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Who Will Win The Stanley Cup And Why? Psychology And Math Hold The Key To Buildling Winning Teams

Posted by: Dr. Granat on May 28, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals and Leadership Characteristics


By Carlton J. Chin and Jay P. Granat


Jay Granat, psychotherapist, and Carlton Chin, a fund manager and MIT graduate, are authors of “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method.”



After analyzing the championship games or series of the N.F.L., N.B.A., Major League Baseball and N.H.L., and the major finals in golf and tennis, we identified 50 championships characteristics in our book, “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological and Mathematical Method.”  Based on similar research, we focused on several championship characteristics that might help predict the winner of the Stanley Cup Finals.


With an eye towards key concepts of sport psychology, we looked at factors such as big game experience, leadership on the ice, and consistency.  So important are these concepts to winning championships that they have proven to be common themes across all sports we have studied.


This year’s Stanley Cup Finalists, the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Black Hawks have not appeared in the finals over the past several years, so we focused on other championship characteristics, specifically leadership on the ice. 


Over the past 30 years, the team with the better offensive star, measured by points scored, has gone 19-11 (63.3%) in Stanley Cup Finals.  This factor favors the Black Hawks, and Patrick Kane (88 points) over the Flyers and Mike Richards (62 points). 


We note, however, that generally, during hard-checking and physical playoff hockey, defense and goalies who are “in the zone” are major determinants of the eventual champions.


The exception to the rule is when you have a standout offensive leader like Wayne Gretzky.  “The Great One” ushered in a period of high-powered NHL scoring from the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s.  During this time, offensive leaders were more easily able to “lead’ and “will” their way to championships. Gretzky led his Edmonton Oilers to several Stanley Cups, and then Mario Lemieux did the same for his Pittsburgh Penguins.


In less “high-powered” offensive times, defense and a good goalie have been key to winning the Stanley Cup.  Over the past 30 years, teams with the better goalie save percentage have gone 18-11 (62.2%).  Over recent years, since the high-scoring period of the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s, teams with the better save percentage have gone:


  • 3-0 over the last 4 years (teams had the same save percentage one year),
  • 6-1 over the last 8 years,
  • and 13-4 over the last 18 years.

This factor favors the Philadelphia Flyers with their .907 save percentage versus the Chicago Black Hawks and their .903 save percentage.  Another factor in the Flyers’ favor is coach Peter Laviolette’s Stanley Cup Championship as coach of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes.  This is Black Hawk coach Joel Quenneville’s first appearance as coach in the Stanley Cup Finals.

So who will win the Stanley Cup Finals?  The #2 seed Black Hawks are heavy favorites over the #7 seeded Flyers (about 2.5-1 favorites), but the Flyers certainly have the leadership on the bench and between the goalposts to make a series of it. 


Jay Granat, Ph.D., Psychotherapist and Founder of and Carlton Chin study and quantify championship characteristics related to sport psychology.  They are particularly interested in qualities that are more readily coached, taught, and practiced. They are currently helping players, teams and coaches to develop the kind of squads that can win big games.    

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