We are just about at the quarter pole of the NHL season with 305 of the 1230 games having been played. Some teams such as the Sharks, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers, etc. have gotten off to very good starts which has put them in a solid position to make the playoffs. Other teams such as Dallas, Tampa, Ottawa, have gotten off to very disappointing starts and if they are to make the playoffs they will need to significantly improve their games. But, how much of a comfort zone have the good teams build for themselves and how much of a hole has the struggling teams dug for themselves?
To answer this question I assumed that a team will need 94 points to make the playoffs which in most years post lock out has been enough though in any given season and conference it may not. But, it should be a good target for teams to aim for if they want a really good chance to make the playoffs.
In the above table you will find how many games played (GP) and points (Pts) the team currently has and their points per game pace (Pts/Gm). Next you will see the number of games remaining (GR) and how many points they require (RPts) to reach 94 points total and their required points per game pace (RPts/GR) to reach 94 points. In the last column you will find the percentage of their current pace they must maintain over their remaining schedule to make the playoffs (%Pace = (RPts/GP) / (Pts/Gm) ).
So, in the case of Boston, they have racked up 32 points meaning they only need 62 points over the remainder of the season to reach the magic 94 points. This means they only need 1.02 points per game over the course of the remainder of the season which is a pace just two thirds (66.7%) as good as they have now.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Florida Panthers will need to achieve points at a pace nearly 50% better than they have picked up points so far. It is still fairly early in the season and they are a lot of games still to be played but it is still a tall order to expect a team to play 50% better than they have so far.
The Ottawa Senators are one of the teams who really viewed themselves as a playoff team but in the early going of the season they have struggled significantly which has put themselves in a bit of a hole. To get out of that hole they will have to play at a pace where they get 1.23 points per game over the remainder of the season, which is about 36% better than they have picked up points so far. A pace of 1.23 points per game equates to 101 points over an 82 game season. Can Ottawa play the equivalent of a 101 point team? Only time will tell, but last year only 5 teams managed to get 101 points.
The Dallas Stars have dug themselves a deeper hole than the Ottawa Senators. The Stars are probably the most dissapointing team in the NHL this season. They have gone from a playoff team to probably the worst performing team in the NHL. To get out of this hole and get back into a playoff position they will need to get points at a pace of 1.26 points per game, or the equivalent of a 103 point season. To do so they would need to obtain points at a pace nearly 60% better than they have so far. While not completely impossibly, it will be a very difficult task.
At the other end of the spectrum is the San Jose Sharks who are the only team in the NHL that doesn’t have to play at a point per game pace to reach 94 points. Even if they only pick up points at a pace 40% below the point rate they have achieved so far they are still likely to make the playoffs. Things are looking good in San Jose, and Detroit is not to far behind. I would say that these two teams are the only near ‘locks’ to make the playoffs.