The NHL's real standings
Tom Benjamin posted a link to Zorak's NHL Standings and Magic Numbers site last week, and I must say I'm glad he did because (a) now I don't have to calculate my own projected standings when I want to know how teams are doing and (b) I've been going to the site nearly every day to track teams' movements.
For all of the NHL statistics websites out there, it amazes me that none of them offer projections of this sort (there's a hint for all readers from TSN, Yahoo! and ESPN). After all, it's hardly helpful to compare teams like Phoenix with 14 games played to Nashville with only 10 just on the basis of points.
So, what can we gleam, aside from the obvious, from these projected standings?
Well, just from glancing at them, it would seem like it's going to take well over 90 points to make the playoffs this year — not far from the 91 that put the eighth-place Predators and Islanders there in 2003-04.
The truth is, it's going to take a lot more. There's no chance, for instance, that Detroit, Nashville, Ottawa and Carolina (!), finish in the 130+ point range (unless, of course, one of those teams puts up one of the greatest seasons in NHL history). Some of those points are going to be distributed to the likes of Buffalo, Dallas and Minnesota, the teams fighting for those final spots now (and likely in April as well).
It's difficult to project exactly, but my best guestimate is that 95 points — a record in the neighbourhood of 45-31-6 — will be about the magic number. With no more ties in the league, there are going to be far more three-point games, meaning everyone gets bumped up at least a handful of points.
And, as I said in my season preview, it's going to be a dogfight for those final playoff spots. Those points won and lost in the shootout are going to look much more important in the final games of the year.
After a rough, 0-2 start, the San Jose Sharks really look to be rounding into form and are 6-3-1 in their last 10. I also really, really like the LA Kings' play as of late. Even with Jeremy Roenick looking like he might be following Brett Hull out the door soon, they are scoring (2nd in the West in goals for) and playing a much tougher brand of hockey than they have in the past. Dustin Brown is going to be a name you'll hear a lot of in the future.
In the East, the Maple Leafs aren't sitting nearly as pretty as their fans might think at the moment (even after a 2-1 win over the mighty Florida Panthers). The Montreal Canadiens, however, have looked pretty good, despite the fact they are one of the few playoff-positioned teams to not have scored more than three goals per game (which they did tonight, in a 4-1 win over the Rangers).