984 games to go
Sunday's two games brought us to exactly the 20-per-cent mark of the season, 246 games played of the 1,230 we'll see this year.
And the standings are a strange animal:
|W %||W %|
Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New Jersey, Anaheim and Calgary would all miss the playoffs if they started tomorrow. Dallas and Vancouver are right on the bubble.
The postseason's a good five months away — but there's a good chance half of the above don't get their act together to climb back into the mix.
Maybe what's most surprising has been the hot start of teams like the Islanders, Boston, Columbus and Chicago, teams that received zero respect in preseason predictions. (If I had to pick just one reason, it'd be coaching, as all four men have done an amazing job behind the bench with these teams so far. I keep saying not to bet against Ted Nolan and then breaking my own rule, and it's hard to believe the way that team has played — something that's been obscured by the fact they've played the fewest games in the league. This is a club on pace for more than 110 points.)
How are these for nutty first-round playoff matchups (I've broken ties by goal differential at this point):
(8) Tampa Bay @ (1) Ottawa
(7) Rangers @ (2) Islanders
(6) Boston @ (3) Carolina
(5) Philadelphia @ (4) Montreal
(8) St. Louis @ (1) Detroit
(7) Nashville @ (2) Colorado
(6) Chicago @ (3) San Jose
(5) Columbus @ (4) Minnesota
Ranking the divisions
The six divisions sorted by average projected point total:
- Central 98.6
- Northeast 98.4
- Atlantic 90.4
- Northwest 86.1
- Pacific 81.0
- Southeast 78.1
Both the Eastern and Western conferences have played 123 games, with the East being the higher-scoring side once again (2.79 GFA to a 2.72). East teams average a 2.78 GAA compared to the West's 2.73.
And, finally, scoring by division:
The Pacific's bad and they can't score. The Southeast can score but they're the worst defensively by a longshot.
How much longer will the Central be the best division in hockey?