March 22nd, 2010, 7:16 pm
Now that the Sharks are firmly in WTF-land, it’s time to prognosticate on their postseason chances. The Sharks, even as bad as they’ve been playing, are still (barring the craziest thing I’ve ever seen) assured a spot in the postseason. The question for today is- how do teams fare when they have a major meltdown like this late in the season? I’m going to define a meltdown as a losing streak of 5 games or more (or 3 games to end the season), and ‘late in the season’ I’ll define as March and April. Roughly the last 6 weeks. I’m only doing post-lockout, because before the lockout there were ties, and having a bunch of ties in the middle of a winless streak doesn’t seem like the same thing. Let’s go to the chart:
|Year||Team||Streak||Final Loss Date||Seed||Depth in Postseason|
Nine teams in four years was a little more than I was expecting. Six of the nine lost in the first round, which sounds like a lot, but keep in mind 50% of the teams that make it to the playoffs lose in the first round. That’s really only one team over a random distribution. Five of the nine were the top four seed, which is basically random. No 1- or 2-seeds, which I suppose is to be expected- it’s hard to retain the conference lead when you drop 5 or more games in a row late in the year. The fact that none of the teams went to the finals is also easily within the bounds of random chance.
When I started this tedious process, I was expecting the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the teams to get smoked early in the playoffs, and that’s just not the case. The two teams that went to the conference finals were four and five seeds, which is likely where the Sharks will end up. On the flip side of the coin, the top two teams in seeding, the 2009 Devils and 2008 Wild, both lost in the first round. There also seems to be little correlation between the lateness of the streak and the playoff outcome. If the Sharks win either Tuesday or Thursday, they will be tied for 6th in ‘lateness’.
So what’s the conclusion? Losing five games in a row in the last 6 weeks of the season is not significantly correlated to playoff disappointment. Mostly because Sharks teams of recent years aren’t on this list. Har!
But seriously, if the Sharks manage to right the ship a little bit this week, there’s not much reason to think they are automatically doomed. However, if they lose the next ten, I’d say that’ll be unprecedented.