Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The playoff push: 94 points or bust

It's just about time to put the playoff push to bed, as it's certainly more useful with more games left in the season than two or three.

Playoff-race teams that won Tuesday:
West: Nashville, Calgary, Colorado, San Jose
East: Washington, Buffalo, Montreal

Here's a look at the record each team needs to attain my projected point mark and (essentially) guarantee a playoff berth (updated with last night's games):

Western Conference (92 points)
  1. Detroit - qualified, March 5
  2. San Jose - qualified, March 18
  3. Anaheim - qualified, March 22
  4. Minnesota - qualified, March 28
  5. Dallas - qualified, March 29
  6. Calgary - qualified, April 1
  7. Colorado - qualified, April 1
  8. Nashville - 1-0-1

  9. Vancouver - 2-0-0
  10. Edmonton - eliminated, March 26, max 88 points
  11. Chicago - eliminated, March 16, max 90 points
  12. Columbus - eliminated, March 19, max 86 points
  13. Phoenix - eliminated, March 18, max 86 points
  14. St. Louis - eliminated, March 11, max 81 points
  15. Los Angeles - eliminated, Feb. 18, max 73 points

Eastern Conference (93 points)

  1. Montreal - qualified, March 20
  2. Pittsburgh - qualified, March 22
  3. New Jersey - qualified, March 28
  4. N.Y. Rangers - qualified, March 31
  5. Ottawa - 0-1-1
  6. Philadelphia - 1-2-0
  7. Boston - 1-2-0
  8. Carolina - 1-0-1
  9. Washington - 1-0-1
  10. Buffalo - eliminated, March 30, max 92 points
  11. Florida - eliminated, March 25, max 87 points
  12. Toronto - eliminated, March 25, max 87 points
  13. N.Y. Islanders - eliminated, March 12, max 81 points
  14. Atlanta - eliminated, March 11, max 76 points
  15. Tampa Bay - eliminated, March 4, max 77 points

What is this?

It's the return of the playoff push. To the chagrin of hockey-stat junkies everywhere, consider this the most basic standings watch you'll see anywhere. (Here's what it looked like last season at the end of the year.)

It's all based on the premise that, if you get 90 to 95 points in the standings (depending on conference), you'll make the playoffs. There's a chance you can sneak in with less, especially in the Eastern Conference, but under the NHL's kooky everybody-gets-a-point system, this is pretty close to what teams need to get in.



At 9:25 p.m., January 20, 2008, Blogger Andrew Bucholtz said...

Interesting as always, James. I'm a little surprised the predicted point difference between the conferences is so pronounced. As you pointed out earlier, the playoff lineup will likely get even weirder when the terrible state of the Southeast is factored in. The overtime loss makes things especially interesting, particularly for teams somewhat on the bubble like Vancouver and Minnesota that tend to hang around in games: both teams could go less than .500 (say 15-9-10 for Vancouver) and still make the playoffs according to your totals.

At 8:02 a.m., January 21, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Its also possible that the eventual SE division winner may have LESS than 90 points supplanting a team with more points from making the post season.

At 10:08 a.m., January 21, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Wow, didn't take long for Washington to have the inside track on the SE, did it?

Good for that franchise. Winning the SE (if they were to do so) may be a very small accomplishment this year, but it's still a big one for that orgnization.

At 2:15 p.m., January 21, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

While I have no proof of this, I actually had Washington as my SE champion, so I'm hoping they pull through.

Also, can we trade Edmonton to the East for...I dunno, New Jersey? Pretty please?

At 9:42 a.m., January 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something tells me that the #8 seed this year will be more like 90 points than 95. Just look at all the teams that need win percentages of 0.667 to make 95 points - since they've all got to play each other it seems much more likely that the point total needed to make the playoffs will drop, and we'll still have 12 teams in the hunt in each conference during the first week in April.

At 3:52 p.m., January 22, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Never underestimate the value of three-point games, Baroose.

At 4:35 p.m., January 22, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Baroose — people argue with my point projections every single season, and every time, it's within one or at the most two points by the end.

Not every team needs to play at a ridiculous pace to finish eighth — only a few do. (And being off by two points doesn't negate the value of the list anyway.)

