Archive | February, 2013

Interesting rule could make for good first-round story line, but probably won’t. #MOLLiga #Hockey #playoffs

25 Feb

I am one full season in to a small European Hockey league and I am still getting surprised by the rules.  I read a post today from jegkorongblog.hu (Hungarian Ice Hockey blog) about the first seeded playoff team being able to pick their first round opponent.

This strikes me as odd, just because I have never heard of such a rule before.  Supposedly, if my Google Translate is working properly, other European leagues have a similar rule.  So, this rule is not unique to the MOL Liga.  However, I am thinking of the impact (or lack thereof) of such a rule in the MOL Liga specifically.

In this league, only four teams make the playoffs.  The first place team will likely choose the team they have the best chance of beating to get into the championship round.  In a regular seeding format, the best team gets to play the worst seeded playoff team; thus, this choice occurs automatically.  In some situations, maybe the fourth seeded team has had your number all season and you have a better chance at beating a higher seeded team in the first round and you want to take your chances in the championship round.  You’re hope then is that the other team can beat the team you are worried about.

But look, it’s the playoffs.  You are going to have to play a competitive team at some point.  You’re team is going to have to travel.  Sure, winning the championship is most important and if there is a little something you can do to give you a competitive advantage, then sure, go for it.

The interesting thing to me with this rule in a four team playoff is that you essentially choose your competitors first-round match-up.  That could be interesting if you think you could knock off your biggest challenge for the next round by making a choice for yourself.

Alright, here is a first-round playoff preview based on possible choices by DAB Docler, this season’s best regular season team.  If we had a normal seeding system, the first-round playoff matchups would be (assuming nothing crazy happens in today’s last set of matchups):

Scenario 1:

(1) DAB Docler v. (4) ASC Corona Brasov
(2) Miskolc Jegesmedvek v. (3) HSC Csikszereda

So, there is a good chance DAB takes Brasso by choice, making the above scenario reality.  This means the “choose your own team rule” was pointless and that seeding is the better way to go….at least in a season where DAB was way on top the entire season.

Advantages:  Potentially only one travel game to Romania for the playoffs if they can take care of business.  DAB has no good option for the Miskolc v. Csikszereda matchup.  If Miskolc wins, DAB has the more difficult matchup in the championship round.  If Csikszereda wins, then you have two rounds of travelling to Romania.  Travel versus opponent difficulty?  I take difficulty….it’s the playoffs and you’ve earned home ice.  Keep your guys comfortable in your city and in your arena.  For that reason, the regular seeding or Brasso choice would be smart.

Disadvantages:  Brasso is on fire.  Maybe the best goalkeeper in the league and the North American’s have been lighting up the score sheet.  DAB has been resting their big guns for the past couple weeks.  Do you take the chance of taking on the streaky team with potentially rusty guys?  I believe the away team gets the first home game, meaning this series could get interesting if Brasso steals the first game.

Scenario 2:

(1) DAB Docler v. (2) Miskolc Jegesmedvek
(3) HSC Csikszereda v. (4) ASC Corona Brasov

Advantages:  If I were DAB, this would be my choice.  You’ve been the best team in the league all season.  Take out the best team.  Give yourself the least amount of travel in the first round and if you win you ensure only one travel match, arguably against an easier team.  Also, this gives the Romanian fans some a rivalry opportunity in the first round.  I really think Brasso and Csikszereda could go either way too, so there is a better opportunity of two really good first round matchups….I think this is something the league could use.

Disadvantages:  Conventional wisdom would say you are tempting fate.  You rested your players for two or three weeks and now you are asking to play an opponent who has scored as much as you have and are the league’s second best team.  Maybe getting them after a first-round warm-up makes more sense.

Scenario 3:

(1) DAB Docler v. (3) HSC Csikszereda
(2) Miskolc Jegesmedvek v. (4) ASC Corona Brasov

Advantages:  DAB has dominated everyone all season–they should win this match.  You also put the hottest team up against your most challenging opponent.  Either way, you knock off a potential championship round stumbling block.

