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Playoff Preview: Chicago-Vancouver

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If you surf around looking for odds, you'll find some crazy things - like Vancouver at 4-3 to win the Western Conference, while Chicago's 12-1. I'm sorry to say, those lines are just made up. One of our frequent readers noted the implied team strength of recent betting lines at Pinnacle yesterday:

Team Avg Team Strength
Vancouver 0.6053
Chicago 0.5966
San Jose
Detroit 0.5773
Los Angeles 0.5529
Phoenix 0.5282
Nashville 0.5255
Anaheim 0.5167

So, other than the ridiculous futures market, people seem to think that Chicago's not that much worse than Vancouver. Are they justified in thinking so?

If we look at shot differential - aka Fenwick - it certainly seems that way:

Team Fenwick %, Score Tied
PIT 54.4
CHI 54.1
VAN 53.9
SJ 53.7
DET 53.5
NJ 53.3
MON 52.6
TB 52.4

Any surprises there? New Jersey? Montreal? I digress. Chicago and Vancouver were equally good at controlling the play this season when the game was on the line. In fact, it's surprising that the implied team strength is any different between the two teams. Is it a special teams issue?

VAN 51.6 46.8 295 459.0 1.56 277 522.6 1.89
CHI 52.1 51.3 277 444.4 1.60 255 421.9 1.65

Doesn't seem like it. Vancouver spent proportionally more time on special teams (both PP and PK) than Chicago did, but the only real difference is the efficiency of Vancouver's PK. Looking at the shot totals at 5-on-4 and 4-on-5, we see a slight advantage for the Canucks:

VAN 69 415 9.3 56.0 834
CHI 60 365 8.3 50.8 836
VAN 39 413 4.7 50.2 906
CHI 49 365 7.2 53.6 866

The main difference here is goaltending, which we can see pretty clearly from "PDO" numbers:

TEAM % of Shots PDO
VAN 50.1 1072
CHI 50.0 1030

At even-strength, Vancouver was a 1019 PDO team this season, while Chicago was 1001, so the 42-point gap on special teams is almost certainly much greater than the true-talent gap. We don't expect to see something like this continue.

So when we get down to it, Vancouver has two advantages in this series:

1. Luongo vs Crawford in goal

2. Home-Ice Advantage

And yet Vancouver is coming up somewhere around a 75% favorite in the futures markets to beat Chicago in the opening round. 55% I could see, but 75% is just a massive overestimate of Vancouver's talent, and - likely moreso - a massive underestimate of Chicago's talent.