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Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Predictions

12 Feb

Here goes my Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey predictions.  Shortly the tournament kicks off with Czech Republic versus Sweden.  While you can take a look at the rosters and make some good determinations based on skill sets, my experience watching European hockey up close over the past two years indicates yo me that there are some other items to consider.  Most importantly, the Olympic ice size is much larger than the surface used in the NHL.  The travel time will be rough on players living in North America.

The jet lag will be bad for all NHL players…for instance, I am not sure that Ovechkin has an advantage because he is Russian by birth as he spends most his time in the U.S. and Canada during the season.

Wayne Gretzky believes the hottest goaltender and the best skater give you the best chance for winning.  Goaltending is huge, so I will agree with him there.  However, I think the best ‘set of skaters’ is much more important than the having the best individual player.  Matchups are also a big deal and the groups are already set.  Based on the Group Round, lets take a look at my predictions.

Group Round

Group A

  •  Russia
  •  Slovakia
  •  United States
  •  Slovenia

Russia is playing at home and were good in the group round for the 2013 World Championships.  With home advantage and being more used to the bigger ice, I think they have the advantage to win the group over the U.S.

The U.S. could surprise Russia on February 15th.  I predict Russia will win, so the U.S. should take second in the group.  Slovakia is a bit of a threat, but it would be an upset if they beat the U.S. or Russia here.  Slovenia probably does not have much of a chance getting off of the bottom here.

  1. Russia
  2. United States
  3. Slovakia
  4. Slovenia

Group B

  •  Finland
  •  Canada
  •  Norway
  •  Austria

Finland or Canada could take this group, but the edge has to go to Finland based on goaltending and because they have fewer NHL players on their roster (yes I said fewer).  Most players in the KHL or SM-Liiga are more than good enough to play at the NHL level, but are just better on the open ice or not as physical as necessary for the NHL.  The Finnish side has several players playing in Russia and Finland currently, which also makse jet lag a non-issue.  Whoever is second place in this division should still score a lot of goals, so they will likely have the best second place team after the group stage–giving them direct entry into the quarterfinals.

Between Norway and Austria, I think it is a bit of a toss up.  Many of the Austrian players play together in the EBEL Austrian League, where the Norwegian players are a little more spread out.  I will give the third place edge to Austria just based on chemistry.

  1. Finland
  2. Canada
  3. Austria
  4. Norway

Group C

  •  Czech Republic
  •  Sweden
  •   Switzerland
  •  Latvia

Switzerland has been the surprise team lately and played extremely well in the 2013 World Championships.  However, they will not have the firepower to keep up with what Sweden has brought to Sochi.  They should still have the edge on the Czech Republic and Latvia though, placing the Swiss side in second place.  Czech Republic can get a shot at the second spot, but are not quite as good as Switzerland.  Latvia is the obvious bottom team here and might be the worse in the Olympics.

  1. Sweden
  2. Switzerland
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Latvia

Qualification Playoff

Based on my predictions, these are the matchups for the qualification playoffs:

United States (5D) vs. Latvia (12D)

This will be an easy match for the U.S. and they will move on to the next round.

Switzerland (6D) vs. Slovenia (11D)

Another easy match with Switzerland walking all over Slovenia.

Czech Republic (7D) vs. Norway (10D)

This could be a good match, but the Czech side should be able to grind out a win in a low scoring affair.

Slovakia (8D) vs. Austria (9D)

This will be an even match, but I think Austria actually has a chance here.  Whoever wins will lose in the next round to the tournament’s top seeded club, so I will take Austria on the mini-upset here….there has to be an upset, right?

Quarterfinals

Russia (1D) vs. Austria (9D)

Austria probably does not have much of a chance here.  Slovakia either.  Their medal chances end with a Russian victory.

Canada (4D) vs. United States (5D)

This will no doubt be a great matchup and is really too close to call.  The U.S. has better speed and goaltending and in the end I think that will be more important than having Crosby (best skater under the Gretzky rule).  The U.S. will take this one and send Canada reeling without a medal.

Sweden (3D) vs. Switzerland (6D)

A rematch of the 2013 Men’s World Championship will end with Sweden victorious again.  They are just too good for upstart Switzerland.

Finland (3D) vs. Czech Republic (7D)

The Czech Republic just simply does not have a championship side and Finland will come out of this victorious.

Semifinals

Russia (1D) vs. United States (5D)

A rematch of the semifinals from the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid and the 2013 World Championship quarterfinals.  Much less of a miracle needed this time.  Russia has home-ice advantage, but they do not have the intangibles to win championships.  They will fall again to the U.S. and will have a chance at third place.

