Since the inception of the shootout after the lockout, the playoff races have never been more competitive and the parity in the league since the lockout has never been higher.
At this point in time in the season, with only about 15 games per team remaining, it's safe to say that there are 22 teams remaining with a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. And if the Edmonton Oilers of 2 seasons ago showed us anything, it's that all you have to do is get in... then anything can happen. Meaning, there are 22 freaking teams with a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Yes, I know the stat that no team outside the top 4 in either conference has won the cup in the last 20 years or so... I know that, but both Edmonton and Calgary were 1 goal losers in game 7, it's a new game now.
In both 05-06 and 06-07 it has taken 92 points to make the east, while 8th in the west took 95 and 96 respectively. Now we're going to get into the number and calculations so bear with me as these are number I got on my own with my trusty desktop calc. In 05-06 the West took 8 points off of the East in head-to-head matchups. In 06-07 the West upped that number a bit and took 15 points off of the East, which, in my opinion, is what made the number to make the playoffs climb slightly in the west as there were more points available... this could also have to do with more 3 point games, although the research I did there never supported that theory. So, I march on with this one.
In this season, at about 80% thru the year, the West has already taken 44 points from the East. Which, according to my numbers, would increase the points needed to make the West and decrease the points needed to make the East. **With several East/West games remaining the 44 point total will obviously fluctuate as these games are played**
So, with those numbers aside, I'll set the respective playoff bars at 91 points to make the Eastern Conference playoffs and 97 points to make the Western Conference playoffs.
Based on these numbers, here are what teams on the bubble will have to do in order to make the playoffs, starting in the East, then West. I will assign each team a 'magic number' as in how many games I think they need to win to get in, similar to baseball. ** I already excluded Toronto, Florida, Tampa and Atlanta **
Boston (16 GR, 77pts) Magic number 7.
NYR (15 GR, 77pts) Magic number 7.
Philly (15 GR, 74pts) Magic number 9.
Buffalo (15 GR, 73pts) Magic number 9.
NYI (14 GR, 71pts) Magic number 10.
I saved Carolina and Washington til last because I believe that is a 2 team battle for the SE crown and the 3rd slot. Here's how they stack up.
Carolina (14 GR, 73pts) play Caps twice, more preferred sched than wash.
Washingon (15 GR, 70pts) play Canes twice.
Predictions: Looking at the numbers, I would scratch NYI off the list altogether. I'm not saying they don't have a chance, but let's face it, Colorado went 11-1-2 in their last 14 games last season and still missed out. Boston is a lock, and the other three will battle it out for 7-8-9. And I hate to say it, but I think Philly is the odd man out here and Buffalo is the final team making the playoffs. Washinton wins the SE on the heels of their great deadline and the OvechKam... but lose out in the first round... nonetheless
In the West...
** I have already excluded Columbus, Edmonton, St. Louis (due to low win number), and LA. **
Minnesota (15 GR, 79 pts) Magic number 9.
Calgary (15 GR, 79 pts) Magic number 9.
Colorado (15 GR, 76 pts) Magic number 11.
Nashville (15 GR , 76 pts) Magic number 11.
Vancouver (16 GR, 74pts) Magic number 12.
Pheonix (16 GR, 71pts) Magic number 13.
Chicago (16 GR, 70pts) Magic number 14.
Predictions: Right off the bat, I'll scratch Chicago off the list, not going to happen. Two weeks ago, I said Pheonix will make it no matter what. They looked so disciplined and were getting such great goaltending. They'll likely have to win 13 of 16 games... and again, I bring up Colorado last year. Pheonix isn't making it. Which leaves us to the NW and Nash... with someone getting the 3. I looked at the stats against the NW and how they play against each other, Colorado needs goaltending but they dominate the NW so far. Calgary is inconsistent but seems to play well against the league's best. Vancouver can't score but they have Luongo and Minnesota, well, just don't let them score first.
Yeah, a whole paragraph that solved pretty much nothing... but i can't leave it like this. Here's what I think goes down. Nashville makes the playoffs... I'll pencil them in because the NW division all play their last 8 games or so against each other. They'll just beat each other up. Based on the numbers, I'd say Colorado wins the division and the 3rd seed. Now, I predicted Calgary to miss the playoffs at the beginning of the year because they hadn't solved their problems. The addition of Vandermeer has solidified the D and Kipper is playing great hockey. I pencil the Flames in (I may live to regret that!) ... so that leaves the Wild and the Canucks to battle it out. Sure, they have Luongo, and a solid D corps... but they haven't been playing that well altogether and can't score goals. Their deadline was atrocious and injuries have plagued them so bad. And, on top of that, I think playing so hard and so tough last year may have had too much of an effect on them, so, I think the Wild take the final spot.
Wow, all that number crunching to tell me that any of these teams still has a great shot... anyway...
And there you have it. I hope some people actually made it to the end! It'll be fun to look back at the end of the season and see just how out to lunch the number are!