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How Does Seeding Influence Playoff Chances?

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04-20-2013, 10:43 PM
  #1
Randomtask68
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How Does Seeding Influence Playoff Chances?

Does anyone know if there is a website where it lists how far certain seeds advance in the playoffs, or how often certain seeds win the first playoff series or anything of that nature? Want to determine how important it is to win the division, have home ice, etc. Thanks

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04-20-2013, 11:09 PM
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SashaSemin28
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1st in the East and the Presidents Trophy winner usually don't do very well


Between Lockout Years -
1st Seed Eastern Conference
2005-2006 Ottawa Senators - 2nd Round (4-1 loss to BUF)
2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres - Conference Final (4-1 loss to OTT)
2007-2008 Montreal Canadiens - 2nd Round (4-1 loss to PHI)
2008-2009 Boston Bruins - 2nd Round (4-3 loss to CAR)
2009-2010 Washington Capitals - 1st Round (4-3 loss to MTL)
2010-2011 Washington Capitals - 2nd Round (4-0 loss to TB)
2011-2012 New York Rangers - Conference Final (4-2 loss to NJ)

1st Seed Western Conference
2005-2006 Detroit Red Wings - 1st Round (4-2 loss to EDM)
2006-2007 Detroit Red Wings - Conference Final (4-2 loss to ANA)
2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings - Stanley Cup Winner (4-2 win vs PIT)
2008-2009 San Jose Sharks - 1st Round (4-2 loss to ANA)
2009-2010 San Jose Sharks - Conference Final (4-0 loss to CHI)
2010-2011 Vancouver Canucks - Stanley Cup Final (4-3 loss to BOS)
2011-2012 Vancouver Canucks - 1st Round (4-1 loss to LA)

Presidents Trophy Winner
2005-2006 Detroit Red Wings - 1st Round (4-2 loss to EDM)
2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres - Conference Final (4-1 loss to OTT)
2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings - Won Cup (4-2 vs PIT)
2008-2009 San Jose Sharks - 1st Round (4-2 loss to ANA)
2009-2010 Washington Capitals - 1st Round (4-3 loss to MTL)
2010-2011 Vancouver Canucks - Stanley Cup Final (4-3 loss to BOS)
2011-2012 Vancouver Canucks - 1st Round (4-1 loss to LA)

Playoff Seeding
Stanley Cup Final
2005-2006 E2 Carolina Hurricanes 4 - 3 W8 Edmonton Oilers
2006-2007 E4 Ottawa Senators 1 - 4 W2 Anaheim Ducks
2007-2008 E2 Pittsburgh Penguins 2 - 4 W1 Detroit Red Wings
2008-2009 E4 Pittsburgh Penguins 4 - 3 W2 Detroit Red Wings
2009-2010 E7 Philadelphia Flyers 2 - 4 W2 Chicago Blackhawks
2010-2011 E3 Boston Bruins 4 - 3 W1 Vancouver Canucks
2011-2012 E6 New Jersey Devils 2 - 4 W8 Los Angeles Kings

1st Place Seeds = 2
2nd Place Seeds = 5
3rd Place Seeds = 1
4th Place Seeds = 2
5th Place Seeds = 0
6th Place Seeds = 1
7th Place Seeds = 1
9th Place Seeds = 2


EDIT: Hope thats helps in someway


Last edited by SashaSemin28: 04-20-2013 at 11:54 PM. Reason: added West
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04-20-2013, 11:38 PM
  #3
Bear of Bad News
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SashaSemin28 View Post
1st in the East and the Presidents Trophy winner usually don't do very well
Any given seed starting the playoffs won't do very well, since there are 16 teams coming in.

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04-20-2013, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taco MacArthur View Post
Any given seed starting the playoffs won't do very well, since there are 16 teams coming in.
If you just look inbetween lockouts, most #1 seeds in the East (given the question included home ice advantage) end up being eliminated in the second round

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04-20-2013, 11:51 PM
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Evincar
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Since the current playoff format was introduced in 1993-94:
-12 of the 18 Cup winners (67%) won their division
-16 of the 18 Cup winners (89%) finished 4th or higher in their conference

So having home ice/winning your division is very important.

