Do teams need to finish on a winning streak to have a chance to win the Cup?
With the season coming to an end my helpful assistant Aaron Brinklow and I were calculating just how important it is to finish the season on a winning streak. Is it a new season or do teams carry the momentum (or lack of it) into the post season?
We looked at the last 10 regular season games for those teams that won the Cup last 5 years. Their winning percentage was .600. However, the previous 5 years of hockey from 1999-2004 it was only .440! So, the trend doesn't hold up over the past decade, but recently Stanley Cup Champions finished the regular season playing well.
The worst record of a Cup champion the last decade? The Detroit Red Wings in 02-03. They finished 1-3-4-2.
Winning the Cup has a lot to do with health, some good luck, and hot goaltending and special teams. So, to look further in to the question of do you need to finish on a winning streak let's look at the Conference Finalists - the final 4 teams.
Over the past 5 years the conference finalists have been winning in the last 10 games of the regular season at a clip of .575 (which turns in to about 11-12 points out of the last 20 available). So, they have been on the winning side but not red hot.
Checking the previous 5 years of hockey the results were consistent. Conference finalists had a winning percentage of .550. Again, winning but not untouchable.
For the teams entering the 2011 NHL Playoffs the best advice is to start over in the mind. If last year's first round is any evidence being a higher seed, having home ice, or winning more games in the last 10 games of the regular season does not predict winning in the playoffs. Wings and Flyers relax, now. It is a new season. Recent struggles can be overcome. Well, relax until the drama begins Wednesday night.