Back on November 25th the NHL was at the quarter point of the season so I decided to take a look at what it would take for teams to make the playoffs. Now that we are approximately at the halfway point it is time to revisit that question and look at what teams will have to do in the second half if they are to make the post season.
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. Right now in the eastern conference the 8th place Sabres are on pace for 92 points and in the west the 8th place Wild are on pace for 88 points. Once playoff contenders stock up on extra talent at the trade deadline we should see these numbers increase so 94 seems like a reasonable goal if a team wants a really good chance of making 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) ).
Boston is all but a lock to make the playoffs not even needing to pick up points at half the pace they have been to reach the magic number of 94 points. Washington, Montreal and Philadelphia look to be in pretty solid positions if they can avoid any lengthy losing streaks while New Jersey and the Rangers look to be on fairly solid ground as well but should get too complacent. Then things get quite interesting as Buffalo, Carolina, Florida and Pittsburgh are all currently in a tight battle. All are in striking distance which one will pick up their game enough to grab that final spot, or will a pair of them really pick up their games and challenge the Rangers or Devils. My money is on either Pittsburgh or Buffalo as they have the most talent but Carolina is a balanced team and Florida plays a very good defensive game and has good goaltending.
Toronto would need to go on a real lengthy hot streak to get back in the race while the remaining four teams, Ottawa, Tampa, Atlanta and the Islanders, can all but book early spring vacations. Toronto would have to gain points nearly 50% faster in the second half than they did in the first half for them to make the playoffs and the remaining four teams would need to see a 75% improvement. In the Islanders case they need to get points two and a half times faster than they did in the first half of the year to make the playoffs. In short, they need to be as good as Montreal and Chicago were in the first half. Don’t be betting on that happening. I hope John Tavares likes Long Island.
In the west San Jose and Detroit are locks to make the playoffs and if Chicago and Calgary can play .500 hockey they should make the playoffs as well. After those four teams nobody can be feeling too secure as Vancouver, Anaheim, Minnesota, Phoenix, Edmonton and Colorado all have excellent chances to be among the final four playoff teams and should a resurgent Dallas team post-Avery or any of Columbus, Los Angeles or Nashville go on lenghy hot streaks they can get themselves into the playoff hunt as well. I would suggest that only St. Louis, who has been devastated by injuries, can consider themselves all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.