Comparing the stats behind the East and West Conference Finals

Two different series, two different stories. Both the East and West Conference Finals are now four games deep, and both have one team on the brink of the Stanley Cup Final and the other team on the brink of elimination heading into their respective Game Fives.

Of the four teams still in it, only the Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to face real adversity*. In the round robin, they won two games and lost one. In the first round, they went 4-1. In the second round they again went 4-1. Right now, they’re up 3-1 over the New York Islanders. To be just one win shy of the Final with just two in-round losses (discounting the round robin) is an incredible feat in itself.

*As pointed out by a Reddit comment from /u/DukesDuke, the Lightning have faced adversity in many different forms this postseason, including playing without Steven Stamkos, other roster injuries and suspensions, and their path to the Conference Final hasn’t been easy either. The initial phrasing and use of the word adversity was to highlight that the Lightning have not yet played a game where they faced eliminated compared to the other three remaining teams.

The other three teams have had much different paths to the Conference Finals. While none of them were in danger of going home in the first round, all three of the Islanders, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars were a part of winner-moves-on-loser-goes-home Game Sevens in the second round.

Now, with both series sitting at 3-1 scores, let’s take a look at why these two series have turned out to be polar opposites. All stats are courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.


Playoff totals

5v5 Score-and-Venue Adjusted




Both the Lightning and Islanders have been very good so far in the 2020 NHL Playoffs. They generally outscore their opponents and deservedly so. Both have been shooting well and have gotten good goaltending. In a series where both teams have largely controlled their expected goal share throughout the playoffs, one team is bound to succumb to the other.

series totals

5v5 Score-and-Venue Adjusted




As it turned out, the Lightning have kept up their expected goals while the Islanders seemed to have lost a couple steps. So far, it seems like a case of everything going right for the Lightning and everything going wrong for the Islanders.

The Lightning have scored more freely in the Conference Finals than they have overall in the playoffs, while their goaltending has remained right where it’s been all postseason long. On the other hand, the Islanders have seen a drop in both their shooting and save percentages.

The Lightning have earned their wins and have not made it easy for the Islanders at all. For the Islanders to have a chance at a comeback, they’d have to entirely change the fundamental on-ice results between the two teams. Right now they’re playing on tilted ice and it’s not in their favour.


Stars and Golden Knights

5v5 Score-and-Venue Adjusted

Golden Knights1959.656.961.


Golden Knights1959.057.360.

In contrast to the East, the Stars and Golden Knights compare quite differently with their on-ice product in the playoffs. While Vegas has been a force to reckon with when it comes to expect goals, Dallas instead finds themselves underwater.

Stars versus Golden Knights

5v5 Score-and-Venue Adjusted

Golden Knights53.637.952.33.393.60.97


Golden Knights58.65058.34.693.50.98

In the Western Conference Final, we’ve seen a total flip of results compared to the East. While Vegas has had more dominant offence, Dallas has completely dominated the goaltending battle. That in itself is a tough task as the Golden Knights have actually had excellent goaltending too.

All three of Dallas’ wins have been by one goal. They haven’t blown the Golden Knights out of the water yet, but they haven’t had to. The Stars’ goaltending has been largely unsolvable for the Golden Knights.

Much like the Islanders, the Golden Knights have a steep uphill battle to overcome, but they don’t have many areas to improve on other than actual scoring. When the only thing they can change is largely dependent on the Stars’ goaltending, that’s a big sign of trouble for Vegas.

A tale of two series

As evidenced by the stats, the two Conference Finals have very little in common. The only parallel is the series scores. It remains to be known what might happen as the series continue (or don’t continue), but no matter what happens the two teams that advance are poised for an all-time clash.

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