Monday, January 21, 2008

Down The Stretch They Come: Hockey Projections

First thing: More to come tomorrow on the ND series. Craig and I were in attendance at both games, so we've got a few words to say about that bit of awesome.

I've been looking at Michigan's schedule for the rest of the regular season in the CCHA and wondering what we can expect in the second half of conference play. The Wolverines have a tough road ahead, with series against Michigan State and Miami in the next few weeks after having just despatched Notre Dame. They've been on a torrid pace, but with the high-quality opponents left on their schedule, there's no way they can keep it up, right? So I've tried to use a little math to project how teams in the conference will fall at the end of the regular season.

I broke it down, game by game, and I decided that the difference in current winning percentage is the best barometer of the chance teams have of winning a game. Two teams with .500 records should have the same chance of winning a game, but a team with a .700 record should have a better chance than one stuck at .300.

Projected Points = 2*(Number of games)*((Team winning % - Opponent winning %)*0.5 + 0.5)

2 = 2*(2*(0.600-0.600)*0.5+0.5)
3 = 2*(2*(0.750-0.250)*0.5+0.5)
4 = 2*(2*(1.000-0.000)*0.5+0.5)

In a few weeks, Michigan will be playing Miami. Right now, the stats for that series project like this:

2*(2 games)*((0.9375 UM winning % - 0.8333 Miami winning %)*0.5+0.5) = 2.2038 pts projected for Michigan

It basically projects a split, with Michigan having a slightly better chance than Miami of getting a sweep or an additional point. Before last weekend's sweep, it was predicting about 2.4 pts for Michigan off Notre Dame, which seems fair enough, considering the number of chances each team had in the third period of Friday's game before Caporusso buried the game winner with 20.3 seconds left on the clock.

This is how the numbers fall for the entire CCHA for the rest of the year. I've included the pace that each team is on (which is solely based on its winning percentage) for comparison.

Team   GP   Winning %   Points   Projected   (Pace)
Alaska   18   0.3611   13   21.98   (20.2)
Bowling Green   16   0.5625   18   30.80   (31.5)
Ferris State   16   0.4688   15   26.12   (26.3)
Lake Superior   16   0.1563   5   13.88   (8.8)
Miami   18   0.8333   30   44.11   (46.7)
Michigan   16   0.9375   30   46.31   (52.5)
Michigan State   16   0.8125   26   40.90   (45.5)
Nebraska-Omaha   20   0.4750   19   26.83   (26.6)
Northern Michigan   18   0.3889   14   22.69   (21.8)
Notre Dame   18   0.6389   23   35.92   (35.8)
Ohio State    16   0.2188   7   15.52   (12.3)
Western Michigan   16   0.1250   4   10.96   (7.0)

As you can see, the Wolverines are on a pace for a 52.5-pt season, but the projection knocks them down to only 46.3 pts, which would have them going about 8-4 down the stretch. Considering that the team is 22-2-0 right now, at first glance this seems excessive. But consider that they're playing the two next best teams in the league a total of six times during that stretch and it's a little less unlikely. Each game we play is like a loaded coin flip; eventually it'll come up tails, even if we play bad teams. That's what happened in part with OSU earlier in the season. We ran up against a hot goalie when we weren't playing our best and we couldn't get a bounce to bail us out.

Here's a breakdown by series of the remainder of our schedule:

Opponent Projected
(Current) 30.00
MSU 2.25
Northern 3.10
Miami 2.21
LSSU 3.56
MSU 2.25
Ferris 2.94
Total 46.31

Ferris, Northern, and Lake State are mediocre-to-bad teams, but they get six chances to run into us on a bad night. Still, I think the numbers are conservative; 9-3 is what I'd call a successful conclusion to the season. I think we split with Miami, and State wins at least one game off of us, probably two. And if the Spartans only win one, there's a good chance someone else steals a game. A 48-point regular season would be a magnificent achievement and position us well for the CCHA playoffs and the NCAA tournament. A 50-point season would be simply astonishing, and I can't even believe anything north of that is possible. Down this stretch run, I just want to see our guys keep playing sound hockey, take care of business against teams they shouldn't lose to, and make it to the tournament without injury. Let's see how this plays out.


Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Byko said...

Aw heck, just use the KRACH ratings, now that they're FINALLY out. I did some quick and dirty calculations and figure Michigan to end up at 50 or 51 points in the CCHA:

Michigan State: 6.5/8
Miami: 2.5/4
Ferris State: 3.8/4
Lake Superior St.: 3.8/4
Northern Michigan: 3.8/4

Total: 20.4/24

Yeah, I can live with that.