Connect with us

Sports

How temporary realignment has impacted the National Hockey League standings so far – TSN

Published

 on


Columnist image

Looking at the National Hockey League standings, the first thing you notice is the Toronto Maple Leafs sitting in pole position. But is it real?

The answer is yes. In my seven years at TSN, that was the easiest piece I’ve written to date!

Now for a more interesting question along those same lines. Some recent discussion has centered on whether the Maple Leafs have merely been reaping the benefits of forced temporary realignment and an apparently weaker division, or are a genuinely improved team that is putting daylight between themselves and other playoff contenders.

One roadblock in answering that question is the fact that the divisions are locked, meaning no interdivisional play this season. Stare at the standings long enough, and you could convince yourself that both answers are correct.

But we can try to quantify what impact the divisional restructuring has had on performance, mostly because the intervening off-season was unlike any other.

Normal off-seasons generally involve significant player movement and organizational changes, so year-to-year changes in performance are anticipated. But this off-season was eerily quiet, in large part due to an unexpectedly flat salary cap. Outside of a couple of teams (the Montreal Canadiens for example) who had the luxury to spend, most were forced to tweak their rosters at the margins and run it back.

It’s also not lost on me that even after 20 or so games, most of the playoff teams from the prior season are in position to become playoff teams once again. Consider the current standings and note the teams occupying the top four slots of each division:

Embedded Image

You can find a couple examples of teams on the rise, like the Florida Panthers. You can also spot a team like the Nashville Predators off to slower-than-expected starts. But for the most part, the broader spectrum of playoff-calibre teams hasn’t changed much, and most teams are reasonably in line with their prior year’s expectations. Consequently, the year-over-year correlation in net goals (and, consequently, wins and losses) is quite high.

The one thing we do know is that every single team in the NHL has a dramatically different schedule this season. In order to tease out the relative effect of these scheduling changes, we need to measure this year’s observations against our understanding of team talent level from the end of last season. Let’s create a quick analysis accordingly.

Here, we will do three things:

1. Consider each team’s net-goal advantage/disadvantage from the 2019-20 season (and associated widespread schedule) as a proxy for team talent.

2. Iterate a team’s schedule against what should have been their 2020-21 opponents.

3. Analyze the shifts in performance at a team and divisional level.

Do this exercise across every team in the league, and you can see how a team’s divisional opponents in a normal year have behaved through the environment changes:

Embedded Image

What do these numbers indicate? Let’s look at the Predators for a moment, who have the most extreme example of the 31 teams.

Last season, Nashville – who would have just made the playoff cut in a competitive Central Division – saw an opponent that was +0.21 goals per-game better than a league-average opponent, indicating a reasonably strong division. This season, that number is up to +0.45 goals per game, the highest number in the league. Why is this the case?

The short answer is that their normal divisional foes – some of which stayed in the Central, others of which left for new divisions – have all played rather well in their new groupings.

Embedded Image

The opposite of the Nashville situation might be the Vegas Golden Knights, as their normal Pacific opponents have had better years.

The teams that stayed in the Pacific now get to enjoy facing teams like St. Louis and Colorado on a regular basis, and the teams that left – emphasis on Vancouver and Calgary  here – have had relatively rough starts in the North Division. That may suggest the Golden Knights have had a softer division of sorts last season, and a more difficult division to navigate this season.

There is also a funny note about what’s happened with the Central Division. The Central was the strongest division a season ago, and the new Central looks like it will retain that belt. What happened was relatively simple: the division displaced strong playoff-calibre clubs (Colorado, Minnesota, and St. Louis all headed to the West, for example) and received other strong playoff-calibre clubs (Tampa Bay, Columbus, and an improved Florida team) in a clean trade-off.

Let’s bring this back to the Maple Leafs.

Toronto, you will notice, has relatively flat year-over-year numbers – their Atlantic Division foes faring about as well this year as they did last year. Intuitively this makes sense. What was very obvious about the Atlantic Division one season ago is that there were two teams that posed lethally tough matchups, and three teams who were also-rans.

This year, barring something dramatic, Toronto will be a favourite in just about every game going forward. But just as their games against the league’s elite have disappeared, so too have the games against the minnows of the NHL. It puts them in prime position to chase down the North Division title, but it does not put them in a comfortable position of generating game experience against Cup contenders.

Data via NHL.com, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Warriors top Grizzlies for No. 8 seed

Published

 on

Stephen Curry scored a game-high 46 points en route to his second NBA scoring title and Jordan Poole stalled a rally with a late 3-pointer Sunday afternoon as the Golden State Warriors held off the visiting Memphis Grizzlies in San Francisco for a 113-101 win to claim the No. 8 position in this week’s play-in tournament.

