Embracing the No. 1
One is not the loneliest number. One has plenty of friends and here's why.
One does quite well in the Stanley Cup playoffs and everybody loves a winner. One just needs a better PR agent and that darned Three Dog Night song to fade from classic rock stations forever.
It's true that being a No. 1 seed in the NHL isn't the fat prize that it is in the NBA. There is a better chance of having a sterling regular season in the NHL, sitting atop the conference rankings only to be gone within two weeks at the hands of an eighth seed than there is in the NBA.
And that thought leads to panic in Detroit this time of year … but that's another song altogether.
The trick of a bottom seed eliminating a top seed in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs doesn't happen as often as you'd think.
In the past four playoffs, No. 1 seeds are 7-1 against No. 8 seeds. The problem in these parts is that the Red Wings were the lone upset victim, falling to Edmonton in 2006.
In the past six playoffs, No. 1 seeds are 10-2 against No. 8s. Since the intra-division format was dropped in 1994 in favor of a conference format of eight seeds back in 1994, No. 1 seeds have gone 19-7 in the first round.
And while 19-7 isn't a fantastic winning percentage for a top seed, many people in Hockeytown would be surprised at the loftiness of that .731 winning percentage.
Here in Detroit, the Red Wings being a top seed is often talked about as though the team is starting the playoffs from scratch. The Red Wing players certainly are talking that way this week leading into tonight's playoff opener against the dreaded eighth-seed, Nashville.
But they're players. We're fans. They have to be publicly cautious or risk being labeled overconfident. We should be the opposite.
So let's try to solve this misconception about top seeds. After months of research and dozens of computers working hours on this problem … ok, the thought just struck me, but what the heck … here's why first-round visions are skewed in Detroit.
The Red Wings are frequently the No. 1 seed.
I know this isn't popular in Detroit, but that's a good thing.
In the 14 years of the current eight-seed playoff format, the Red Wings have been the top seed eight times, including the past four. In the other six playoffs, Detroit has been either a second, third or fourth seed. The Red Wings are on a 15-year streak of having first-round home-ice advantage.
Quick note to self: This is a magnificent franchise we're following in these parts.
Most franchises would be thrilled, bursting at their collective seams, to be a No. 1 seed because it would likely be the first time that's ever happened in the eight-seed format.
But here in Detroit, we've got a track record of seven playoffs that the Red Wings have been a No. 1 seed.
Remember that time that the San Jose Sharks stopped us in the first round? Dark days. Remember when the Edmonton Oilers bounced us in the first round and went all the way to the Stanley Cup final? Horrible images.
But those were the only two times in the past 13 playoffs that the Red Wings have been eliminated in the first round by an eighth seed.
In these parts, we tend not to bring up the five playoffs in which the Red Wings were a No. 1 seed and beat the No. 8.
A 5-2 track record as the No. 1 seed isn't the underachieving record that most local fans think of. In fact, the Red Wings have a .714 winning percentage as the No. 1 seed since 1994. The rest of the league has a .737 winning percentage (14-5).
Of course, those are numbers. And numbers don't sing dirges or play Sousaphones in victory parades.
Perhaps the Red Wings will lose to Nashville this round and the number will look like liars. Or perhaps the Red Wings will advance to the second round as they usually do and we'll all be singing a different song about being No. 1.