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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 9:33 AM

## Updated playoff projections: March 16th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

 EASTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 70 78 12 90 7 9th 71 75 11 85 9 10th 70 74 12 85 9 11th 70 71 12 82 11 WESTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 73 81 9 90 7 9th 70 80 12 92 7 10th 71 80 11 91 7 11th 70 78 12 89 8

The Skinny:
During the course of a playoff race, it is inevitable to hear, "We have control of our destiny."

For the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals, that is exactly the case. It doesn't get better than this on Friday night -- Washington visits Winnipeg, where the fans are rabid and have spurred their hometown Jets on to a 22-10-4 record at the MTS Center.

Math can be complicated but in this case it's quite simple -- a Jets' regulation victory moves them within two points of the eighth-place Capitals. A Capitals victory moves them six points ahead of the Jets. Just wondering but, is that why they're called four-point games?

Regardless, a win by the Jets will not only have their fans cheering, but joining in the applause will be the Buffalo Sabres' faithful, who will remain three points behind Washington in the East. A Winnipeg loss and they are faced with the improbable, if not impossible task, of trying to gain seven more points than the Capitals in the remaining eleven games. A Jets' win and it sets up another showdown next Friday in Washington, where control of destiny would be the main theme once again.

The Caps also want to keep pace with the Panthers and continue their quest for another Southeast division title. Oh, what a night it's going to be.

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks are hanging on to very faint playoff hopes. If they want to keep those hopes alive, they must win at home against the Los Angeles Kings. For the Kings, they are trying to keep pace with the pack of Phoenix, Colorado, San Jose and Calgary for the last two playoff spots.

The games on the ice are intriguing, but wouldn't it be something to get a glimpse of the other teams in the pack and see their reactions as this game unfolds? I'm guessing they will be cheering for the Ducks. The Flames will be busy in Edmonton, but they will sneak a peek now and again at the out of town scoreboard to keep tabs on what is happening in Anaheim.

Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 9:41 AM

## Updated playoff projections: March 15th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

 EASTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 70 78 12 90 7 9th 71 75 11 85 9 10th 70 74 12 85 9 11th 69 71 13 83 11 WESTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 72 80 10 91 7 9th 69 78 13 91 8 10th 70 78 12 89 8 11th 70 78 12 89 8

The skinny: On the marquis Thursday night in New York City, the Pittsburgh Penguins invade Gotham with Sidney Crosby in tow and their sights set on the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have a game in hand on the Rangers and play them one more time this season.

A win tonight against New York and Pittsburgh can continue their quest for first. A loss and it almost certainly becomes a scramble for home ice with the Flyers and Devils.

Colorado, after a last-second goal Wednesday to force overtime in a shootout win at Buffalo, faces the New Jersey Devils in Newark. The Avalanche are in a playoff spot entering play Thursday, but have played more games than their counterparts in the Western Conference. After this game, Colorado will have nine remaining and while they play Calgary two more times and Phoenix once, a win gives them a little breathing room -- but not enough to feel safe.

Speaking of the Flames and Coyotes, they match up in Calgary for a pivotal game. Phoenix won Wednesday in Vancouver, and the Coyotes are chasing the Dallas Stars for first in the Pacific while trying to hold down a playoff position.

It is incredible to think the Coyotes are chasing first (and a top-three seed, while still trying to hold on to a playoff spot. That is the definition of tight right there.

The Flames continue to roll with four straight victories. Their downfall last season was not winning against teams competing for one of the final spots (like the Coyotes) down the stretch. They want to build on the momentum of their win Tuesday against the Sharks and climb back into a playoff spot.

Down in the Sunshine State, there has been plenty to shine about in South Florida this season for the Panthers. The Boston Bruins make a visit there Thursday, and they are only four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida can think about second in the conference with a win.

George McPhee, general manager of the Washington Capitals said he can't watch his team on TV because it is too hard for him. Does he watch other teams, and how do those games feel? If he doesn't watch, he'll be logging on to NHL.com to follow all the action and get updates on the games in progress. You should too.
Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 10:51 AM

## Updated playoff projections: March 14th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

 EASTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 70 78 12 90 7 9th 70 74 12 85 9 10th 69 72 13 84 10 11th 69 71 13 83 11 WESTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 69 78 13 91 8 9th 70 78 12 89 8 10th 70 78 12 89 8 11th 71 78 11 89 8
The skinny: As the playoff drive continues, watching teams put pressure on their competitors is exciting. The Florida Panthers did exactly that on Tuesday in their victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Who did they put pressure on? The answer is the Winnipeg Jets, who may have seen their opportunity to claim first place in the Southeast Division fade further into the sunset. The win moves the Panthers seven points ahead of the Jets, which means Winnipeg needs to win four more games than Florida in the final 13 contests for both teams -- possible but very unlikely.

Further harm for the Jets on 'Terrible Tuesday' was the three-goal deficit the Washington Capitals overcame to beat the New York Islanders. The Capitals moved six points ahead of Winnipeg for the eighth spot. Talk about a left-right combination!

You want to see a 'must-win' game on the schedule? It's in Winnipeg on Wednesday night. The red-hot Dallas Stars are in town, and a loss for the Jets will make an already difficult task that much more so.

Interconference games usually aren't marquis ones at this point of the season but the Colorado Avalanche traveling to Buffalo to face the Sabres is. The Avalanche are in a fierce fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and the Sabres, who will be without the services of Tyler Myers for the next three games because of a suspension, are trying to stay in the hunt for the eighth spot in the East.

