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Sorting Out The Eastern Conference Playoff Picture


As of right now, only Boston has clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Tampa Bay are virtual locks with 97, 91, and 89 points, up 17, 11, and 9 points on the bevy of teams with 80 points that could usurp them.

That leaves Philadelphia, New York (R), Columbus, and Washington fighting each other for two guaranteed spots in the Metropolitan division and fighting Toronto and Detroit from the Atlantic for the two wildcard spots.




I opted to go by games-in-hand, but it’s important to note that ROW is what’s eventually going to break ties should they occur.  Because we’ve essentially given the top three spots away in the Atlantic, and because only two Atlantic teams are in the mix, this is as simple as six teams fighting for four spots.

The remaining strength of schedules:

  • WAS – .585
  • PHI – .581
  • CBJ – .568
  • DET – .546
  • TOR – .543
  • NYR – .500

And the bubble teams’ records this year against their remaining opponents

  • NYR: 10-3-2
  • DET: 11-6-3
  • TOR: 11-7-2
  • WAS: 9-7-2
  • CBJ: 12-10-0
  • PHI: 7-10-2

To predict the final points totals I decided to use a variation of the metric I’ve used before, that being looking at the schedules, predicting wins and losses, and adding the accumulated points.  This time I averaged each team’s winning percentage versus their remaining opponents and said opponents’ season long losing percentage.  That is, it’s an average of the likelihood of a team winning a given game and their opponent losing that game.  I multiplied that percentage by available points and applied to current records.  The results:

  • NYR: 96 pts
  • PHI: 91 pts
  • CBJ: 90 pts
  • DET: 90 pts
  • WAS: 89 pts
  • TOR: 88 pts

Which is probably in line with what most fans would predict even if the cutoff points total ends up being a bit low.  It’s interesting to note that this lines up almost exactly with the teams’ respective rankings in Fenwick Differential:

  • NYR: 5.7
  • CBJ: 1.9
  • DET: 1.7
  • WAS: -2.7
  • PHI: -3.5
  • TOR: -14.8

Final Thoughts:

If you asked me for an off the cuff opinion, I would take the Rangers and Flyers as locks, the Red Wings as fairly likely and a coin flip between the Blue Jackets and the Capitals for the final spot with the Maple Leafs a complete no show.

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