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04-21-2013, 12:50 AM
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Randomtask68
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Thanks everyone for your responses and research, greatly appreciated. Totally forgot that I made a few tables recording playoff teams since the 2000-01 season a few months ago. I divided them by conference and ordered them by seed, then listed their wins and where they ranked league wide on offense, defense, on the powerplay, and on the penalty kill. I also added at the end of the table where they finished in the playoffs that year.

Just too add a little more info...

- In a given playoff season, there are 8 teams that start as the lower seed across the 2 conferences, so in this time span there would be 88 teams who started the playoffs as the lower seed. 13 of the 88 teams reached the conference finals or the Stanley Cup Finals, with the 2011-12 Kings being the only such team to win the Stanley Cup.

- In the four seasons prior to the lockout, the seeds who won the Cup were 1 (2001), 1 (2002), 2 (2003), and a 1 (2004). Following the lockout, they have been 2 (2006), 2 (2007), 1 (2008), 4 (2009), 2 (2010), 3 (2011), and an 8 (2012).

- In this time span, there have been 4 instances where the 8 seed has beaten the 1 seed, all occurring post-lockout.

Even though winning your division and getting home ice for the first round leads to greater chances of winning, I'm glad there are occasional upsets and that many first round series, even between first and eight seeds, are usually hard fought battles. It gives hope and purpose for the fans of the lower seeded teams to watch their hometown squad in the playoffs knowing it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

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04-21-2013, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SashaSemin28 View Post
If you just look inbetween lockouts, most #1 seeds in the East (given the question included home ice advantage) end up being eliminated in the second round
That's a combination of small sample size and the number of teams.

I could simulate results randomly and find conclusions that are just as unusual.

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04-21-2013, 01:47 PM
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Kyle McMahon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taco MacArthur View Post
That's a combination of small sample size and the number of teams.

I could simulate results randomly and find conclusions that are just as unusual.
It is still notable just how poorly the #1 seed in the East has done in the last 7 years. Winning 6 playoff games per year on average, and failing to move past round 2 in 5/7 years. That's a track record that would seem befitting of a #3 or #4 seed.

It has been the 4-4-6-6-8-5-6 seed that has eliminated the #1 seed from 2006-2012 respectively. The #1 seed failing to reach the final in any of the seven between lockout seasons is mildly surprising, but I'd say it's almost shocking that they've been eliminated by such low seeds so many times.

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04-21-2013, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Kyle McMahon View Post
It is still notable just how poorly the #1 seed in the East has done in the last 7 years. Winning 6 playoff games per year on average, and failing to move past round 2 in 5/7 years. That's a track record that would seem befitting of a #3 or #4 seed.

It has been the 4-4-6-6-8-5-6 seed that has eliminated the #1 seed from 2006-2012 respectively. The #1 seed failing to reach the final in any of the seven between lockout seasons is mildly surprising, but I'd say it's almost shocking that they've been eliminated by such low seeds so many times.
It could just be a result of increased parity.
2005-06: Ottawa lost to Buffalo (3 pts behind)
2006-07: Buffalo lost to Ottawa (8 pts behind)
2007-08: Montreal lost to Philly (9 pts behind)
2008-09: Boston lost to Carolina (19 pts behind)
2009-10: Washington lost to Montreal (33 pts behind)
2010-11: Washington lost to Tampa (4 pts behind)
2011-12: NYR lost to New Jersey (7 pts behind)

So 5/7 teams only lost to teams that were <10 pts behind them. In an 82 game season a 10-point difference is one win in every sixteen games, which really isn't all that much. There have only been 2 "true" upsets in those 7 years.

