This year's playoff hunt has now hit boiling point. In both conferences, x teams are vying for x - 1 spots, so two teams are going to lose their respective games of musical chairs.
I think what irritates me about this scenario is that both of these teams that fail to make the playoffs will quite likely end up with a higher than true 500 stat (that is 41+ wins) and especially in the west, one of those teams will end up with 95-97 points and fail to make the playoffs.
Something is wrong with that. I mean, when I watched hockey as a kid, teams with 54 points were making the playoffs, and though they were first round fodder, they still made it. There were, at times, teams playing against each other with a 30-40 point discrepancy in the standings. Some of them Norris Division years were awful and funny at the same time, especially when every team in the division failed to get at least 82 points. (Meanwhile, sometimes 82 wouldn't be enough in the Patrick Division).
In the east, the cut off is projected to be around 94 points, so 94 or 95 will clinch. In the west, the cut off is projected to be around 97 points, so a team with 97 might theoretically miss the playoffs. This also almost happened a couple of years ago.
And it would be a crime if that happened, because 97 points tells me that this team is able to viably compete for the Cup. LA won the Cup after a 95 point season in 2012. This year, they could get 95 points again and not even make the playoffs.
Another thing that irritates me is that some teams limp into the playoffs after a great start to the season, but have a mediocre record past the turn of the calendar year. When I do playoff predictions, I only take the calendar year stats because they're the most relevant. Points in March mean more than points in Februrary, etc, yet they're the same ones. A bad streak in October, and you might miss the playoffs after a spectacular turn of the calendar. Recency performance doesn't ALWAYS mean a team is better, but it's a pretty good indicator.
(Playoffs are, after all, head to heads; you don't have to outperform 15 teams, you only have to outperform your foe).
Sometimes I wonder if the NHL should just declare that 42 wins ensures a spot in the playoffs, and if you have more than 16 teams, then the lowest teams should battle it out in a knock-out format while the playoffs are delayed a few days. Then if you have fewer than 16 teams, you give your best teams a bye so that they don't have to play a team that's outskilled that decides to try to win by injuring the top players or through a heavy checking game that'll make them lose no matter if they win or not (ie, banged up for round 2 while a rested team "finishes them off" ).
If you're over 500, you should be in the playoffs; if you're not, you shouldn't be. This is where three point games don't serve their purpose. Teams that have a messy record like 38-29-17 will end up knocking out a team that's like 43-35-6 out simply because they'd slug for the final buzzer to get the free point every third period. If you lose 17 times after the final horn, that begs the question "is this team clutch? Doesn't look like it".
Of course, the NHL has a testosterone competition with the IIHF, so anything instituted by the IIHF first will never be instituted in the NHL, so don't expect all games to be worth three points any time soon. But the NHL seems to have to wait until an unfair scenario hits the extreme to make changes.
But you know, I will still feel sorry for whoever ends up with 96 points in the west and fails to make the playoffs when, in 2012, a team proved that you can win it all with 95... LA and Boston have already failed to make the playoffs since with 95+ points since 2012.