the home field advantage.

And a first round bye.

Posted by: ablake70 | April 14, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

ablake70: First in conference really should get more than just getting to play the #8 seed. The difference this year in East between #1 and #2 seed was like 18 pts. The difference between #6, #7 and #8 was like two pts. Can anyone say Mont, Philly and/or Boston are any better than the others? Or NYR who lost by a SO?

The #1 seed should get 5 home games for Round #1. First three at home, then two on road and the last two at home. This would make for a true advantage worthy of earning #1 seed.

Posted by: tominfl1 | April 14, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I have a better stat that hasn't been listed anywhere as far as I know. Only once have the Caps made the playoffs in an Olympic year when NHL players were used. That was 1998, the only year they have ever gone to the Finals. History is on their side

Posted by: TempusFugitRGV1 | April 14, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Why not a best of 6 in every league with playoffs....higher seed needs 3 wins and lower seed needs 4.

Then everyone would fight harder in reg season for positioning. Remember the year the Pens rested Crosby on the last day and gave Montreal first and caused the Caps to have to play Flyers in first round?

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | April 14, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

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