Sweden (2D) vs. Finland (3D)

This will be the match of the tournament and should be great to watch.  For me, it is a coin flip, but edge to Finland for goaltending.

Finals

Finland vs. United States

The game will be close, but not super competitive I imagine.  Finland wins the gold and the American squad takes a silver after a hard run past Canada and Russia.

Sweden vs. Russia – Bronze Medal Game

Russia cannot be shutout in their own country, right?  Sweden can do it, but the Russian side will come out to play here.  Sweden goes from number one last year to number four and Russia celebrates third place in Sochi.

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“Za Dom Sportova” Chant – What Happened?

13 Dec

An Apology?  An Explanation?

In the 2nd period of the Ak Bars game on Wednesday (12.11), a few fans began chanting “za dom”.  It appears the fans on the other side of the arena were chanting “sportova”, making the entire chant “za Dom Sportova” (I missed the “sportova” piece, but more on this later).  Dom Sportova is the name of the arena KHL Medvescak plays in, so the chant was “for Dom Sportova”.  This was in response to an announcement of games at the new Arena Zagreb, not the favorite venue of Medvescak fans.

During the 2nd intermission, I put out several tweets condemning the “za dom” chants and calling for fans to shout those “idiots” out.  I also said Medvescak themselves should eject those fans if they really are preaching tolerance.  You can find them over at the Bears Hockey Blog Twitter page.

It was not until later in the game when some of the Bears Blog Twitter followers and the official Medvescak Twitter account made me aware that the full chant was “za Dom Sportova”.

A little background on “za dom”.  It was first used during a play in the 1600’s and translates to “for home” or “for homeland”.  When Croatia was a fascist state during World War II, “za dom” and “za dom – spremni!” (for homeland – ready) became salutes for the fascist army aligned with the Nazi Germans.  Much like the swastika (“swastika” literally translates as “it is good”) which was used as a non-fascist symbol prior to Nazi Germany incorporating it into its ethnic cleansing regime, the phrase “za dom” is now synonymous with fascist activities for most observers.

Recently, Australian-born Croatian National Football team player Josip Simunic led a crowd in Zagreb in a “za dom – spremni” chant after the team punched their ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  Simunic stated he was not involved in a racist or nationalist act.  I tend to believe him (others do too).  He was caught up in a moment and that moment had nothing to do with fascism, but helping take your country to the World Cup.

The result:  Fined 3,200 Euros for “spreading racial hatred”, though he was not actually being hateful.

In Latvia, KHL club Dinamo Riga performed a tribute to some of the traditions of Latvian culture during intermission.  One of the most important symbols of Latvian culture is the sun, but their interpretation of what the sun looks like is not always so literal.  So, some skaters paraded on the ice with a “sun” that just happened to look like a swastika.  Initially, the KHL said they respected their traditions and they realized it was not a swastika.

The result:  A reversal.  The KHL fined Dinamo Riga $30,300 (1 million rubles).  They learned that this was the symbol of an military battalion before it was used by Nazi Germany, and not a sun, but also not paying homage to the Nazi regime.  A no tolerance policy.

Points here:

1)       Your actions are not always judged by your intentions.

2)      Like it or not, what the international community think matters and can affect your team.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

First off, I run the Bears Hockey Blog site and Twitter accounts.  However, the bearshockeyblog.com consists of several other writers.  I should have never took to the Bears Blog Twitter account to discuss non-hockey issues.  So, to the other writers, I apologize.  Those views were my own.

On the other hand, in the heat of the moment, I felt there was no other way to get my thoughts out and to stop another possible “za dom” chant that evening.  I was trying to harness to power of social media and with that came my feelings at the moment after hearing a fascist chant.

I realize now that the chant with “sportova” added was a play on words, an attempt at humor, mocking the others recently chanting “za dom”.  Well, I should say now that I know “sportova” was being chanted as well I get that it was an attempt at humor.

If I would have heard “sportova” initially, would I have posted those several Twitter messages?

No.

I have a good sense of humor, so I think I would have realized the intention of the fans there.  I would have still thought it was a tasteless joke.  Honestly, I still think anything “za dom” related has no place in a chant or a salute.

But, I did call some people idiots for chanting “za dom”, but since no one was chanting “za dom” but “za Dom Sportova”, then I guess I did not actually call anyone an idiot, right?

