Living in the Right Neighborhood
For the fifth time in 11 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings will finish first overall in the NHL and capture the Presidents' Trophy.
That's as opposed to the President's Trophy. Given that the league doesn't have a president, let alone more than one, it might be time to have a look at renaming that particular award, wouldn't you say?
But we digress.
The Wings have indeed been terrific this season, piling up 122 points in 80 games going into their final two matches before the playoffs.
But are they as good as their record suggests?
More than a few hockey people these days are pointing to the Red Wings' home in the very weak Central Division as the primary reason they've been able to pile up so many points in the standings this season and assure themselves of home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup final, should they get that far.
To these onlookers, this is one of the problems with the NHL's unbalanced schedule. A team, like Detroit, playing in a division with Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago, has an unequal access to easy points.
And what do the numbers say?
Well, against the Jackets, Blues and Blackhawks, the Wings compiled a record of 21 wins, one regulation loss, one overtime loss and one shootout defeat.
So in 24 games against these three Central powderpuffs, the Wings didn't pick up at least a point in only one contest.
Overall, of a possible 48 points available, the Wings acquired 44.
Against the other member of that division, Nashville, the Wings were also successful, winning four, losing one in regulation, one in overtime and two in shootouts.
In sum, of a possible 64 points in Central Division play, the Wings picked up 55 points.
No wonder as of yesterday they had an 11 point lead atop the Western Conference over Dallas while Carolina and Ottawa were locked in a death grip for the Eastern Conference championship.
By way of comparison, the Stars had to play Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix and Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes were the the worst team, finishing with 38 wins, more than Columbus, St. Louis or Chicago.
Against its own division, Dallas compiled a record of 17 wins, 11 regulation defeats, three OT losses and a shootout loss. They actually had a losing record against L.A., winning only twice.
So of a possible 64 points against divisional opponents, the Stars registered 38.
Which is 17 fewer points than Detroit picked up against its division.
This doesn't make the Wings a bad team, but perhaps an opportunistic one.
In the playoffs, of course, nobody can hide inside their own division as once was the case. Detroit gets Edmonton in the first round, while Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago are all going home with participating in the Stanley Cup tourney.
So how good are the Wings? If their record is a mirage, we'll start to find out later this week.