With the Bruins winning game 7 tonight, both the NHL and NBA Finals are set. Here are my picks:
Heat over Mavs, 4-1. The Heat have home court advantage and a much better regular season differential. The Mavs have obviously been very impressive in the postseason, but that doesn’t go into the simple model. An excellent counterpoint would be that the simple model has sucked this year, but historically it’s done very well. It’s essentially a toss-up as to whether this series goes to 5 or 6, but the slightest edge goes to 5.
In terms of that recent performance, we need to keep something in perspective. Namely, the playoffs are very short. Dallas has only played 15 games, compared to the 82 that happened during the regular season. Now you might argue that the playoffs are different; it’s certainly true that the Mavs are playing different people for different minutes than they did during the regular season, and that makes them a better team. But the same is true of the Heat (and those numbers were generated before they beat the Bulls and Miller and Haslem reappeared). So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take the Heat.
Canucks over Bruins, 4-2. I haven’t picked a length of the series before for the NHL because it’s basically a crapshoot, but this is the Stanley Cup, so why not? Besides, just like the NBA, the most likely number of wins for the loser in a series is 2, at least in my data set. That being said, the playoffs themselves are a crapshoot; the Bruins only have about a 64% chance of winning.
The Canucks were the best team in the regular season, and have taken out the Blackhawks (a very tough team for the 8 seed), the Predators (the 4th seed by goal differential), and the Sharks (a legit 2 seed). The Bruins have beaten the Canadiens (tied for the worst team in the Eastern playoffs), the Flyers (a decent team), and now the Lightning (the other worst team in the Eastern playoffs). The Bruins’ opponents had a total regular season goal differential of 50 while the Canucks’ opponents had a total of 93. You might note that the Bruins’ opponents actually earned more points than the Canucks’ (305 to 301), which is just another indication of why the seed/point system is not a great sign of team quality in the NHL. Goal differential is where it’s at.