It is a dumb argument.  Much like “za Dom Sportova” cannot be offensive to anyone because it was meant to be a joke.  Little known fact: just by adding “sportova” to any phrase gets rid of its negative meaning! (#sarcasm).

Maybe, just maybe, Bears’ fans and Croatians generally can just put this phrase to rest.  It is too volatile and has too much negative connotation to continue to bring up.  Also, why risk Medvescak receiving a fine.  If it happened to Simunic and Dinamo Riga, why could it not happen here because of Wednesday’s incident?  Instead, a local Croatian writer thought it would be smart to bring the situation to light in a recent article, supposedly denouncing my good intention.  I hope no one in the KHL office speaks Croatian…..

Here is a quote from the KHL after the Latvia fine: “”Use of any graphic forms showing Nazi signs and symbols, as well as similar images, are inadmissible for the KHL clubs and their fans.”  Hey FANS, although your chant is not in graphic form, you are jeopardizing the team.

Nevertheless, if you felt I called you an idiot and you were trying to be funny, I sincerely apologize.  This is a small problem that can be solved over a beer or two (on me).  Send me a Twitter message and we can meet during intermission.  @bourciertm.

Also, I apologize to the team’s PR staff for telling them to take action.  It was probably a bit too far.  Though, the club should consider action before this goes too far.

In the meantime, go Bears!

Washington Capitals Mock Draft

10 Jun

In my second article for The Hockey Writers, I examine current roster needs and predict a draft pick for the Washington Capitals (article here).  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, because really you need to know who would be available–the first 22 selections in this case.  You also need to look at team needs while also predicting what the Caps management might do.  Will new Coach Adam Oates have more power or will they continue down the path of selecting offensive-minded European players as they have done with first-round picks in recent history.

There are also a million rankings out there, but none combine North American and European skaters into one category.  It makes it very hard to compare and contrast talent across multiple leagues.  Nevertheless, it was a fun exercise and I hope everyone enjoys the piece.

 

Semifinal #IIHF Worlds predictions. How does Sweden’s win over Canada shake things up? #Bracketology #MoneyPuck

16 May

From my Bracketology blog post (here), I went three for four on the day.  I picked the first three matches, but missed the Sweden win over Canada.  The Sedin-Sedin-Danielsson line killed it (minus that bad shootout attempt by H. Sedin–yikes).  Patting myself on the back, I missed the prediction on the last game of the day, going all the way to a shootout, in a sudden death shoutout situation.  Moreover, besides the 50/50 split on the US-Russia match, this was the closest statistical matchup–see the previous odds and probabilities here (without any historical adjustments, injuries, etc.)  Now, I couldn’t guess the Canada-Sweden match any better than I could predict that 8-3 blowout of USA over Russia, but at least I wasn’t way off.

Here is my changed bracket, with Sweden in, but I will still take Finland in that game.  If there is a game this year I would pay to be at, it would be Sweden vs. Finland from Stockholm.  It should be a battle of goaltenders, but hopefully a low scoring affair doesn’t mean a lack of offensive action.

Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 12.00.36 AM

My gold medal match prediction stays the same, but will Sweden beat Switzerland?  I am going to guess Switzerland grabs the bronze medal now.  Sweden fought hard to come back against Canada, but have one main line and strong goalkeeping.  I am not sure if that will work against the Swiss–it didn’t work the first time they played.

So, here are the odds for the semifinal round and some comments.  Keep in mind, these are neutral odds based only on math formulations, not calculating in profits as a casino or bookie would.

Likelihood Moneyline      (US) Decimial Odds (EU)
Finland 61.02% -156 1.64
Sweden 38.98% +150 2.50
Swiss 88.45% -733 1.14
US 11.55% +14 8.33

The early odds from bet365.com has Finland as the underdog.  This must have to do with Sweden having home-ice advantage.  I would bet on Finland for sure in this match.  It is not a big return (listed at +135), but it is the much better bet.  Sweden is most likely to lose based on the Log5 method and the moneyline reads -167 for them.  The bookies basically have swapped my neutral odds above.

As I assumed, after the US blowout of Russia, the oddsmakers at bet365.com are dismissing Switzerland’s undefeated run.  I too dismiss Switzerland over the US even with the odds in their favor from my guess, but my guess is against the grain of the analysis.  Maybe not as much as the +14 moneyline on the US (the game should be closer than US-Russia), but Switzerland should not be dismissed.  Switzerland’s and Finland’s chances of winning have decreased even though they moved on, but the Swiss should be really favored to win.