The left-right combination on the chin of the Jets with the results Tuesday night was felt in Buffalo as well. Colorado has played more games than their competitors in the West, so with games dwindling losses can't be absorbed. The Avs can move into a playoff spot with a win in Buffalo. A loss will put them into the 'we need help' category and that is not where teams want to be.

Phoenix, who was leading the Pacific Division on March 5th, has fallen into the battle for the final two playoff spots and it doesn't get easier for the Coyotes against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday before playing the surging Flames in Calgary on Thursday.

The games are dwindling and as teams win, like the Panthers and Capitals did Tuesday, they buoy their own hopes and at the same time put more strain on other teams' hopes. It will be no different Wednesday night.

Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 9:47 AM

## Updated playoff projections: March 13th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

 EASTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 69 76 13 89 8 9th 70 74 12 85 9 10th 69 72 13 84 10 11th 68 69 14 82 11 12th 69 68 13 79 12 WESTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 71 78 11 89 7 9th 68 77 14 91 8 10th 69 76 13 88 9 11th 69 76 13 88 9

The skinny: The NHL has their own version of March Madness as teams jockey for position and nearly every possible playoff spot is at stake.

Florida, which is trying to end a long playoff drought, entertains the reeling Toronto Maple Leafs with a chance to move three points ahead of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. Just as importantly, in their quest to end the playoff drought there is an opportunity to move further ahead of the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets, who are trying to chase down Washington in the eighth spot.

Winning this game would make it almost impossible for the Jets to catch the Panthers. The Jets would have to win four more games than Florida in their remaining games to pass them. This is called breathing room.

As for the jockeying inside the top eight, look no further than the New Jersey Devils-Philadelphia Flyers matchup. Both of these teams try to chase down the fourth position in the conference and coveted home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Looking to the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks won in Edmonton on Monday night to move past Calgary and can find themselves back in a playoff position with a win or even a single point Tuesday against the Flames. Those three point games are certainly loathed by teams not playing on a particular night.

The Flames have eight of their remaining 13 games at home, and those games are almost mandatory if they want to qualify for the playoffs. A year ago on this date the Flames were in eighth position, but they finished 5-3-3 -- including an 0-2-2 record against Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

If you don't beat the teams you are competing with for playoff spots, you won't qualify. The Flames don't want to have a repeat of that this season.

As for the battles inside the top eight, Detroit, at the very least, wants to have home ice in the first round of the playoffs and with a win against the Kings, the Red Wings can move four points ahead of Nashville in that race.
Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 10:58 AM

## Updated playoff projections: March 12

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

 EASTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 69 76 13 89 8 9th 69 72 13 84 10 10th 69 72 13 84 10 11th 68 69 14 82 11 12th 69 68 13 79 12 WESTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 69 76 13 88 8 9th 69 76 13 88 8 10th 70 76 12 88 8 11th 67 75 15 90 9

The skinny: Buffalo finds itself in the thick of a Stanley Cup Playoff race, four points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Beating the teams below you in the standings and those with whom you are competing for a playoff spot becomes paramount at this point of the season.

While the projection may look daunting for the Sabres, they control their destiny with a game against Montreal on Monday (7 p.m. ET, TSN), followed by Florida and Tampa Bay before meeting Montreal again in nine days.

That run of games is pivotal for the Sabres because they play the Capitals on March 27, but it will not be a game of meaning if Buffalo doesn't obtain points in this critical stretch of games, which include three contests against teams currently out of the playoff picture.

San Jose finds itself out of the playoff picture as the week opens -- when was the last time that was the case?

The perennial Pacific Division champions have entered into a fight for their playoff lives.

That being said, the Sharks still project to the No. 8 position in the Western Conference -- largely based on having games in hand against the other teams in contention.

One of those games is Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN), a team well below them in the standings. A win can give the Sharks a bit of breathing room as they head to Calgary to face the surging Flames on Tuesday.

Two wins by the Sharks and they can re-enter the race for first in the Pacific.

That's how fast things can change as the regular season enters its final stage.

Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 1:19 PM

## Updated playoff projections: March 8th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

 EASTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 67 72 15 86 9 9th 66 70 16 86 10 10th 67 70 15 84 10 11th 66 68 16 83 11 12th 67 67 15 80 11 WESTERN CONFERENCE Current Position NHL Team Games Played Current Points Games Remaining Projected Points Wins to earn 8th 8th 65 74 17 91 9 9th 66 74 16 89 9 10th 68 74 14 88 9 11th 67 72 15 85 10 12th 67 68 15 81 12

Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 10:49 AM

## Craig Button's formula for playoff projections

There are many variables to consider when factoring in probability, so what appears below is not based on probability. I don't take account of strength of schedule, record of remaining opponents, etc.

Utilizing a team's current points percentage, a projection is made on the assumption that they will continue at that rate for the remaining games. Using each team's remaining games, the season-ending projection is made based on the current points percentage.

Tabulating the top eight teams in each conference based on projected points at the conclusion of the season, the projected playoff positions can be established. Looking at the eighth-best projected total in each conference, the minimum point total is established for the teams with projected end-of-season positioning outside the Top 8. A projection is made based on their remaining games of how many wins and the corresponding win percentage a team must attain to gain the No. 8 position in the conference.
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We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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