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Craig Button's formula for playoff projections

Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 10:49 AM

By Craig Button - Special to NHL.com / On the Playoff Button blog

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On the Playoff Button blog
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.

For example, the Winnipeg Jets are projected in the No. 8 position of the Eastern Conference on March 7. Their current points percentage is 53.73%. Using that percentage and assuming they will accumulate points at the same rate in their remaining 15 games, a projection of 88 points is made. Fifteen games multiplied by two (the value of a win in each game) multiplied by .5373 equals 16.12 points. The Jets currently have 72 points so a projection of 88 points is made.

I make one more assumption; to eliminate the variable of tie-breakers to some extent, I project the positioning to be 1 point above the eighth-best record and that rounds up the win number required. That means in their remaining 15 games, Winnipeg would need 9 wins (or win equivalents) or 17 points to safely qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That means the teams below them in the projected standings have to be better in their remaining games to overtake the Jets or, conversely, the Jets will have to fade.

I take the better approach, so looking at the Washington Capitals with 70 points and 16 games remaining, based on the above formula, they would need 10 wins or 19 points to qualify for the playoffs. Looking at Montreal, they would need to win all of their remaining games to get to 90 points. This is statistically possible, but improbable and thus why they will be eliminated based on projection with their next loss. That is what has happened in the Western Conference with Columbus & Edmonton.

This table gives you a glimpse or a snapshot on any given day of what a team needs to do to remain in playoff position or to get into a playoff position: 


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 66 68 16 83 11
11th 66 68 16 83 11
12th 66 67 16 82 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
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