This will be brief.
The Devils are playing well and people understandably look towards the advanced stats like Corsi and Expected Goals. Those numbers are obviously going to be higher against worse competition and lower against good teams, though.
Since Other writers and I reference advanced stats rather incessantly on Twitter and on this blog, I normally like to look into the schedule by around this point in the year to put those numbers into context somewhat. I’ll look at quality of opponent, home/away distribution, and # of back-to-backs left. I’ll also mention if there are other Metropolitan teams at the extremes of any of these metrics.
This is one day outdated. The home game against the Blues makes the Devils 50/50 in that respect. Obviously that puts us right in the middle of the league and we have as many games at the Rock as away the rest of the way. Noteworthy in the division: Rangers have played 11 home and 5 away so it’s tougher sledding for them. But Pittsburgh has done the opposite and so they’ll be back at PPG Paints more moving forward.
The Devils have played 3 of their 13 back-to-backs. They got shutout against the Sharks and won against the Rangers and Coyotes. This means they’ve played 18.75% of their back-to-backs which is the 7th highest proportion in the league. However, we still have 13 left which is also the 7th highest in the league. That means that when extrapolating their record moving forward, we’ve handled on of the more congested parts of our schedule (week-long break notwithstanding), but we still have more demanding schedule than most teams remaining because the NHL hates us.
Pittsburgh got screwed even worse than we did, but they’ve also played 5 back-to-backs already so, again, expect life to get easier for them. The Hurricanes, however, have played only one of their 18 back-to-backs which leaves them with 17 remaining — tied for highest total with Ottawa.
This is using Manny Perry’s expected goals model and sorted by how much easier the schedule gets. Rel xGF% here just means xGF% - 0.50(average). This chart says that the the Devils opponents increase in average xGF% by the 6th largest margin in the NHL. Their remaining schedule is the 2nd most difficult in the NHL behind only the Coyotes -- side note: ouch, because that’s exactly what the Yotes needed. The Hurricanes have the easiest remaining schedule of all the Metro teams, we have the hardest, followed by the Flyers at 4th overall.
Although we have yet to play the most difficult part of our schedule, it’s worth noting that tomorrow will be the highest 5-game moving average of opponents’ expected goal ratio we have all year (see below). This is to say that we are in the hardest 5-game stretch of opponents we will have this season. Furthermore, we did it mostly on the road in Western Canada without an entire line of top 6 forwards (Zajac, Palms, Mojo).
The Devils have been neutral in home-away, are ahead of pace in back-to-backs (though we have more left than most, still), and we have one of the most difficult schedules remaining in terms of strength of opponents. However, we are in the middle of the hardest stretch of opponents we will encounter. As such, I would expect us to get points at a faster pace than the 1-2-1 we enjoy now, but at a slower pace than the 9-2-0 we were previous.
Overall, I’d say that this is bad news that could have been worse. We’re in the hardest division in the league by far and so a difficult schedule was predictable. Being neutral-ish in the other two categories prevents me from saying that the downward spiral is inevitable. The hardest stretch is actually a brutal 6-game away trip to Nashville, Vegas, LA, Anaheim, San Jose, and Pittsburgh but that’s not until mid-March. So we all have that to look forward to all year.
What do you think about the schedule? Any sections scare you particularly now that we know more about the teams?