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Updated playoff projections: March 25th

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 12:11 PM

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 25th
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 76 84 6 90 4

9th 75 82 7 89 5
10th 75 78 7 85 7
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 75 86 7 93 5

9th 75 86 7 93 5
10th 77 86 5 91 5
11th 76 83 6 88 6
The skinny: Try telling the teams in the Stanley Cup Playoff race that Sunday is a day of rest.

After Saturday's games and the resulting shuffle in the standings, the Sunday schedule features intense battles for the final spots in each conference.

Washington hosts the Minnesota Wild and after losing Friday to the Winnipeg Jets, the Caps want to get back into the win column -- but, more importantly, also back into a playoff spot after Buffalo took the No. 8 spot with Saturday's win against the same Wild. Now, it is time for Washington to keep pace and for the jockeying to continue.

Let me emphasize how important this game is for the Caps. They are two points behind the Sabres for No. 8 and play Buffalo on Tuesday night. A loss Sunday, coupled with a loss to the Sabres on Tuesday  and the Caps will be four points out of the eighth spot with five games to play, including games against the Bruins and Rangers, who are the top two teams in the East. A win Sunday by Washington and the Caps will be in position to move two points ahead of the Sabres by beating them Tuesday. That could be a potential six-point swing of significant importance.

Down in Florida, the Panthers continue their path toward the playoffs in a meeting with the Islanders. They need to gain five points to hit the 91-point plateau that is the current projection for playoff participation in the East. With eight games remaining, the Panthers have put themselves in excellent position to do exactly that. But, they have more than that to play for as Boston and the No. 2 seed appears to be in the Panthers' reach -- especially if the Bruins lose in Anaheim in Sunday's close to a quick West Coast trip.

In the West, Phoenix hosts the St. Louis Blues in a pivotal game for both teams.

The Coyotes picked up a point Saturday night against San Jose in a shootout loss and held onto a playoff spot, remaining in seventh place. If 94 points remains the magic number -- and that is the projection in the West as of now -- then Phoenix moves to 89 points with a win. Needing five points in the five games that follow is an easier task than needing seven points in those five games.

St. Louis is trying to maintain its hold on first in the Western Conference and continue toward a Presidents' Trophy. The Vancouver Canucks, who won in OT against Colorado Saturday night and clinched the Northwest Division title, want to have a say but the Blues have control the race as long as they continue to win.

In Chicago, the Hawks play the Predators in a key matchup. Detroit sits in fourth with 95 points, Nashville, has 94 and the Hawks have 92. All three teams are in the hunt for the No. 4 seed in the postseason and the all-important home-ice advantage that come with it.

So while there might be some rest with 16 of the League's 30 teams enjoying a day off, there still promises to be unrest and upheaval in the standings and the playoff races that appear destined to rage until April 7.
Quote of the Day

The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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