Noon Numbers for 6-12-2013

Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks have been dominant this postseason, a dominance that extended well beyond their play against the Wild. - Jonathan Daniel

Are these the two best teams in the NHL? One evaluation method suggests "Probably".

In some ways, the playoffs kind of suck.

Let me immediately backtrack on that statement: The playoffs are generally awesome. A long struggle to the Stanley Cup, the playoffs feature long series that pit teams that grow frustrated and angry at them together, sometimes for more than double the time of a typical hockey game. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

But when you look at the original playoff formats, there was a simplistic beauty to them. The two best teams played each other for the championship.

Unless your favorite team is in the hunt, and clearly not one of the best teams in the league, you could argue that you should always want to see the best two teams play each other in the Stanley Cup Final. I mean, Carolina v. Edmonton was a fun story and all, but the best teams not only generally play the best and/or most exciting brand of hockey, but also has a level of star power that a 6-8 seed may not have. It's a win-win for television.

So, are these two teams the best the NHL has to offer?

A crude, but effective, way to look at it is goal differential. Simple enough- the point of hockey is to score more points than the other guy, and goal differential looks at exactly how well you did that.

In the regular season, no one did that as well as Chicago, who also had the best record in hockey. They scored the second most amount of goals, while keeping the fewest pucks out of their own net. Their goal differential of 1.08, not surprisingly, led hockey this season.

Boston finished fourth in this category in the regular season with a goal differential of .44, behind Chicago, Pittsburgh (.90), and Montreal (.46). This was a result of Boston being very proficient at keeping the puck out of the net (Thanks, Tuukka Rask!), and finishing near the middle of the pack in scoring.

In the playoffs, however, this has reversed itself. Chicago and Boston are first and second in goal differential in the playoffs, but Boston has the lead, out-scoring their opponents by 1.25 goals per game, as opposed to Chicago's .82.

Obviously, any team that makes the Stanley Cup is likely to have a good goal differential simply by virtue of winning 12 games, which would be more than any other team to that point. However, the goal differentials of these two teams in the playoffs suggests dominance, instead of merely edging out their opponents.

That all said, it's hard to make an argument that these aren't the best two teams in hockey, especially since Boston and Chicago dismantled Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, their two chief Cup rivals for this postseason, so thoroughly in the Conference Final. Hopefully, this will lend itself to an entertaining, long series, instead of one proving to be objectively better than the other.

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