As we come down the final stretch of the NHL season, both the Eastern and Western Conferences feature playoff races that will come down to the final games. For most teams that are either set or virtually locked into postseason position, the remaining handful of games will determine their first-round opponents.
Aside from rooting for their hometown teams, most hockey fans are simply looking for series to go the full seven games in the first round. So which matchups should we be rooting for over the last few weeks of the schedule? Well, we can figure this out by the numbers.
Three statistical areas tell us a great deal about the overall strength of a team: Corsi for percentage, goals and scoring chances. If we look at the differentials of possible opponents, we can find the closest matchups by adding up the percentage difference between each team's even-strength Corsi for percentage, goals for percentage and scoring chance percentage (all stats as of March 20, and via Natural Stat Trick).
For example, if Team A has a 52.03 Corsi for percentage and Team B has 51.00, the differential would be 1.03, advantage Team A. The lower the overall number, the closer the matchup.
Let's have a look at our results for the three best possible matchups in each conference.