Blackhawks: Looking at Expert Predictions

By now you probably know that everyone and their brother is talking about how an 8 seed can very well beat a 1 seed in the NHL Playoffs. If you didn’t read what I had to say about it, you’ve likely read it somewhere. It happens semi-often in hockey, and a dangerous, defending championship team like the Blackhawks could become a trendy upset pick, given their playoff experience and recent domination of the Canucks.

But while a lot of people are talking the talk about the fact that the Blackhawks stand more than a chance, as I learned, very few are actually walking the walk. I searched around the internet a bit to look at how the many hockey experts around a variety of outlets are predictions the Vancouver-Chicago series to play out.

But first, a rant about my annoyance with the combination is sports, the internet and writing.

While doing research for this post, I did a simple Google search of “Stanley Cup playoff predictions.” Tons of articles came up and I scrolled through the first few pages, noticing a certain trend. At LEAST 75 percent of the articles that came up were written for the ever-popular sports writing fan outlet Bleacher Report.

You may or may not know this, but Bleacher Report is a site that allows anybody and their brother to sign up, write their sports writing “articles” and have them pimped out to the rest of the cyberverse. I had an account once upon a time, when I was in junior college looking to get my feet wet. But what bugs me about Bleacher Report is that it presents its articles like they are written by established professionals. You can achieve titles like “Featured Columnist” by getting so many article views, and somehow the numerous “articles” written by the random fans who sign up for the site show up at the forefront of Google searches. They even go so far as to post “job openings” on sites like JournalismJobs.com looking for “sports writing interns,” which basically just means they’re asking you to come to their site and sign up for an account.

My problems with Bleacher Report are well-documented on many levels, but what really bugs me is that, if I didn’t know what Bleacher Report was before my search, I very well could have clicked on any number of those links and taken what I read as being written by a real, established professional. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be able to use outlets such as Bleacher Report to express their opinions. That’s great, and it’s a nice way for young writers to get their feet wet and hone their writing skills. It’s the presentation of being professional that bugs me. That’s all I’m saying. And no, this rant had nothing to do with my predictions. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thank you.

Here’s a rundown of some of the predictions I found throughout my search. (Note: The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have not had its writers make predictions yet. As least not ones that I could find.

Over at the worldwide leader, I found three of its most-read pundits make predictions. Barry Melrose, who is their senior analyst and appears solely in front of the camera, picked the Canucks to win the series, stating: “I don’t think they have much of a chance” when asked about the Blackhawks. He did not say how many games he thought the series would go, but also predicted in the same segment that the Canucks would come out of the Western Conference. It should be noted that before last year’s playoffs began, Melrose predicted Chicago over Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Finals.

E.J. Hradek, ESPN.com’s hockey insider, also predicted Vancouver in 6, stating: “Right now, the Hawks seem like a tired, banged-up group. The Canucks, on the other hand, seem fresh and ready for the Cup challenge.”

John Buccigross, a Sportscenter anchor who writes about hockey for ESPN.com, made it a perfect 3-for-3 from the worldwide leader, picking the Canucks in 6, stating that the Blackhawks have been “the shopping cart with that one wobbly wheel all year long.”

One interesting take I read was over at Hockey Prospectus. They calculate odds “based on teams’ records and goal differential – excluding shootout results – factoring in the difficulty of opponents they faced over the regular season and giving an increased weight to more recent results, which better reflect a teams’ current strengths.”

The Prospectus didn’t make any specific predictions on the series, but gave percentage odds for each round. They gave the Blackhawks a 36 percent chance of winning their first round series. They went further, saying the Blackhawks had a 17.7 percent chance of winning in the second round, a 9.4 percent chance to reach the Stanley Cup Finals and a 4.9 percent chance to win the whole thing.

Surprisingly, out of the 16 playoff teams the Blackhawks had the eighth best chance of winning the Stanley Cup (Vancouver was No. 1), and they wrote that the winner of the Vancouver-Chicago series has a 37.6 percent chance to win the title.

I don’t know anything about those calculations other than that they probably use a crazy amount of math and I semi-trust them solely because I’ve read a lot of Baseball Prospectus’ stuff and it’s pretty good. It’s just an interesting way to look at things.

Some other random predictions I found:

Dan Di Sciullo, a hockey columnist for The Sports Network writing in the Toronto Sun, predicted Vancouver in 6. Mark Whicker, a hockey columnist for The Orange County Register, predicted Vancouver in 5, and Cam Cole, the Vancouver Sun’s hockey columnist, said Vancouver in 7.

Over at NHL.com a staff of 7 made their first round predictions. Of the 7, three of them (Mike G. Morreale, Corey Masisak and Shawn P. Roarke) picked the Blackhawks to upset the Canucks.

What does all of this mean? Why, nothing, of course. It’s just interesting to look at predictions from people who clearly work in and cover hockey for a living. It’s also interesting to see that, while many are saying they wouldn’t be surprised to see a Blackhawks upset, few are actually predicting it to happen.

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