Minnesota Wild Playoff Preview: What Do The Analytics Say?
The Minnesota Wild have made the playoffs nine times in their last ten seasons but have only made it out of the first round twice in that span. In the last ten years, only the Pittsburgh Penguins have made it to the playoffs more.
Before the season started I created a model that would predict player success for the 2021-2022 season. In the model, I predicted Kirill Kaprizov to score 40 or more goals and have 80 or more points. I also predicted Kevin Fiala to score over 30 goals and have over 65 points. I predicted Mats Zuccarello to complete a career year, and lastly, I predicted Joel Eriksson Ek to record 23 goals and 27 assists for a 50-point season.
Kaprizov finished the year with 47 goals and 61 assists for 108 points which shattered multiple Minnesota Wild franchise records. Fiala finished with 33 goals and 52 assists for 85 points which also broke Wild franchise records. Zuccarello put up career highs in assists, points, plus-minus, and power-play points. Notching 24 goals and 55 assists for 79 points in 70 games. Eriksson Ek notched career highs in goals (26), assists (23), points (49), power-play goals (12), power-play points (17), shots (223), and faceoff percentage (47.58).
Kaprizov, Zuccarello, and Fiala all passed Pierre-Marc Bouchard for most assists in a season. Kaprizov and Fiala both passed Marian Gaborik for the Wild franchise record of the most points in a regular season. Kaprizov also broke the Wild’s single-season goal record, originally held by Gaborik and Eric Staal with 42.
Not only did I want to predict individual success but I also wanted to predict team success. Before the year I predicted 266 GF (6th-8th in the NHL), 210 GA (8th-10th in the NHL), .636 Win% (7th-9th in the NHL), and 99-105 Points (5th-8th in the NHL) for the Wild.
They finished with 305 GF (5th in the NHL), 249 GA (16th in the NHL), .689 win%(5th in NHL), and 113 points (5th in the NHL).
Today we will use analytics to construct a model that will predict how the NHL 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs will play out for the Minnesota Wild.
What is the model exactly?
The model takes into account a teams’ regular season and numbers from last month. CORSI differential and xG differential are the most used stats. I’ve also used Fenwick in separate equations. Not giving away the model for obvious reasons but those three metrics are used.
The results are surprising. In the last five years, the model has predicted the winner of 33 out of the 40 first-round matchups (82%), the winner of 16 out of 20 second-round matchups, (80%), the winner of nine out of ten conference finals (90%), and has predicted the winner of the Stanley Cup Final the last five years based off the matchup.
Surprisingly the model has predicted some of the biggest upsets in playoff history as well. Starting with the Nashville Predators’ series win over the central division champs the Chicago Blackhawks, who finished with a record of 50-23-9 for 109 points in 2016-2017.
It also predicted the Vegas Golden Knights’ miraculous cup run in 2017-2018 and the Montreal Canadians cup run last year. Lastly, it suggested the 2019 series between the 62-16-4 and 128 point presidents trophy winner, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the 98 point Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be closer than you’d think. Despite having 30 more points than the Blue Jackets the Lightning were only favored by a slight edge.
So what does it say about this year?
Is This The Year For The Minnesota Wild?
It’s no joke this Minnesota Wild team is built differently than previous Wild teams. Not only is that true but this Wild team is also built differently than many other teams who are fighting for the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
Since the NHL trade deadline, the Minnesota Wild have been the best team in the league. Going 17-2-3 since adding players like Jacob Middleton, Marc-Andre Fleury, Nicolas Deslauriers, and a little before the deadline the Wild added Tyson Jost.
Since March 21st the Wild have scored 85 goals which is tied for second in the NHL, have allowed 59 which is seventh in the NHL, and carry 37 points and a .841 points percentage which ranks First. Before the deadline, the Wild were averaging 32.3 shots against and 32.1 shots for. Since the deadline, the Wild have only allowed an average of 30.4 shots against.
The Wild’s power play is also running at an acceptable 22.4 percent since the deadline. In the last three games, the Wild’s penalty kill has been 91.7 percent effective which needs to stay around there to stop the Blues’ power play, which has been running at a 28.8 percent clip since March 21st.
The Wild currently have an edge over the Blues in GF, GF/60, xGF, xGF/60, GA, GA/60, xGA/60, and CORSI for. The Wild rank third in the NHL in EVO GAR and second in EVD GAR. The stat GAR stands for Goals Above Replacement. EVO stands for evolving offense and EVD stands for evolving defense. The Blue rank sixth in the NHL in EVO GAR and 26th in EVD GAR.
The base stats and analytics have the Wild favored over the Blues. In terms of my model, I have the Wild winning in six games over the Blues, advancing to the second-round for the third time in the last ten years.
All stats courtesy of NHL.com and evolvinghockey.com