With Curry scoring 17 of his 46 points, the Warriors appeared to take command of the game in the third quarter, but Dillon Brooks led a Memphis comeback. Before fouling out, Brooks contributed 13 points to a 22-5 flurry that made it 91 all with 6:32 still to play.

The Grizzlies went up by two twice after that, before Poole nailed his momentum-changing 3-pointer.

The loss ended Memphis’ five-game winning streak and landed the Grizzlies in the No. 9 spot in the play-in, where they will host 10th-seeded San Antonio on Wednesday.

Lakers 110, Pelicans 98

LeBron James scored 25 points as Los Angeles won in New Orleans on the final day of the regular season, but was unable to avoid the play-in round.

James left the game midway through the fourth quarter, slightly favoring the injured right ankle that sidelined him 26 games down the stretch.

But the victory wasn’t enough for the defending NBA champions to avoid the Western Conference play-in tournament. Portland defeated Denver to claim the sixth seed so the seventh-seeded Lakers will host eighth-seeded Golden State in a play-in game Wednesday.

Jazz 121, Kings 99

Jordan Clarkson scored 33 points and made six 3-pointers and Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points to lead Utah past Sacramento and the league’s best regular-season record.

Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 16 rebounds. Mike Conley chipped in 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Utah clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Terence Davis scored 20 points to lead the Kings. Damian Jones chipped in 19 points. Buddy Hield added 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Sacramento, which rested several key players: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes

Timberwolves 136, Mavericks 121

Anthony Edwards closed his push for NBA Rookie of the Year with 30 points, and Minnesota dominated Dallas nearly wire-to-wire for a season-ending win in Minneapolis.

Edwards capped his debut season with his eighth game of 22 or more points over the final nine. He is in contention to be Minnesota’s first Rookie of the Year since teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who won the award in 2016.

Dallas, which locked up the No. 5 seed and will play the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, shot 16-of-38 from 3-point range, including Kristaps Porzingis making 4 of 5. Porzingis finished with 18 points.

Heat 120, Pistons 107

Precious Achiuwa had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Miami to a road win over Detroit in the regular-season finale.

With little to no incentive to win the game, each team rested several starters. Miami already had the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs clinched going into the game, while Detroit was looking to clinch the league’s second-worst record and enhance its odds of winning the first pick in the NBA draft lottery.

Saddiq Bey scored 22 points and Josh Jackson scored 17 points off the bench for Detroit.

76ers 128, Magic 117

Tyrese Maxey had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lift host Philadelphia over Orlando in game in which the 76ers rested all of their starters.

Since the Sixers have had already secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris sat the game out.

Isaiah Joe scored 17 points, rookie Paul Reed added season highs of 17 and 12 rebounds, and Shake Milton contributed 15 points and nine assists for the Sixers, who improved to 49-23. George Hill added 14 points.

Nets 123, Cavaliers 109

Kevin Durant totaled 23 points, a season-high-tying 13 assists and eight rebounds in three quarters as Brooklyn Nets secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a wire-to-wire win over Cleveland in New York.

The Nets ended the season on a five-game winning streak and edged out the Milwaukee Bucks for the second seed. A loss by Brooklyn and a Milwaukee win over the Chicago Bulls would have pushed the Nets into the third seed due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucks.

Kyrie Irving added 17 points on 7 of 11 from the field for the Nets and became the ninth player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line.

Knicks 96, Celtics 92

RJ Barrett scored a game-high 22 points as New York completed a resurgent regular season and clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference by hanging on for a win over visiting Boston.

The Knicks, who are headed for the playoffs for the first time since 2013, will open the quarterfinals at home next weekend against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks.

The Celtics already were locked into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and the first seed in the play-in tournament. Boston, which needs to win just once to advance to the playoffs, will play the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

Pacers 125, Raptors 113

Canadian-born Oshae Brissett exploded for a career-high 31 points against his country’s displaced team, and Indiana earned a home game in the NBA’s play-in tournament with a thrashing of host Toronto.

Brissett completed a double-double with 10 rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis had one of his own with 25 points and 16 rebounds, as the Pacers snapped a two-game losing streak to clinch a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana assured it would finish tied with either Charlotte or Washington, who were playing each other in a contest that finished after the Pacers-Raptors game had ended. The Wizards secured the win 115-110 over the Hornets.

Wizards 115, Hornets 110

Bradley Beal made a go-ahead layup with 2:53 remaining as host Washington beat Charlotte to secure the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Russell Westbrook collected 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists and Beal added 25 points in his first contest after a three-game absence for the Wizards.

