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Updated playoff projections: March 29th

Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 9:26 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 29th
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 77 86 5 91 3

9th 77 84 5 89 4
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 77 88 5 93 3

9th 77 87 5 92 4
The skinny: The road to the playoffs for the Washington Capitals has become a little more difficult with their loss to Buffalo on Tuesday, and it doesn't get easier playing in Boston against a Bruins team that has won five of their past six games.

It is still a very tight race in the East with Washington, Buffalo and Ottawa vying for the last two spots. My projection for the eighth spot is 92 points, so the Capitals (84 points) have the least margin for error -- they need to win four of their remaining five games. While Washington holds the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins) over Buffalo and Ottawa, a loss virtually guarantees a zero margin for error in their final four games.

The Florida Panthers visit the Minnesota Wild with a five-point cushion ahead of the Caps for the Southeast Division lead. They need only three points in their remaining six games to get to 92. That is a far more enviable position to be in than the Caps find themselves in.

In the Western Conference, losses Wednesday night by the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche have seen their playoff hopes essentially vanish. My projected 'magic' number is 94 points in the West, and the Avs and Flames can max out at 93 with a sweep of their remaining four games.

The problem for these two teams is they meet in Calgary on Friday. One team will come up short again and no amount of help from other teams will be of assistance, while the winner will be left with the faintest of hope.

Phoenix has an important home game Thursday against the Sharks. Phoenix got some help for their playoff hopes Wednesday night when the Ducks beat the Sharks. A win by the Coyotes moves them ahead of the Sharks and Kings and only one point behind the Stars.

The Pacific division has one of the best races in the NHL and it will go down to final day (April 7th) before it is settled. It looks like three teams from the Pacific will be in the playoffs this year, and the Coyotes want to be one of them. A win will move them in that direction, and they have the added consolation of knowing the Sharks face the Stars and Kings two more times each.

A playoff race creates some of the fiercest games and rivalries as well as some of the strangest bedmates -- depending on where your team is standing.
Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers