Who’s the best #8 seed for the Caps?


I posted on Twitter (in haste) that I would like to see the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs as the 8th seed, but upon further review, I’m not so sure.

I took a look at the Goals Finished/Goals Allowed for WSH, BOS, NYR and PHI, both on the road and at home, and came up with expected winning percentages for each team. I then used Log5 to predict the Caps chances of winning each game whether it is played at home or on the road.

The expected Win % for the Caps and their possible first round opponents:

  • WSH, .670 Home, .613 Away
  • BOS, .490 Home, .521 Away
  • PHI, .579 Home, .458 Away
  • NYR, .533 Home, .475 Away

For example, if the Caps meet Boston in the first round, Washington has an expected winning percentage at home of .670 while Boston is expected to have a win % of .521 on the road. Using Log5, we can determine that the Caps have a 65% chance of winning a game against Boston at the Verizon Center.

I then figure out the Caps’ win % based on every possible outcome of a 7 game series – and yes, that includes ALL possible combinations for a 7 game series (WWWW, WWLWW, WWWLLW, etc.).

Intuitively I wanted the Caps to face the Marc Savard-less Bruins in the first round, but based on the chances of the Caps winning against Boston in a 7 game series, I have changed my mind. Here’s why:

The Caps have a 78.1% chance of beating Boston in a 7 game series. Not bad, considering that they have a 77.44% chance of beating Philadelphia. But the best case scenario for the Caps, based on probability of winning, is meeting the New York Rangers in the first round – where the probability of winning a 7 game series is 79.25%.

(ed note: Excel gave me wonky %, which have been updated, however NYR remains the best possible opponent)

  • Josh

    Seeing as how we play Boston two times in the last week of regular season, I’m not sure if it would be good to immediately meet them again to start the playoffs. Then again, it may provide an advantage. All I know is that whoever it is, should be a hell of a series.

  • Good work on digging up all of the numbers.

    However, the Rangers aren’t the team we want to play. They are basically the same team as last year that pushed our series to 7 games, except for the fact that they have Marion Gaborik this year, a perennial 40-50 goal scorer. If they had him last year, they probably would have beaten us. Varly held us in that series, and I think if they had Gaborik last year it would’ve pushed the NYR over the top and past us into the second round.

    I still feel that the Bruins are the best team for us to play. A perfect match for us. Without Savard they can barely score. I know defense wins championships, but this Bruins team doesn’t nearly have enough offense to contend with the Caps.

    2nd to the Bruins, I’d pick the Flyers just based on the fact of how weak their goaltending is. For a high-flying offensive team such as the Caps, it would be another perfect match.

  • DKelly

    I would still take the Bruins. There is less than 1% difference in the odds between BOS and NYR, and Lundqvist is more that capable of stealing a game or two and make the statistical difference irrelevant. Neither team scores much but BOS is much more likely to spring a leak in goal.

  • Thanks for the feedback.

    NYR being the “better bet” is driven by:

    1. The playoff structure of 2-2-1-1-1.
    2. BOS having a better win expectation on the road than they do at home.

    Someone posted on FB last night:

    “The Caps can’t afford to play a seven game series in the first round. Their best bet is to face a team without a lights out goaltender and roll them in 4 or 5.”

    Statistically BOS has the best chance at being swept (16.4%) which is only slightly more than NYR (16.2%) but way more than PHI (14.27%). In a 5 game series, best chance at winning is against NYR (26%) making the NYR the best bet for a short (4- or 5-game) series.


  • Chris

    You use season-long numbers for each team, but Boston is significantly weaker now than they were before Savard went down.

  • @Chris: BOS is 7 for 14 (.500) since Savard went down and .461 win % for the season. They also scored 2.5 GF with 2.6 GA before he went down and 2.6 GF and 1.9 GA since. Don’t see the numbers confirming your thoughts.

    I agree intuitively BOS seems like the team we want, but the reality still points to NYR.


  • jimmy

    FYI — GF is “Goals For” not “Goals Finished”. Entertaining site, keep it up