Disadvantages:  You might give yourself two rounds of travelling to Romania.

Again, if I were DAB, I would take Miskolc in the first round.  If you can’t beat them now, you’re not going to beat them in the next round.  You ensure only one round of travelling and a championship round against one of the two lower seeded teams.

But, my bet is they pick the fourth seeded team, currently Brasso.  This is why this rule makes little sense in a four team playoff format.  I imagine the best team will always pick the worse team for the best shot to the championship round.  Again, maybe if the teams in the league were a lot closer competitively then this could make a difference.

 

***Post update***

I learned after this original post that tiebreakers in MOL Liga go by the following rules:

“Ranking of the teams:

  1. upon the total points received
  2. in case of equal total points: upon the points received on direct matches against each other
  3. in case of equal points received on direct matches: upon the goal difference on the direct matches
  4. in case of equal goal difference on the direct matches: upon the more goals scored on the direct matches
  5. In case of equal goals scored on the direct matches: upon the goal difference of the whole season
  6. In case of the goal difference of the season is equal: upon the more goals scored during the whole season

This means ASC Corona Brasov was actually the odd team out and needed help from Nove Zamky to make it into the playoffs, because Nove Zamky had the better head-to-head record.  That did not happen and Nove Zamky took the fourth seed.  This too is an odd rule for hockey and for European sports.  Yet, I like this rule a lot.  I now too am happy for the best team-first round choice rule….

Redeeming myself, DAB Docler took my advice and chose Miskolc for the second round.  Though there will not be an all-Romanian MOL Liga first round matchup, the rest of my reasoning stands.  They keep themselves to only having to leave the country for one round, if they beat Miskolc.  They give us something really good to watch in the first round.  We will also get to see if resting their top players for the past few weeks will have any effect on DAB’s dominating season.

Here is the final standings on the season:

Capture

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#MOLLiga Playoff scenarios. #hockey

18 Feb

After following the league all year, with a short hiatus over the holidays, it is a fun time for hockey.  Playoffs are starting for hockey all throughout Europe.  In the MOL Liga, there are still three teams fighting for the final two spots with only four game days left.  Below is the breakdown of possible scenarios based on tonight’s games, but first, the standings.

Image

Points breakdown, which makes this oh so confusing growing up watching North American sports where a win is a win.  Nevertheless:

  • 3 points for a regulation or overtime win;
  • 2 points for a shootout win;
  • 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss.

First, the easy ones.  DAB Docler (Dunaujvaros Acelbikak) have locked up the top spot and will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.  The two Budapest teams, Ferencvaros and Ujpest, are out of playoff contention.

Miskolc Jegesmedvek

Miskolc have also locked up a playoff spot.  They also control their own destiny to grab the second seed and need only one point to secure first round home-ice.  However, if they lose out and HSC Csikszereda wins the rest of their games, Miskolc could drop to the third seed.  Miskolc plays Ferencvaros tonight at home, who put up a spirited performance against Nove Namky on Sunday night.

HSC Csikszereda

Csikszereda has not clinched a playoff spot yet, but could today on their night off, and they control their own chances.  Here are there playoff scenarios:

  • If Csikszereda loses the remainder of their games and Nove Zamky and Corona Brasov win their games, then Csikszereda misses the playoffs;
  • If Csikszereda gets one point in their final three games or if Nove Zamky or Corona Brasov get less than three points in their final three games, then Csikszereda clinches a spot;
  • Csikszereda, if they make the playoffs, have the opportunity to get as high as the second seed, but could fall as low as fourth.

HC Nove Zamky

Nove Zamky is hanging on to the final playoff spot and the also control their own destiny.  There was a bit of a scare yesterday as Ferencvaros controlled the game early before giving up three third period goals.  Nove Zamky sealed the win with an empty netter with just over a minute to go to win 5-3.  Here are there playoff scenarios:

  • Nove Zamky can clinch by winning their final three games or if Corona Brasov loses in regulation in two of their final three games;
  • Currently, Nove Zamky has the point differential over Csikszereda, which is used for tiebreakers.  So, if Nove Zamky can make up the four point differential on Csikszereda they could grab the third seed.