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04-21-2013, 03:23 PM
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Kyle McMahon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meteor View Post
It could just be a result of increased parity.
2005-06: Ottawa lost to Buffalo (3 pts behind)
2006-07: Buffalo lost to Ottawa (8 pts behind)
2007-08: Montreal lost to Philly (9 pts behind)
2008-09: Boston lost to Carolina (19 pts behind)
2009-10: Washington lost to Montreal (33 pts behind)
2010-11: Washington lost to Tampa (4 pts behind)
2011-12: NYR lost to New Jersey (7 pts behind)

So 5/7 teams only lost to teams that were <10 pts behind them. In an 82 game season a 10-point difference is one win in every sixteen games, which really isn't all that much. There have only been 2 "true" upsets in those 7 years.
Parity has played a big role for sure. It would seem that home ice is nearly worthless over the last decade or so though. All of the #1 seeds failed to capitalize on home ice advantage. Their overall record is an unfathomably bad 5-17 on home ice in the seven series that eliminated them.

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04-21-2013, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Kyle McMahon View Post
Parity has played a big role for sure. It would seem that home ice is nearly worthless over the last decade or so though. All of the #1 seeds failed to capitalize on home ice advantage. Their overall record is an unfathomably bad 5-17 on home ice in the seven series that eliminated them.
But then again, the Devils finished #1 three years in a row 1997-99 and each time were upset by teams well behind them in the standings. 1995 Nordiques got upset by the 8th seed (and defending champion) Rangers. So it isn't just a salary-cap era thing.

There's also the issue of matchups. Last year's Kings, if only the games they played against playoff-bound teams were counted, would have been the 3rd best team in the West. Their record was dragged down by their inability to beat non-playoff teams such as Colorado ... but once in the playoffs, they no longer needed to play the teams that were giving them trouble.

Ultimately, I think a seven-game series is a short amount of time and the more "talented" team or the "better team on paper" doesn't necessarily play better during that limited stretch of time. I mean, if one of the #1 seed's best players goes cold for a few games, or the #8 seed's goalie steals a few games, that could make all the difference.

This could be an interesting study - to see the probability of each seed going to a particular round of the playoffs. I tend to think the #1 seed is still more likely than any other seed to go deep in the playoffs, when compared with any other seeding.

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04-22-2013, 12:52 AM
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Kyle McMahon
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OK I broke down the playoff results based on seed for every season going back to the introduction of the conference format in 1994. I've expanded the research to look at every seed.

In general, the East produced more upsets. Being one of the top 2 seeds in the West gave you a heavy advantage with regards to reaching the final, much less so in the East. In fact, the #4 seed in the East has historically produced the best results in that conference. In the West, #1 seed has the best results, followed closely by #2.

In terms of 1st round matchups, your odds of advancing have been the following:

#1: 72% (72% in the East, 72% in the West)
#2: 56% (50% East, 61% West)
#3: 64% (56% East, 72% West)
#4: 64% (67% East, 61% West)

Obviously it is just the inverse of the corresponding seed for seeds 5,6,7, and 8.

The #2 seed performs unexpectedly poor in the opening round, especially in the East. From 1998-2002 the #2 lost every time in the East. The bulk of #2 upsets in the West are from the 1994-1998 range, when there were only two divisions per conference. The winner of the Pacific Division always got the #2 seed, despite having fewer points than the third place team in some years, and the Pacific was generally weaker than the Central overall. This helps to explain the anomalous results in the West for those years. There seems to be no clear reason why the East was so bad during the first years of the three division format though.

The odds of making it through the 2nd round to the conference final are as follows:

#1: 50% (39% East, 61% West)
#2: 39% (28% East, 50% West)
#3: 28% (28% East, 28% West)
#4: 32% (44% East, 17% West)
#5: 11% (17% East, 6% West)
#6: 22% (28% East, 17% West)
#7: 11% (11% East, 11% West)
#8: 8% (6% East, 11% West)

Overall it goes pretty much according to plan, but each conference plays out quite differently. If the top 2 seeds in the West get through round one, there's a good chance they keep chugging into round 3, and overall the WC Final participants are almost always top 3 seeds.

