The Panthers’ Second Half Schedule Looks Easy, But Looks Can Be Deceiving

As the second half of the NHL schedule gets underway and playoff races start heating up, it is natural to look at the schedule and your favorite team’s matchups. Lucky for Florida Panthers fans, Elias reports that the Panthers have the easiest post-All Star Game Schedule based on the combined points percentage of remaining opponents. That points percentage is .532 meaning that the Panthers’ opponents for the second half of the season have accumulated about 53.2% of their possible points. To put that into perspective, the Panthers points percentage is .578, and no team with a .532 points percentage is in the top 8 seeds of either conference. Thus, it would seem that the Panthers will be feeding on the cellar dwellers for the remainder of the season, and in fact, the Cats are 2-1-0 in their first three games since the break, which were all against teams outside of playoff spots. Here’s a look at the remainder of the schedule, which includes 31 games:

PANTHERS’ REMAINING SCHEDULE

Team

Games Against

Carolina

4

Washington

3

Ottawa

2

Minnesota

2

Toronto

2

Winnipeg

2

Philadelphia

2

NY Islanders

2

Montreal

2

Los Angeles

1

New Jersey

1

Nashville

1

Pittsburgh

1

Boston

1

Detroit

1

Anaheim

1

Buffalo

1

Edmonton

1

Columbus

1

The top two teams immediately tell us something. The Panthers get to play the Carolina Hurricanes, the Eastern Conference’s worst team, 4 times. For a team in a hot division race which may hold the only playoff seat for a Southeast Division team, the Panthers need all 8 of those points. Then, the Panthers have 3 games against the Washington Capitals, who the Cats are trying to stave off to win the division. All 3 games will be tight, for sure.

Although it seems that the Panthers have a favorable schedule, a deeper analysis of the schedule shows that most of these games cannot be taken lightly. If we look at the current standings, the Panthers are playing many teams that are trying to hold on to playoff spots or claw into the playoffs. For example, 13 of the remaining 31 games, or 41.9% are against teams that are in positions 6-10 in their respective conferences. The average conference position of the teams that the Panthers will be playing for the remainder of the season is 9th. Now, you may be saying that this is not news considering that I just told you that the Panthers have the easiest schedule, and you’ll follow by saying that this is a good thing. I’ll counter by telling you that these teams have statistically played better than the teams in the top half of each conference. We see this by looking at the last 20 games of the 2010-2011 season for teams in each conference that finished the season in positions 1-10. For example, the Buffalo Sabres finished last season in 7th place in the East. In their first 62 games, the Sabres had a points percentage of .585, but in their last 20 games of the season, they had a points percentage of .725. That was an increase of 23.9%, and it was attributed to the team’s attempt to make the playoffs. Now, not every team in the 6-10 range had such a big jump, but the average was 6.8% while the average team ranked 1-5 in their conference had an increase of 4.4%. What’s more, only 2 of the 10 NHL teams ranked 6-10 in their conference at the end of the season had a negative change in their points percentage when comparing their last 20 games of the season to their first 62. On the contrary, 4 teams ranked 1-5 in their conferences had negative changes. This all shows that teams trying to make the playoffs, play better. Below, you can see the percentage changes in point percentage for the top 10 teams in each conference when comparing their last 20 games of the 2010-2011 season to their first 62 games. To help you read this chart, take the New York Rangers for example. The chart shows that the Rangers scored 10.2% more of their possible points over their last 20 games than they scored over their first 62 games.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

10-11 Standings

Team

% Difference in Points Percentage

1

Washington

26.4%

2

Philadelphia

-22.6%

3

Boston

-4.5%

4

Pittsburgh

8.3%

5

Tampa Bay

-12.4%

6

Montreal

6.8%

7

Buffalo

23.9%

8

New York Rangers

10.2%

9

Carolina

8.1%

10

Toronto

10.9%

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

10-11 Standings

Team

% Difference in Points Percentage

1

Vancouver

5.1%

2

San Jose

13.2%

3

Detroit

-13.3%

4

Anaheim

24.2%

5

Nashville

20.1%

6

Phoenix

-0.6%

7

Los Angeles

0.4%

8

Chicago

5.7%

9

Dallas

-0.7%

10

Calgary

4.7%

Thus, maybe the Panthers don’t have it as easy as we think. They’ll be playing the teams that have shown to be the hungriest at the end of the season, and the Cats will have to stave off playoff hopefuls. Considering their weak division, it will be even more important to stay atop the Southeast Division because if the playoffs started today, only Florida would make the playoffs as the Capitals are currently in 9th place.

 

Jason Sosnovsky
Jason grew up rooting for the Red Wings until his hometown of Atlanta got the Thrashers in 1999, so much for that. He is a Northwestern University alum and current 3L at the University of Miami School of Law. He is also the President of the Entertainment & Sports Law Society at the law school.

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