ASC Corona Brasov

Brasso has been hanging on the edge of the final playoff spot all year.  They had an opportunity to gain on Nove Zamky last night, but lost in overtime against DAB Docler.  They still have a chance, but they need help.

  • Brasso has the goal differential tiebreaker over both Nove Zamky and Csikszereda.  If they can tie either team in points, they can move as high as the third seed.
  • Brasso needs one of the two teams above them to lose.  Csikszereda would have to lose all of their games for Brasso to take their spot.  They only need to gain one game on Nove Zamky to tie.

The interesting games down the stretch mostly fall into Brasso’s hands.  They have to play DAB Dolcer again on 24 February, but Nove Zamky has to play them tonight.  Brasso needs to win tonight and hope the Dunaujvaros plays their starters like they did against them on Sunday.  Brasso also has to play Csikszereda on 22 February.  The playoffs will be finalized likely based on the results of these three games.

Anyone up for a trip to Romania?

#2013WJC (delayed) #Moneypuck update. Results of pulling your goalie…does it matter?

16 Feb

A quick look at the results of pulling your keeper in the World Junior Championships.  There are some potential problems with this analysis.  First, if you switch goalies because you either leading by a lot or losing by a lot there may not be a reason for the teams to play as hard.  Bench players may also get more time, meaning less skill on the ice, possibly less scoring and defense.  Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to look at the results.

The first keeper pulled was in game 2: Switzerland vs. Latvia.  The Swiss were up 5 to 2 after the second period and Latvia switched in Punnenovs for Merzlikins.  Switzerland’s offensive performance declined in the 3rd period, putting only 9 shots on goal in the 3rd (17 in the 1st and 13 in the 2nd).  However, the Swiss outscored the Latvian side 2-0 in the final period.  Latvia actually played worse in the 3rd period with the new keeper.

Punnenovs got the start in the final two games and finished with a 5.02 GAA.  Merzlikins finished with a 6.23 GAA.

The U.S. switched goalies after going up big against Germany in their 8-0 win.  Though it is hard to say definitively it had an effect, Gibson lost to a much better Russian side in their next match.

Germany moved away from Subban after there 9-3 loss to Canada.  Cupper started the final three games and lost 8-0, 7-0, and 2-1.

In both the U.S. vs. Russia and U.S. vs. Canada losses, Gibson was pulled in the final minutes to give the Americans an extra skater.  Neither instance led to the equalizer.  It would be interesting to see if more offense was generated when Gibson was out of the net, even though there were no goals.

Finland scored in five seconds after pulling Korpisalo in their 5-4 shootout win over Switzerland.  This goal was made by the extra skater, Markus Granlund, but during a faceoff.  Scoring on a possession in the offensive zone within five seconds makes it difficult to credit the goal to having the extra skater.  Nevertheless, that was the case.

So, it appears that in a tournament setting, that pulling your goalie when you are up to give them a rest in later games could affect them negatively in later games.  Also, generally speaking, pulling your goalie more often than not does not lead to that equalizer goal.  The wisdom is that the man advantage gives a team a better opportunity to score, but the extra goal rarely comes to fruition.

 

***This article was originally drafted in January.  Since there was an interesting goalie pulling situation in the under 20 tournament for the Hungarian team.  Mark Plekszan started in goal the first game and was chased out.  Hungary lost that first game.  He was replaced in the following game, but got the start again later.  He was again chased from the net; however, he was pulled early enough in the first period that Hungary was able to come back and win that game.  The mixed result here is that pulling him in the tournament probably didn’t help his confidence.   Yet, making an early decision in a tournament to pull your keeper could be beneficial.  Though, it seems if a team decides to make that switch, then they should stick with their decision for the rest of the tournament.  This was played out in the 2013 WJC and some of the Olympic prequalifying tournaments, as the teams that switched goalies the least had the most success.