Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Where we sit

Games played: 1,094
Games to go: 136
Percentage left: 11.1%
Beginning on Friday, March 21, the 17th last day of the regular season, every single remaining game is between teams in the same division, a span of 113 games that will decide playoff races and seedings.
A bit more analysis at the FanHouse.

The last 10 per cent of the season is going to be pretty interesting here as the games go all interdivisional, with the ramifications of that likely to be felt in the playoff races.

In the west, for example, this is bad news for the Northwest Division teams, four of which are currently in playoff position. There are going to be fewer points to be had here, for instance, than in the Central Division, where as of now only Detroit is on pace to make the playoffs.

As Minnesota, Calgary, Vancouver and Colorado slug it out with each other to close the season, Nashville should have the relatively easy task of taking a few points from their division's bottom feeders.

Likewise in the east, where teams in the Southeast Division should have some easy pickings when it comes to all the games against Tampa Bay and Atlanta. (The Thrashers really seem to have tanked hard lately, and are going to be right in the running for the first-overall pick.)

The divisional differences are set to come right out, and they could definitely have an impact on the playoff race.

UPDATE The above quote's slightly inaccurate, as there's one non-divisional game over the final 113-game stretch: Boston at New Jersey on April 2. My mistake.



At 12:50 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger Daniel said...

Has the schedule always been like this? I think it should be like this all the time. It makes for some interesting hockey, teams battling it out for division leads and home ice. Of course, if you have a couple dogs in your division, it could let you rack up the points, like Detroit. Maybe they can rest some players now and avoid last years fate. The West should be murder.

At 1:15 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

It wasn't like this last year, that's for sure. From what I remember about the Ducks' schedule, they played the Blue Jackets three times in their last dozen games.

I agree, though. I love the way this schedule is finishing up.

At 1:27 p.m., March 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a lot more fun if the division is competitive. The Central is going to be a snoozer, unfortunately. Better luck next year, I guess.

At 1:51 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I don't mind this at the end of the year, but I hated the divisional run I think at the start of November. When they re-do the schedule, I wouldn't mind if they did this where you essentially have a home and home series against each of your division foes in the final 2 weeks, but save us from that kind of stretch in the middle or beginning of the year. Dropping from 8 games each to 6 will help that.

And as for Detroit, they've earned their likely conference title and President's Trophy without this stretch (and they're below .500 within their division anyways, remarkably enough), so I don't see any reason to complain.

Philly's missed their chance to pad their point total against teams from weaker divisions than the Atlantic, and now must earn their spot the hard way. I don't see anything wrong with that.

At 3:13 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger The Peerless said...

If the race is essentially for conference seeding -- with the real race now being which of four/five teams can nab the last two spots (few of which, if any, play one another) -- and the matches are all intradivisional, something seems strangely out of whack.

At 3:48 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger "Steve Smith" said...

I agree with The Peerless. I'd have no objection to this, or to the unbalanced schedule in general, if divisional placing actually meant something (beyond just the first place teams getting the highest seed). Without that, it looks like an attempt by the NHL to fabricate an Edmonton-Minnesota rivalry when playoff pairings have resulted in much greater rivalries with teams like the Stars, Ducks, and Sharks. Go back to a divisional playoff format, and I'd be all about this schedule. Otherwise, from the fan's perspective, you might as well abolish divisions entirely (although I assume the teams would like them retained for reasons of travel costs).

At 4:07 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

I think there are good races for the top seed in four out of six divisions, and that this schedule will really emphasize those. I do find it silly, though, that the middle teams fight for playoff berths while never playing each other down the stretch. This year Philly, Buffalo and Washington will be playing completely different teams to see who can get the most points...

At 7:03 p.m., March 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the strangeness and intensity it's adding to the end of the season... particularly in the NW where they'll all be clawing each other trying to avoid being the one at the bottom of the 4 that Nashville catches.

But, with playoff seeding being conference based, I think they should finish with all inter-conference games instead of just inter-division games. Imagine you're Carolina and you have a bad run of injuries for 2 weeks now and it blows your entire season?

At 9:07 p.m., March 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that it's going to be all that easy for Nashville to make the playoffs, even though the four NW teams beat each other up, and Nashville only has to really contend with Detroit. The problem is twofold: First, according to James' push to 94 points, the NW teams really only need to go .500 to make it, yet Nashville needs to go 7-2. Second, if there were only two points up for grabs Nashville would have a better shot, but, especially considering how defensive the NW teams are (except maybe Colorado), we can expect many of those games to go into OT, and thus get points to both teams in the game.

At 11:41 p.m., March 18, 2008, Blogger Unknown said...

All of the Red Wings' games are against the Central? There went our shot at the President's Trophy.

At 1:49 a.m., March 19, 2008, Blogger Daniel said...

San Jose plays Minnesota tomorrow too, so that is another out-of-division game.

At 12:37 p.m., March 19, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

That's not one of the last 113 games of the season.


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