February 12, 2007

Making the playoffs

The west is settled except for Edmonton and Colorado. Edmonton has to make up about 9 points in 26 games and Colorado has to make up 12 points in 27 games. Colorado has one advantage: 15 divisional games vs. Edmonton’s 10. Winning a lot of these games can guarantee a playoff birth, for example if Colorado wins 5/6 of the games with Calgary they get +10 on Calgary (6*2-2 = 10), theoretically tying Calgary and Colorado. Edmonton still has 5 games against Minnesota. Colorado has 4 against Vancouver. Meaning any of these teams can easily fall out of playoff contention quickly. Other than the complications in the North West the West is settled with Dallas, Anaheim, San Jose, Detroit and Nashville fighting for positions in the top 8.

The East is a little more complicated: beyond the fact we know that Boston, Washington, Florida and Philadelphia are out and Buffalo and New Jersey are in. So I’m going to make some interesting predictions and explain why:

Atlanta [3rd]

It’d be nice for Atlanta to be guaranteed a spot, but considering in their last 18 games they’ve got a goal differential of -13 and a Pythagorean win percentage of 39% and 3 regulation wins in those games I would say Atlanta is a great candidate for falling out and it could happen quickly (Calgary, Ottawa and Carolina are up next). It appears Atlanta had a great finish last year and couldn’t make it they better hope the opposite can holds true this year: that is to say, a terrible finish, but still make it.

Pittsburg [4th]

In the last few weeks Pittsburg has taken off and almost caught up to New Jersey. Pittsburg is 8 points from falling out of the playoffs and considering the drive of Crosby to join the post season it’s hard to imagine them not being able to pull it off. They have a lot of games to play in March so their lead could dwindle slightly, but they should make it.

Ottawa [5th]

Ottawa has had a strange year so far with such a terrible start they appear to have everything under control in fact their Pythagorean win percentage over the last 17 games is sitting at 73% with 11/17 games won in regulation. They’d need some pretty poor luck to miss the playoffs.

Tampa Bay [6th]

As the only team with a positive goal differential in the South East division they should win the division. Both of the games against Atlanta are at home, however, which if Atlanta gets things going again would most likely seal the division for Atlanta. They’ve won a lot of shootouts lately boosting their point totals. They’ve been the most consistent team in the South East all season and they should be able to get in, but they could easily slip out. My number crunching pegs them at positive odds (69%) chance of making the playoffs.

Montreal [7th]

They better make it. I always enjoy watching and cheering for Montreal in the playoffs their series (most notably the one vs. Boston a couple years ago) are some of the more entertaining ones. However since January they’ve played at a Pythagorean win percentage of 35% and won 6/19 games in regulation. If they want to make it they need to get the ball rolling, the game against Florida on the 13th should help (or really hurt). My numbers say they’re slightly favored to make the playoffs (57%).

Carolina [8th]

Based on who’ve they’ve played and won against, Carolina is the better team in the South East division and should make it in the playoffs. They have to do a bit better than they’re currently doing, but it’s perfectly feasible.

Toronto [9th]

There’s two ways for Toronto to make it in: Montreal falls out, or that the Atlantic and South East divisions are so bad they allow 4 teams from the North East in. I often consider the possibility of 4 teams in the playoffs from one division as not possible as it requires the better division to be a lot better than the bad divisions. Toronto still has 3 games against Montreal that could change things significantly including a game on April 7.

NY Islanders [10th]

Of all the teams that shouldn’t make it in, the Islanders might be the team that does. However, they’ve been losing ground since the beginning of the year when they did really well. Over the last 19 games they’ve won 6 in regulation and went to overtime a lot. However they’ve maintained an even goal differential and are pegged to play a bit above average for the rest of the season. I have at 57% chance of making it.

NY Rangers [11th]

The most important thing for the Rangers in the last stretch is that they play the Islanders 4 times, the winner of that series will likely be the one closest to making the playoffs. Too bad for Rangers their record against the Islanders is rather poor this year. I don’t see them making it, but they do have a 50-50 chance statistically speaking.

Basically it’ll work out like [best guess]:

  1. Buffalo [114]
  2. New Jersey [108]
  3. Tampa Bay [96]
  4. Ottawa [102]
  5. Pittsburg [99]
  6. Carolina [93]
  7. Atlanta [93]
  8. Toronto [91]
  9. Montreal [91]
  10. New York Rangers [91]
  11. New York Inlanders [89]
I could easily see those tie braking rules coming into effect this season in the East.

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