At 9:52 p.m., January 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this can't be right

take the islanders for example

6 OT points so far in 48 games

assuming the same tie ratio they will need to go 15 15 and 4 for the rest of the season not 19 15 and 0

all of the eastern conference teams are overestimated the same way

At 10:53 a.m., January 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not arguing with your concept, I followed your "95 points or bust" last year and agree its a good predictor. But the standings this year have seen an unprecedented race to the middle. In the West, the #2 seed is all of 4 games over .500 (28-19-5) and is 12 points ahead of the #15 seed with 30 games remaining. There's a little more spread between #2 and #15 in the East; all of 13 points. I think it's unreasonable to assume that more than one or two of those 26 teams is going to suddenly start playing 0.600 hockey, which many of them need to do if they are going to reach 95 points.

At 2:57 p.m., January 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Detroit only needs a 0.281 winning percentage to guarantee a playoff position.

That is insane.

At 3:24 p.m., January 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was reading the theories posted for why the SE Division has a lower Win%. Here's another one:

Owners of SE teams know that they need to have flashy offense in order to market their teams to less-knowledgable SE fans. SE owners dictate to their organizations that money, draft picks, and offensive styles ("safe is death!") be focused on offense over defense. Offensive systems tend not to succeed in today's game, for whatever reason. But the SE management keeps forcing the offense-first approach on their teams.

This theory accounts for the poor Win%s, the lack of defense in the SE, and the goldmine of scorers in the SE.

At 2:58 a.m., January 24, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Are the shitty goaltenders a cause or an effect in this model?

At 2:25 p.m., January 24, 2008, Blogger Dennis Prouse said...

What games are you watching? Goal scoring is down, and the goaltending is better than ever. Goalies only look "bad" now relative to the insanely high expectations we place on them. Goalies aren't allowed to just be good now -- they are expected to be consistently world class, each and every night. Watch some tape from the 80s, and compare it to the goaltending we have today. It's not even close.

At 7:37 p.m., January 31, 2008, Blogger Bob Arctor said...

It might be time to add the Oilers to the list of teams effectively eliminated from the playoff race.

At 5:16 a.m., February 02, 2008, Blogger Unknown said...

Can anyone give me a good reason why Nick Lidstrom isn't on the short list for the Hart Trophy?

At 5:51 p.m., February 07, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

it would be awesome if something bizarre happened and anaheim stayed in 9th place.

At 1:46 p.m., February 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What will happen at head office in NYC if the Rangers miss the playoffs and the South East winner has less points than them?
That's what the standings say as of today.

At 2:50 p.m., February 14, 2008, Blogger Marchantfan said...

Anon: they'll spin it to be one of the reasons they're returning to the pre-lockout, all Canadian teams play each other twice, schedule.

At 9:48 a.m., February 17, 2008, Blogger Eric McErlain said...

Given the situation in the SE, might it not make sense to leave the #3 slot blank, and move the other teams down one notch?

At 4:03 p.m., February 18, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

At this rate, it's looking like Detroit may have trouble making those last three wins a reality. Thank god they've built up such a nice cushion.

At 9:43 a.m., February 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give the Flyers proper credit; it's nine in a row now.

...And you said "jobbed". Hee! Watch that "legitimate" facade, James!

At 9:50 a.m., February 22, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I love how anonymous posters are starting to sound like my father.

And thanks for the note on the Flyers' streak.

At 10:18 a.m., February 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, you might have bigger issues than those with which anonymous posters can help you.
But you're welcome. ;)

At 5:00 p.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger Dear Lord Stanley said...

Not that it matters much, but Colorado is actually eighth in the West. They have more wins than the Predators.

At 8:12 p.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

You're right — I'll try and keep the tiebreakers in mind when teams are on pace for the same number of points.

At 1:02 p.m., February 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might be time to add the Oilers to the list of teams effectively eliminated from the playoff race.


Not until the last shoulder is separated!

At 2:09 p.m., February 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't you think there's something wrong with having the penguins AND the devils on the first AND second spots of the conference??? Am I the only one to notice that?

At 5:32 p.m., February 29, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Actually, anonymous, you are the only one not to notice the title of the post.

At 5:43 a.m., March 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When was the last time all 5 teams from the same division made the playoffs? Has it ever happened? What division do people think has the best chance of achieving it (in years to come)?

At 12:21 p.m., March 03, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

From the looks of this year, the Patrick Division may just have it. Pittsburgh, Jersey, the Rangers, and Philly are in, and the Isles are knocking. In the future...I dunno, I don't see it happening in the West because the closest division to doing it is the Smythe, and good luck getting one of Detroit, Dallas, Anaheim, or San Jose out of the picture any time soon. Maybe the Adams? Toronto could turn it around, right? No?

