I am once again on the road, so I have to pump some predictions out quickly. I’ve already missed the beginning of the Predators-Coyotes series, so let’s get right to it. As always, predictions are made with the model described in the NBA link in the header.
We’ll start with the NHL. Since they’re already into it, I’ll begin with
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators: Both teams beat traditional powerhouses to move on in the playoffs, and both were technically favorites as the higher seeds. The Predators probably had the better season though, and had the better differential in the regular season. I give Nashville a 57% chance of winning the series with the Coyotes probably sending it to 7 games.
St. Louis Blues vs. L.A. Kings: The Kings were the rarity that happens all too often in the NHL, providing a big 8 seed upset in the first round. I will of course pick against them again since the Blues were a pretty good team this year. The Blues win 64% of the time, and the Kings win two.
Washington Capitals vs. N.Y. Rangers: Despite being outscored over the course of the season, the Capitals managed to beat the team with the best goal differential in the NHL this year. The Rangers are the number 1 seed, so presumably they’re just happy to still be playing. I give the Rangers a 71% chance of winning with the Caps taking two games.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. N.J. Devils: The Flyers were the 5 seed, but they get to host since the Devils were the 6 seed. This should be a close series; I give the nod to the Flyers 56% of the time with the Devils taking two.
If you remember my predictions, the only upsets I had by seed were the Devils (playing a weak division winner) and the Red Wings (who slipped at the end of the season). The Devils came through while the Wings didn’t, but there were also three other upsets. In other words, half of the ‘weaker’ teams moved on. The NHL is a crazy place in the playoffs. The NBA is a little more straightforward. That being said, I’ll probably end up at the bottom of the Stat Geek Smackdown again this year after my solid runs in previous years. But here are the first round picks. If you’d like some comparisons, you can look (soon) to the Smackdown or you can flip over to Arturo’s picks at Wages of Wins.
Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers: The Bulls hummed along to the best record in the East and best point differential in the league even with Derrick Rose missing nearly half the season. I guess they really need him to make the team go, huh? The 76ers, on the other hand, started strong and then really seemed to fall apart. Their point differential is still buoyed somewhat by the beginning of the season, so the Bulls only have a 84% chance of winning the series (yes, ‘only’ 84%). Philly should win a game or two though (one is slightly preferred to two).
Miami Heat vs. N.Y. Knicks: Everyone will continue to wait for LeBron to choke, but it won’t happen here. The Heat win 78% of the time, and the Knicks win two (slightly preferred to one).
Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic: Analogy time! The Pacers are to the Magic as the Heat are to the Knicks. By point differential, that’s pretty much true. If Dwight Howard is out though, the Magic take a big hit. The model doesn’t care though, so it says the Pacers win 77% of the time and the Magic win two (slightly preferred to one).
Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks: This provides our first interesting match-up, as the Celtics have changed their line-up over the course of the season and come in on a solid streak but with a worse point differential than the Hawks. The Hawks, on the other hand, have to play more games on the road and are the living embodiment of unfulfilled potential. Give Boston the edge at 52% and the Hawks win two games.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz: The Spurs are the Red Wings of the NBA: they just won’t stop being good. The Jazz, on the other hand, are pretty mediocre. Give the Spurs the series 93% of the time and let the Jazz win one (narrowly favored over getting swept).
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks: If James Harden can’t return from his concussion or has some ill effects from it, the Thunder are going to be disadvantaged. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s enough for the Mavericks to overcome. The Thunder win 88% of the time and the Mavericks win one.
L.A. Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets: We get another interesting match-up here with the Black Mamba-led Lakers against the upstart Nuggets. It’s mostly interesting because the Lakers won their division fair and square (i.e. it wasn’t a weak run; they would have been third or fourth by record if you ignore divisions) but the Nuggets had a better differential. So the model actually leans toward the Nuggets to win 53% of the time, and the Lakers win two.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. L.A. Clippers: Everyone is going to be all excited about Blake Griffin, and it’s certainly newsworthy that the Clippers are back in the playoffs. Perhaps more surprisingly, they have the better point differential of the two teams here. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies have home court. So Memphis gets the nod 54% of the time and the Clippers win two games.
That’s it folks! Enjoy the games. As I post this the Coyotes have a 3-2 lead with 5 minutes left, so we’ll see if the NHL has another curveball ready. I bet it does.