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Updated playoff projections: April 1st

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 11:40 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: April 1st
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
7th 78 90 4 94 1
8th 79 88 3 91 2

9th 79 86 3 89 3
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
6th 79 97 3 100
7th 79 91 3 94 2
8th 79 90 3 93 2

9th 79 89 3 92 3
The skinny: On the first day of April, the main focus returns to the Eastern Conference, and with just six days remaining in the regular season, so much is still left to be decided.

With just seven days remaining in the season, six playoff berths are still up for grabs. Four division titles, both conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy also are still to be decided.

One of those spots can be clinched Sunday if the Ottawa Senatrors can beat the New York Islanders in an afternoon affair at Nassau Coliseum. While the Buffalo Sabres, who suffered a blow to their hopes with a loss to Toronto Saturday night, could still catch the Senators at 92 points, Ottawa would win based on having more regulation and OT wins (ROW) than the Sabres, which is the first tiebreaker.

It's been a turnaround season for the Sens and qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be a great feat for head coach Paul MacLean and his players.

Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers visit the Motor City to meet the Red Wings with lots on the line for both teams. Florida can move to 92 points and ever closer to their first visit to the postseason since 2000. The Sabres can still catch the Panthers, if they cough up the Southeast Division lead to the Washington Capitals, at 92 points and would win the ROW tiebreaker. So, you can bet the Sabres will be cheering for a Wings victory as Buffalo has been reduced to looking for some help from others after not helping itself this past weekend. Buffalo lost at home to the Penguins Friday and were then upset by the Leafs Saturday.

As for the Red Wings, they find themselves tied with Chicago and one point behind Nashville in the race for fourth in the Western Conference. The fourth-place team at the end of the season will get home ice in what will likely be one of the toughest series of the first round. With a great home record that features just six losses in regulation, home ice in the first round should be incentive enough for Detroit in this game. This is Detroit's game in hand on Nashville. The Wings will still hold a game in hand on the Blackhawks, who play Minnesota Sunday night, less than 24 hours after clinching a playoff berth with a wild win against Nashville

In a likely first-round playoff matchup preview, the Flyers visit Pittsburgh in a nationally televised matinee (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) to take on the Penguins in a game that has home-ice implications as well. A Pittsburgh win and the Penguins move five points ahead of Philadelphia and almost certainly assure themselves of the fourth seed and home ice. The teams meet one more time this season so a Flyers' win Sunday can make that last meeting, on the final day of the regular season, one of major significance.
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