But in the East, the top seeds clearly aren't out of the woods if they avoid the upset in round 1. The #4 seed is much more dominant than expected, but there's a pretty good explaination. The #4 is often stronger than the #3 in the East due to a weak division winner claiming the automatic #3 in many years. This also explains why the #6 seed performs stronger than expected, since they are the direct benefactor of that weak #3.

Odds of reaching the final are as follows:

#1: 25% (17% East, 33% West) (6 Cups won)
#2: 22% (17% East, 28% West) (5 Cups won)
#3: 14% (17% East, 11% West) (3 Cups won)
#4: 14% (28% East, 0% West) (2 Cups won)
#5: 3% (6% East, 0% West) (1 Cup won)
#6: 6% (6% East, 6% West)
#7: 11% (11% East, 11% West)
#8: 6% (0% East, 11% West) (1 Cup won)

Very interesting that the #4 seed has proven to give you the greatest chance of reaching the final in the East, while the top 3 seeds have no advantage over one another. But no #4 from the West has ever reached the final, nor has a #5. The lowest two seeds in the West have proven surprisingly dangerous, just as likely to reach the final as any other besides #1 and #2.

Overall, #2 in the East is probably the biggest under-performer relative to their standing, while #4 is the biggest over-achiever. The West goes much more "according to plan", but I'd say #5 is the biggest under-performer, and I guess you'd have to say #8 is the over-achiever. The best performing seed has been #1 in the West (best results in all three rounds, the most Cups with 4). The worst is #8 in the East, though it is only marginally worse than #5 in the West.

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04-22-2013, 06:13 PM
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I got it in my craw to do a little analysis on this today...not sure it adds much, but here's with I did. I made a histogram of conference finishing position vs. playoff round lost in for all years since (and including) 1994. The cup winner is given a value of 5 for the playoff round "lost" in.

So, the average playoff finish by conference finishing position:

Avg Playoff finish for Conf #1 = 2.64 +- 1.40
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #2 = 2.31 +- 1.45
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #3 = 2.14 +- 1.21
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #4 = 2.14 +- 1.16
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #5 = 1.53 +- 0.87
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #6 = 1.64 +- 0.95
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #7 = 1.67 +- 0.94
Avg Playoff finish for Conf #8 = 1.44 +- 0.90

One thing I really wanted to see was just how meaningful these numbers are, so the +- quoted above is the standard deviation (assuming I got the math all right). Clearly, the higher conference finishers on average do go deeper in the playoffs, but that comes with a correspondingly higher deviation in their playoff performance than the low-seeded teams. The low seeded teams pretty much always do badly, with only a few exceptions. It is important to note that the deviation is very large...even the "best" statistical prediction has a standard deviation here of nearly an entire round in the playoffs.

Turning the data around the other way...here is the average conference finishing position for teams making it to a given round of the playoffs.

Avg Conf finish for Playoff round 1 losers = 5.10 +- 2.21
Avg Conf finish for Playoff round 2 losers = 4.47 +- 2.18
Avg Conf finish for Playoff round 3 losers = 3.31 +- 1.94
Avg Conf finish for Playoff round 4 losers = 4.17 +- 2.36
Avg Conf finish for Cup winners = 2.56 +- 1.77

Again, the correlation between conference finish and playoff performance shows...but there is a large deviation. As has been said, there's quite a bit of history of teams getting into the 4th round from low seeds, and that shows up here too, but isn't very meaningful given the standard deviation. If you take the average seed of the Cup winners and go one standard deviation down, you are right around a 4 seed...so, not surprisingly, you really do want to be a top 4 seed if you want a serious chance at the Cup. Making it to the SCF appears to be a different story.

My conclusions: Seeding does matter, but you can't predict much year-to-year with it given the large deviation. This falls into the "uh, we already knew that" category, but I still find it interesting that the statistics bear that out.

Anyway, a lot of the same conclusions...just a different way of looking at it that works for my brain a bit better.


Last edited by SlowSkates: 04-22-2013 at 06:43 PM.
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