The returns are bad on this game.  +105 on the Swiss and -133 for the US isn’t worth wasting your money on.  Gambling tip from a non-gambler: bet Finland…I am 75% right so far and the stats give Finland a 3 in 5 chance to win.  Good luck to all the teams!

#IIHFWorlds Probability of wins for quarterfinals #MoneyPuck

16 May

I thought I’d put a little math twist on tomorrow’s match-ups and calculate the probability of each team winning.  From here, hopefully I can create some odds.  I will compare them with what you could bet against online after the analysis.

First things first, using the “Log5” method for calculating a team winning or losing (credit to Bill James in Baseball Abstract), this is what you do:

Win probability = (A – A * B) / (A + B – 2 * A * B) — where A represent Team A’s winning percentage and B represents Team B’s winning percentage.

For tomorrow, without running a regression and seeing if prior games, past year’s seeding, strength of schedule, luck, injuries, etc., make a difference, this is what we have:

Finland 77.88%
Russia 50.00%
US 50.00%
Slovakia 22.12%
Swiss 94.78%
Canada 70.59%
Sweden 29.41%
Czech 5.22%

Basically you have the percent chance each team will win their game tomorrow.  The next step is to convert these percentages into odds and then I will convert these into a moneyline.

Finland -355
Russia +/-100
US +/-100
Slovakia +355
Swiss -1900
Canada -245
Sweden +245
Czech +1900

For the explanation of the plus/minus on the moneyline, you can follow the link here:

Moneyline odds are usually considered “American” style odds, so here are the “European” style decimal odds:

Finland 1.28
Russia 2.00
US 2.00
Slovakia 4.55
Swiss 1.05
Canada 1.41
Sweden 3.45
Czech 20.00

Now, these wouldn’t guarantee a profit, because I would need to estimate the betting spread for each team and pass that over my profit margin, which is 8% customarily if I was a bookie.  What makes this fun is one can see how betting agencies set their odds differently from these “even odds” in order to make a profit.

I took a quick look at the lines over at bet365.com, where the internet says they have the lowest profit margins, meaning they should be the closest to my calculations.  It appears they take performance from past World Championships into play.  I’m not sure how much sense this makes when we see a Switzerland like this year  Maybe with professional club teams, but not here.  That is why a regression analysis would be important to see which things play the biggest role in winning or losing in the playoff round of a World Championship or other country-based format.

Nevertheless, the US is the biggest underdog (based on past matches against Russia).  Nevermind that they had the same record in the tournament and played a close match.  US is +300/4.00 and Russia is -400/1.25.  Seems a little ridiculous to me….but maybe this is where they clean up!

Switzerland is also an underdog against Czech Republic, when the Swiss have clearly been the better team.  They are currently listed at +180/2.80.  My -1900/+1900 clearly needed to be adjusted, but to make the Swiss the underdog seems a little crazy too.

I am dead on with my Canada and Finland odds, so it appears they have raised the probability of Sweden and Slovakia winning in order to meet their profit margin/lower potential payouts.  This was also likely adjusted because of what I believe is their faulty outlook on past games.

Ok–let’s see how this ends up!  Games start in nine hours!

#IIHFWorlds bracket and predictions – BRACKETOLOGY!

14 May

A little bracketology action for the IIHF World Championships.  Below is the quarterfinal round bracket with the teams and their 2012 IIHF seeding in parentheses.  The seeding for this tournament is to the left of the team in the bracket, with H or S indicating whether they were in the Helsinki or Stockholm Group for the preliminary rounds.

IIHF World Championship Bracket

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In my written summaries section for the quarterfinals, each team’s preliminary round record will be shown in the following format:  wins-overtime wins-overtime loss-losses and point differential.

Russia (5-0-0-2 +15) vs. USA (5-0-0-2 +8)

Previous match:  Russia 5 – USA 3

Russia got the best of the US team in the preliminary round.  The US kept it tied through two periods, but Russia scored two goals in two minutes in the third period to get the win – including one from the tournament’s leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk.  What seems like great news for the Russian side, and bad news for the Americans, was the announcement of Alex Ovechkin grabbing the last spot on the Russian roster.  With all of that firepower, how could the Russians lose in the rematch?

John Gibson in the net for the U.S. let in one goal in two games in net.  Will he get the start over Ben Bishop who let in four goals against the Slovak team today?  I would certainly hope so.

