- Stanley Cup Finals: Championship Factors (May 2010)
The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers are set to face off in the Finals of the NHL Stanley Cup. What do the sports marketplace indicators say? And are there other indicators or factors we can consider? We looked into some of the key championship factors researched in the book:
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Sports Marketplace – What Do the Numbers Say?
The Blackhawks, a #2 seed, are heavily-favored over the Flyers, a #7 seed. For the series, oddsmakers have set the Blackhawks as almost 2.5-1 favorites. Game One has the Blackhawks as -200 favorites on home ice. An early look at betting percentages shows that as usual, the general public, is getting down on the favorites. Hockey is a moneyline sport, and 61% of moneyline bets are on the Blackhawks. Contrarian sports investors might want to look at the Flyers for value.
Note that this season was a good year for SportsInsights’ NHL Square Plays. NHL Square Plays won 48% of their selections, mainly on underdogs, earning +10 units to date. Let’s see what some of the other factors say…
Championship Factors – Psychological and Mathematical
Some of the strongest factors related to success and “peak performance” in championships across all major sports include: big game experience, leadership (from star players and coaches/managers), consistency and error control. This research is based on about thirty years worth of data for sports, ranging from MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL — and includes tennis and golf data. On average, the authors state that the key “psychological measures” they studied would yield about a 75% winning percentage in championship games and series. Note that this is a “straight-up” victory, with no point spread. However, these factors do have “positive value” ATS (against the spread) as well as “straight-up.” Conservatively, this would translate to just under 60%, against the spread.
Several of the key championship factors for these specific finals include:
- Recent experience in the finals — neither team has been to the Stanley Cup Finals recently, so this is a non-factor.
- Leadership: better offensive star
- Leadership: goalie save percentage
- Leadership: coach’s record in finals.
Over the past 30 years, the team with the better offensive star, measured by points scored, has gone 19-11 (63.3%) in Stanley Cup Finals. This factor favors the Blackhawks, and Patrick Kane (88 points) over the Flyers and Mike Richards (62 points).
We note, however, that generally, during hard-checking and physical playoff hockey, defense and goalies who are “in the zone” are major determinants of the eventual champions. The exception to the rule is when you have a standout offensive leader like Wayne Gretzky. “The Great One” ushered in a period of high-powered NHL scoring from the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s. During this time, offensive leaders were more easily able to “lead’ and “will” their way to championships. Gretzky led his Edmonton Oilers to several Stanley Cups, and then Mario Lemieux did the same for his Pittsburgh Penguins.
In less “high-powered” offensive times, defense and a good goalie have been key to winning the Stanley Cup. Over the past 30 years, teams with the better goalie save percentage have gone 18-11 (62.2%). Over recent years, since the high-scoring period of the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s, teams with the better save percentage have gone:
- 3-0 over the last 4 years (teams had the same save percentage one year),
- 6-1 over the last 8 years,
- and 13-4 over the last 18 years!
This factor favors the Philadelphia Flyers with their .907 save percentage versus the Chicago Blackhawks and their .903 save percentage.
Another factor in the Flyers’ favor is coach Peter Laviolette’s Stanley Cup Championship as coach of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. This is Blackhawk coach Joel Quenneville’s first appearance as coach in the Stanley Cup Finals.
So who will win the Stanley Cup Finals? The #2 seed Blackhawks are heavy favorites over the #7 seeded Flyers, but the Flyers certainly have the leadership on the bench and between the goalposts to make a series of it.
We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist. It is impossible to predict the future. Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear over time. Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself. We do not guarantee our data is error-free. However, we’ve tried our best to make sure every score and percentage is correct.