What your team needs to do to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs
Your annual (near) mid-season look at what your team needs the rest of the way.
With the 2023-24 NHL All-Star Break in the rear-view mirror and the NHL Trade Deadline less than a month away it is time to start taking a serious look at the playoff races in the Eastern and Western Conference. At this point in the season we have a pretty good idea of who should be a playoff lock, who is on the bubble, and who is out of it. But it still helps to put a number on what teams need to get in, and every year around this time I like to take a look at that race.
This is that look.
Let’s start with the Eastern Conference.
Entering the week the Tampa Bay Lightning have the lowest points percentage of any team in a playoff spot at .575. That is a 94-point pace over 82 games, so let’s set the playoff threshold at 95 points in the East. That is typically the magic number to secure a playoff spot but it can obviously be a little higher or lower depending on the season and how things are playing out. Since that is the current projection this season, let’s go with that.
Here we have every team in the Eastern Conference, their current record, the number of games remaining, the points percentage they will need in those games to reach 95 points, and their points percentage over the past 25 games just to give us a sense of how they have been playing in their most recent quarter of the season. The column on the end is the key number. It is sorted from least to most needed.
Teams that should be playoff locks: Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes.
Those four should be set as they could all play with a losing record the rest of the way and still reach the 95-point mark. There is also nothing to suggest, based on their whole season record or their most recent 25-games, to suggest they will have a losing record the rest of the way. Those are the four best teams in the East and it would take a pretty historical meltdown for any of them to miss.
That leaves four spots still up for grabs — the two third-place spots in each division, as well as both wild card spots.
That is where things get a little more complicated.
The bubble teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals