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Updated playoff projections: March 20th

Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 9:28 AM

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

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On the Playoff Button blog
Updated playoff projections: March 20th
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 73 80 9 89 5

9th 73 78 9 86 6
10th 72 76 10 85 7
11th 73 73 9 80 9
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 74 83 8 91 6

9th 72 82 10 92 6
10th 72 82 10 92 6
11th 73 81 9 89 7
The skinny: Tuesday night in the NHL should be billed as "The Race for Eighth."

After the games Monday night, my projection for points needed to qualify for the playoffs is 93 in the West and 90 in the East. Let's look first at the West. Dallas is in first place in the Pacific Division as they play host to Phoenix, but they are tied in points. The Coyotes have played one more game, so this one takes on added importance, if that was possible.

Should the Stars win in regulation, it would force Phoenix to need six wins in their remaining eight games to reach 95 points and feel safe about avoiding tiebreaker scenarios. A Dallas win moves them to 85 points and makes winning five of their remaining nine games a lot more manageable.

San Jose, after losing at home Monday to Anaheim, travels to Los Angeles to take on the Kings. This will be the first of three remaining games between the two clubs so the outcomes of these games will have a direct bearing on each club's playoff hopes.

You can bet on one thing -- the other teams in the race are hoping there are not three-point games. Calgary takes on Colorado in Denver and a loss will make their task of qualifying for the playoffs extremely difficult. With eight games remaining after Tuesday, the Flames would need six wins to get into comfortable playoff position. Colorado has a similar situation facing them and a loss will force them to win six of their last seven games to surpass the projected cut line at 93 points. This is a game that has serious repercussions for the loser, and may in fact ensure that team of being outside the top eight at the conclusion of play on April 7th.

The East is not without its own interesting scenarios Tuesday. Winnipeg visits Pittsburgh to try and keep pace with Washington and Buffalo, who both won Monday night. A loss by the Jets, and it will be closer to striking midnight on their season than anybody in Winnipeg would like. They would need to win seven of the last nine games to get to 90 points.

Florida visits Philadelphia and the Panthers are feeling the heat from the Capitals in the race for first in the Southeast. The Panthers do need only four wins to surpass the 90-point mark, so they are in a great position to end their long playoff absence. They also have a very forgiving schedule.

Can't forget about the Penguins and Flyers -- they are both trying to gain a foothold on fourth in the conference and home ice in the first round of the playoffs, while also keeping their hopes of catching the N.Y. Rangers for first in the East very much alive.
Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players