Strength Of Schedule

Warning: This is not comedy, or at least not intentionally. I'm going to take a look at the rest of the Regular Season and assess the potential bumps in the road. I may even throw in a tiny bit of statistical analysis just to give the people who actually know about these things something to laugh and point at.

The final 22 games of the regular season are upon us and (post skid) it's time to take a look at the road ahead for the Hawks and the two teams that we need to focus on beating out in order to get to that #4 seed for the Playoffs. Yes, I have given up on catching Detroit: failing a total collapse (like, well, the one we just had) they are disappearing over the horizon. Therefore, it looks like it's St Louis and Nashville that have to be in our sights.

First up, here's the West as it looks this morning

west 20

We see that, having played a game more, the Hawks are 3 points behind the Preds and 8 adrift of the Blues. Tall order to overcome that sort of lead but, looking at the schedule I can see plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

(Note: I was planning on inserting a "Strength Of Schedule" chart here but, over the course of a morning's wade through the web I've not found one that I'm really happy with: they all seem either designed to prove that the team who made the chart have the toughest schedule or use (IMO) dodgy criteria like "Miles Travelled" (without taking into account crossing timezones, East-West or West-East direction, frequency of trips etc, etc) If any of the Stats guys know of a good one or feel up to coming up with one feel free and I'll happily edit it in)

Let's look at Nashville first:

Of their 23 remaining games 12 are Home (18-7-4) and 11 are on the road (16-12-2). This even(ish) split works in their favour as they are the strongest team in the Division on their travels and formidable at home too (you know, they're kinda good at Hockey). However, go into a little more detail about their remaining fixtures and you can see some potential pitfalls.

For instance, their next 5 games will take place in 7 days, with a 4 game home stand followed by a trip to Carolina for the second night of a back-to-back. Their visitors are going to be VAN/StL/SJ and LAK which is quite a collection of heavyweights (even if StL suck on the road). They will also play Divisional rivals six times with 2 apiece against DET/CHI/StL.. no CBJ. However, to my eyes they probably have the gentlest schedule of the three teams (stats may not bear this out as I've seen them projected near the top of several tables in terms of Toughest Schedule) with no extended Road trips (four games in Arizona/California in March).

St. Louis:

The Blues have been monsters at home their (26-3-4) being good for #1 in the League. On the Road it's a different story, though with (10-13-3) #24. So it's a mite unfortunate that they are only going to be at the Scotttrade 8 more times this year with a whopping 15 on their travels. They host BOS next and then pack their bags for a 6 game road trip that will include NSH/VAN and SJ among its highlights (they also visit Alberta and I hope they get as warm a welcome as the Hawks received there this year). They return home to face the Hawks then six days later they're off on a 7 game trip (starting with a back to back against CBJ and featuring a return to the UC)

As far as inter-Divisional games go, they have 9, including the Hawks three more times. I think it's safe to say that the final months of this season are going to be the acid test for the apparent miracle that Jabba the Hitch has worked in Missouri.

And Finally, the Blackhawks...

We all fretted earlier in this season about how the Hawks had played so few road games and how that was skewing the standings. Then came the Ice-Capades Trip and it went just about as badly as it could. That leaves the Hawks (12-15-3) in the road, just a couple of places above StL and a far more palatable (20-6-4) at the UC, putting them just behind StL and DET in the League at #3. The remaining schedule is split evenly between Home and Away with the longest Road trip being 3 games in March (and we're only going to OTT/DET/StL)

9 Inter-Divisional games remain, 3 apiece vs. DET and StL, 2 vs NSH and one more visit to CBJ. I'm stating the bleeding obvious, but it's these "Four-Pointers" that are going to decide how this Division and Conference pans out in the end. According to some of the Charts I've seen anything above 6th in the West is out of the Hawks hands (ie relying on other's results) This is where the Hawks have to take control of their destiny (how dramatic!).

Anyway, that's my 2 Cents on a Hockey-Free day. Debate, debunk, demolish.

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