Moreover, while Kovalchuk and Ovechkin are prolific scorers, they have not won much in high pressure situations.  Why else is Ovechkin here (hint: the Capitals got stomped again in Game 7)?  Bryzgalov also looks susceptible to be scored on with a 93.4% save percentage.  The 1.33 goals against average points to good defense, which will go away the more Ovechkin is on the ice.

I will take the USA side on the rematch, especially if Gibson gets the nod.  If not, I give the edge to Russia.  For the bracket…I’ll commit to the good ol’ US of A.

Switzerland (6-1-0-0 +19) vs. Czech Republic (3-1-0-3 +7)

Previous match:  Switzerland 5 – Czech Republic 2

Two sides of the coin for these teams: the upstart Swiss side goes undefeated in the tournament and the Czech side wins only four games to steal the final playoff spot.  A loss against Norway and the Czech side is watching from the sidelines instead of playing the Swiss team.

While I hesitate to pick Switzerland as they are a bit of a Cinderella (ranked #9 by IIHF in 2012 – lowest ranked team in the playoffs), they have the momentum.  The four teams the Czech Republic beat in the preliminary round are the four teams not in the quarterfinals; their three losses came against the higher seeded teams.  The Czech’s should come in on a tear after a definitive 7 – 0 win over Norway, but Switzerland is playing confident.  Pick:  Swiss in a close one to continue the undefeated streak into the semis.

Finland (4-2-0-1 +9 ) vs. Slovakia (3-0-1-3 +1)

Previous match:  Finland 2 – Slovakia 0

Slovakia has been a bit of a mystery this tournament.  It appeared they would miss the playoff round, but upset the US team on the final day of play.  However, they also lost to France and the now-relegated-Austrian team.

The Finnish side got stronger during the tournament, with the exception of the overtime squeaker on the last day over Latvia, who had nothing left but pride to play for.  They sort of snuck into the top seed for the Helsinki group after the US fell flat against Slovakia on their last day.  Finland, for what it’s worth, will have home-ice advantage in the first round.  With more than just the home crowd on their side (this means you Kontiola, Aaltonen and Raanta) they clearly have the better team.  Slovakia will be riding high after sneaking into the playoffs, but adrenaline will not be enough.  Maybe not another shutout, but likely a clear victory for the Helsinki fans.

Canada (5-1-1-0 +15) vs. Sweden (5-0-0-2 +6)

Previous match:  Canada 3 – Sweden 0

Canada can score in bunches, and when the win, they win big.  They also have the tournament’s best goalkeeper in Mike Smith, though Dubnyk is getting most of the minutes.  Sweden likes to keep things close, which led to five wins for them with Enroth leading the way.  Sweden will need at least three goals, probably four to have a chance against Canada.  They were only able to get to four twice: a meaningless final matchup against Denmark and against fellow Scandinavian side Norway.  Along with Stamkos and Giroux, the Swedish team will have more they can handle.  If Sweden can score quick, they have a chance, but Canada is too strong.

Semifinal Round

Finland vs. Canada

This could be a great game between two evenly matched teams.  I am guessing it will be a low scoring, defensive affair.  For my entertainment, hopefully a shootout as well.  Finland is the better team and will move on to the goal medal round.

Switzerland vs. USA

The Swiss have played exceptional, but even Cinderella’s carriage turns back into a pumpkin.  The USA has a strong side and the clock will strike midnight on this fairy tale.  It has been a great tourney for the Swiss, but the best they will do is bringing home a bronze.  A huge step this year for Switzerland and well-deserved.

TIM’S PICKSImage

Gold Medal Match

Finland vs. USA

In a quarterfinal rematch from 2012, these two teams make big steps toward the gold medal.  Last year, Finland wins this in Helsinki.  This year, they will have to celebrate in Stockholm.  The Finnish team ends a consistent run by the US who receives a well-deserved silver medal.

Bronze Medal Match

Switzerland vs. Canada

Switzerland goes from sixth in their group in 2012 to the top seed and into the bronze medal round.  Canada goes from a quarterfinal defeat against last year’s silver medalist to play the previously undefeated Swiss.  This could be a fun game to watch with lots of open play and scoring.  Give the Swiss credit for their run this year, but they will finish fourth.  Canada takes the bronze, again not making the gold medal around after losing to a gold medal team.  Again, big steps for both teams from last year and good steps for 2014 Sochi.

Final picks:

Finland:  Gold

USA*:  Silver

Canada:  Bronze

*If Russia wins the quarterfinal match against the USA, put them in the silver medal slot.

All quarterfinal matches begin on 16 May.  Next post will look at the odds of each of the teams winning the tourney.

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