What your team still needs to do to make the NHL Playoffs
Those playoff races may not be as close as they seem.
We are officially into the stretch run of the 2022-23 NHL regular season and all eyes are on the playoff races in the Eastern and Western Conferences. In what is a complete reversal of last year’s playoff races, this year’s Western Conference race is starting to look like it is mostly set while the Eastern Conference Wild Card race is looking a little more chaotic.
Even that is starting to sort itself out.
We know the Boston Bruins are going to the playoffs because they already clinched a spot, and it is pretty much a lock that the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning are also going.
We also can safely assume the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, and Columbus Blue Jackets are out.
That leaves the other seven teams in the the East in the Wild Card races.
As recently as a two weeks ago the Eastern Conference Wild Card race looked like it was going to be a wild scramble to the finish with as many seven teams fighting for two spots.
Today it looks more like a three team race for two spots.
Even more likely it is a two team race for one spot.
Entering play on Tuesday the Pittsburgh Penguins (WC1) and New York Islanders (WC2) occupy the two Wild Card spots with the Florida Panthers inching closer after a brutally disappointing first half of the season. After them, the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings are trying desperately to cling to whatever is remaining of their playoff hopes.
Let’s take a look at two scenarios here for all of those teams.
The first one is the 95-point mark, which is generally speaking the cut line for a playoff spot, and it should be a safe mark this season in the Eastern Conference given the current pace for everybody. If you reach 95 points, your chances of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs are extremely high.
The table below looks at each team’s current pace and what it needs to do to reach 95 points this season and the “safe” line.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have the shortest path to that and just need to be marginally over .500 the rest of the way, while every other team here needs to play better than .679 hockey the rest of the way. To put that in perspective of what .679 hockey looks like, no team in the Western Conference has played at a .679 pace this season, while only Boston, Carolina, and New Jersey has played at that pace in the Eastern Conference. So, basically, teams like Florida, Buffalo, Washington, Ottawa, and Detroit are going to need to play these remaining 15-16 games like they are the best team in hockey to reach 95 points.
That is asking a lot.
It is also worth pointing out that the playoff threshold in the Eastern Conference this season might very well end up being lower than 95 points. After all, the New York Islanders currently own the second Wild Card spot and are only on pace for 92 points this season.
So let’s look at it from that perspective and set the cut line at 92 points.
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