As we enter the final stretch of games before the Winter Olympics, teams around the NHL are trying to pick up as many points as possible to position themselves for a run at the Stanley Cup.
For 28 of those teams, it will all be for nothing, as only two can play for the most prestigious trophy in all of sports, and if recent history has a say, we already know who those teams will be.
Using statistics from the last eight conference champions, I figured out what they averaged statistically in certain categories that are important for hockey teams to do well in. From there, I compared the results to what teams this season have accomplished, eliminating 28 clubs until there were only two left.
The statistics that were used were the average points per game at the halfway point of the season, average power play and penalty kill percentage, and finally, average goals scored and goals allowed per game.
Over the last eight seasons, at the halfway point the Eastern Conference, champions had a total of 371 points in 311 games (1.193 ppg), while the Western Conference champions had 449 points in 311 games (1.444 ppg). After retroactively finding each team’s point total at their respective halfway point from this season, only seven teams were still eligible to be better than historical stats.
The four from the East are the Pittsburgh Penguins (1.439 ppg), Boston Bruins (1.366 ppg), Tampa Bay Lightning (1.317 ppg) and Montreal Canadiens (1.220 ppg). The three from the West are the St. Louis Blues (1.537 ppg), Anaheim Ducks (1.488 ppg) and Chicago Blackhawks (1.488 ppg).
The next statistic was power play percentage, which was 18.19 percent (481 of 2,644) in the East and 20.54 percent (546 of 2,658) in the West. This brought with it two eliminations, as Tampa Bay (16.2 percent) and Anaheim (16.4 percent) were below their respective conference totals, leaving just five clubs remaining.
Next came the penalty kill percentage, where the last eight conference champions combined for an 83.59 percent (2,144 for 2,565) penalty kill rate in the East, while the West came in with an 84.28 percent (2,176 for 2,582) penalty kill rate. There were two eliminations after this category as well, with Boston at 83.56 percent (122 for 146) and Chicago at only 77.1 percent (108 for 140) being eliminated, leaving St. Louis as the lone Western Conference team still eligible, while Pittsburgh and Montreal were still alive out of the East.
The goals per game category would end it for Montreal, as they have a mark of 2.543 goals per game (117 in 46) well below the Eastern Conference mark of 3.109 (1,934 in 622). Pittsburgh had some breathing room with their mark of 3.234 (152 in 47). In the Western Conference, St. Louis would beat their conference average goal mark of 3.132 (1,948 in 622) with a mark of 3.659 (161 in 44).
Both teams would also beat the average goals against of the eight previous conference champions. Pittsburgh with a mark of 2.383 (112 in 47) in comparison to 2.691 (1,674 in 622) put up by the others; St. Louis with a mark of 2.250 (99 in 44) while the West put up a 2.511 (1,562 in 622).
I can honestly say that I did not expect to have anybody beat every category put forth, let alone have one club from each conference do it. Barring any injuries or massive losing streaks, the 2014 Stanley Cup Final will be played between the Penguins and the Blues, according to recent history.