We have a clear playoff picture, now: the Chicago Blackhawks, despite a losing control of their own playoff destiny on the last day of the regular season, have found their way into the 8th spot in the West after the Dallas Stars lost at Minnesota in the NHL's final regular season game. This was undoubtedly extremely satisfying for most BtN enthusiasts, as we are well acquainted with the true strength of this Chicago team and the genuine mediocrity of the Stars, but what are Red Wings fans to make of it? Going into the games on Sunday, there was no chance for Detroit to face Chicago in the first round, and they were already locked into the three seed, so it
begs the question makes one wonder: should Detroit have stuck their Western Conference adversaries with the Blackhawks to better their own chances, or was it in their best interest to try to let the Stars in? Let's take a look.
I'm first forced to estimate team strength. I'll hand-wave this away for now, but if you want the nitty-gritty details, I'd be happy to spill the beans on my methodology. The lowdown is that I'm using closing Vegas lines from post-trade-deadline, and excluding some extremely recent games between contenders and non-contenders. Here's what I get for the top nine in the West:
|#1 Vancouver Canucks||0.6053|
|#2 San Jose Sharks||0.5932|
|#3 Detroit Red Wings||0.5773|
|#4 Anaheim Ducks||0.5167|
|#5 Nashville Predators||0.5255|
|#6 Phoenix Coyotes||0.5282|
|#7 Los Angeles Kings||0.5529|
|#8 Chicago Blackhawks||0.5966|
|#9 Dallas Stars||0.5122|
I don't see anything out of line here with what we would expect from previous analysis. Then we can get series odds, using strict home/away splits for Games 1-6 with a modest boost for the home team in a potential Game 7 (1.5%). Let's analyze the Red Wings' odds to win the Western Conference as dictated by each possible scenario.
Scenario 1) SOW for Chicago, which gives Chicago the #5 seed, Phoenix the #6 seed, and Nashville the #7 seed, and the Kings the #8 seed.
Scenario 2) ROW for Chicago, which gives Chicago the #5 seed, Nashville the #6 seed, Phoenix the #7 seed, and the Kings the #8 seed.
Scenario 3) OTL for Chicago, which gives the Nashville the #5 seed, Phoenix the #6 seed, Chicago the #7 seed, and the Kings the #8 seed.
Scenario 4/5) Regulation loss for Chicago, which leads to the Stars (Sc. 5) or the Blackhawks (Sc. 4) in the 8 spot. Thanks to Pinnacle we can be confident in a 63.9% chance the Stars beat the Wild earlier this evening given Detroit's victory, so these can be successfully combined to represent a more realistic number for Detroit to have considered today.
The results are clear. Even though what actually happened on Sunday winds up a negative compared to the "give away the game" scenario #2, they "did the right thing" by beating Chicago in regulation and trying to push a strong team out of the playoffs. Though to be clear, the implied difference between the best-case- and worst-case-scenarios of 0.5% is pretty meaningless in the scope of what can happen in the playoffs (for example, I'd venture that drawing a penalty in a medium leverage situation in the first round of the playoffs raises your chances to win your conference by more than that).