Robin Lopez posted 18 points and Rui Hachimura had 16 for Washington, which will visit the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics in the play-in round on Tuesday. Charlotte, which owns the No. 10 seed, will face the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday in Indianapolis.

Suns 123, Spurs 121

E’Twaun Moore poured in 22 points, including the deciding 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to play, to lift visiting Phoenix past San Antonio.

Phoenix was without Devin Booker (rest), Chris Paul (rest) and Deandre Ayton (knee) as the Suns opted to keep key players on the bench despite the chance to earn the top spot in the Western Conference.

San Antonio pulled its starters at the end of the third quarter, allowing the two teams’ bench players to decide the contest. The Suns’ reserves had just enough to secure the win that forced Utah to win in Sacramento later Sunday in order to finish atop of Phoenix in the West.

Hawks 124, Rockets 95

Led by rookie Onyeka Okongwu’s career bests of 21 points and 15 rebounds, Atlanta tuned up for its first trip to the playoffs since 2017 with a win over visiting Houston in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Okongwu, who posted his second double-double, was 10-for-13 from the field and added three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. The Hawks had eight players in double figures, including Skylar Mays with 16, John Collins with 15 and De’Andre Hunter with 14. Trae Young (sore big right toe) was limited to 16 minutes and scored 10 points with nine assists.

The Hawks will be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and face off with the No. 4 New York Knicks in the first round.

Bulls 118, Bucks 112

Thaddeus Young finished with 20 points and seven rebounds to help host Chicago finish its season with a victory over playoff-bound Milwaukee.

Young was one of six Bulls who scored in double figures. Coby White totaled 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Lauri Markkanen had 17 points and five rebounds.

Locked into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference after the Brooklyn Nets’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the evening, the Bucks rested all of their starters — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo.

Thunder 117, Clippers 112

Aleksej Pokusevski scored a career-high 29 points to lead Oklahoma City to a win over Los Angeles in the final night of the NBA regular season.

The loss sent the Clippers to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They’ll face Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

Pokusevski got off to a hot start and then hit a 3-pointer to break a tie in the final minute and snap the Thunder’s nine-game losing streak. He hit his first six shots and finished 10 of 19 from the floor, hitting six 3-pointers.

Trail Blazers 132, Nuggets 116

CJ McCollum scored 24 points and Portland clinched a Western Conference playoff spot with an easy victory over visiting Denver.

Damian Lillard recorded 22 points and 10 assists and Jusuf Nurkic added 20 points and 13 rebounds in the wire-to-wire victory that allowed Portland to avoid the play-in round and claim the No. 6 spot in the West.

Nikola Jokic scored 21 points in the first half before exiting for the Nuggets, who landed the third seed in West despite the setback because the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver owned the tiebreaker with the Clippers.

–Field Level Media

Continue Reading

Sports

Djokovic outlasts Sonego to set up Rome final with Nadal

Published

 on

Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal will clash for the Italian Open title after the top two seeds advanced to the final of the Masters tournament on Saturday.

Djokovic, who beat Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 in a rain-delayed quarter-final earlier in the day, was also stretched to three sets in the semi-final before overcoming local favourite Lorenzo Sonego.

Sonego, the first Italian to make the semi-finals in Rome in 14 years after he beat world number seven Andrey Rublev earlier on Saturday, had his dream run ended by Djokovic who triumphed 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2.

Djokovic failed to convert two match points in the second set that lasted 91 minutes as Sonego forced a tiebreak, where the Serb lost a 4-2 lead.

However, the world number one controlled proceedings in the decider and advanced after Sonego’s return on match point found the net.

Earlier, Nadal beat Reilly Opelka 6-4 6-4 to move into the final in Rome for the 12th time.

The match was Nadal’s 500th on clay where he has a formidable 458-42 record and the Spaniard advanced after twice breaking the big-serving American.

“When you play these kind of matches, you know it’s not going to be a beautiful match… you’re not going to find rhythm in the match. You’re going to have just a few chances to break,” Nadal told reporters.

“It’s important not to suffer much with your serve because if you are… you feel the stress all the time. So the positive thing today, I just faced break points in one game during the whole match.”

Djokovic was trailing Tsitsipas 6-4 2-1 when Friday’s quarter-final was halted by rain but the Serb raised his game at key moments to twice come back from a break down in the deciding set.

Djokovic has a 29-27 career record against Nadal but the Spaniard has won five of their eight matches in Rome.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Sudipto Ganguly in Berhampore, India; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond)

Continue Reading

Sports

New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job

Published

 on

The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.

A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.

Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.

He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.

He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.

The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.

Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.

–Field Level Media

Continue Reading

Trending