At 1:12 p.m., March 05, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

It's getting exciting to see teams dropped finally. Although in theory, 91 points is still possible to win the Southeast so Tampa's elimination isn't quite complete. But it looks like Edmonton, Columbus, Atlanta, Florida, and Toronto will all join LA and Tampa in your "eliminated status within a week to 10 days.

At 2:08 p.m., March 06, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

The Leafs' current push totals are 12-2-0. If they win all of the rest of their games, they will finish with 96 points. If we revise the push numbers for other teams to beat this total, we get:
Rangers - 9-5-1
Flyers - 11-4-0

In other words, it's looking like the probability of the Leafs making the playoffs isn't any better than the probability that they run the table and still come up short...

At 12:04 p.m., March 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:55 p.m., March 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:40 p.m., March 07, 2008, Blogger Itlan said...

Adams, Smythe, Patrick? Awe how quaint.

At 10:50 a.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger Dear Lord Stanley said...

I hate to be "that guy" again, but you've got Colorado in the wrong spot---again. They have 80 points and are in seventh place, while Vancouver has 78 points and is in eighth place.

Sorry, just trying to help out.

At 10:55 a.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Vancouver is on pace for more points and therefore is closer to qualifying for the playoffs.

At 1:23 p.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger Dear Lord Stanley said...

That's cool and all, but surely you can see how your listing the teams in playoff standings form can be a bit misleading. Perhaps a little more explanation in the post itself? Maybe an asterisk?

Maybe a "shut the hell up already, it's my blog?" I'll accept that, too.

At 1:52 p.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Heh, I can certainly provide you a link to the standings you're looking for.

At 5:29 p.m., March 13, 2008, Blogger "Steve Smith" said...

From a little bit of playing around on the Battle of Alberta WC playoff predictor spreadsheet, it looks like the eighth place team in the playoffs may have closer to 92 points than 94 (this assumes that about 20% of games will go to overtime, which has been the pattern so far).

At 7:02 p.m., March 13, 2008, Blogger Ray Felix, III said...

As of Thurs. 3/13, the four NW division teams in contention control their own fate in the division.

If any of them win their final 12 (or 11, for COL) games, they win the division.

How ridiculous is that?

At 2:04 a.m., March 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all the talk of a schedule revamp has anyone looked at what the standings would be like if the competition were a true round-robin? I only worked out the oilers results but by using the first game played against the 25 teams they have played they managed to score 20 of a possible 50 points. If I have more time I'll crunch the rest of the numbers and see if the standings reflect the current state.

At 3:28 p.m., March 16, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Well, now that Philly has lost today, and is in a virtual tie with Buffalo for 8th (Philly needs a 6-3-0 record to get 92 points, Buffalo a 6-2-1 record), I think the Eastern standard will fall below 92 points, and I thought that it was a pretty safe number for a long time. But we'll see, I suppose. 92 points is definitely a no doubt about it guarantee for the playoffs, though. The thought of the East having more than 8 teams above 90 points is looking doubtful.

I still like 94 points as the target in the West... as I don't forsee 8th having worse than 93 points. 94 as a guarantee is a good target.

At 6:29 a.m., March 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...goaltending is better than ever. Watch some tape from the 80s, and compare it to the goaltending we have today. It's not even close...

Yah, and Bruce Willis movies are better than Errol Flynn movies because, you know, watch some B&W movies. I mean, it's not even close.

At 9:31 a.m., March 20, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

I'm also thinking, based on point percentages, it might be time to revise both estimates down one (i.e. 93 for the West and 91 for the East).

At 12:44 p.m., March 20, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

This site computes every possible scenario of remaining games and gives the percentage chance for each playoff position. It's pretty cool.

At 11:00 p.m., March 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how long it's been the case, but I just realized that the 8th place team in the east is on pace for more points than the 8th place team in the west. Only by two points, but still...lots of loser points have been going around in the east lately.

At 8:10 p.m., April 05, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "92 point rule" seems to work as a pretty good yardstick for what a team needs to make the playoffs. There was something similar that the Oakland A's figured out in "Moneyball" for baseball.

Are you planning on making any predictions for the 2008 playoffs?


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