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Updated playoff projections: April 2nd

Monday, 04.02.2012 / 9:47 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 2nd
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 79 92 3 95
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 80 98 2 100
7th 79 91 3 94 2
8th 79 90 3 93 2

9th 79 89 3 92 3
The skinny: The Washington Capitals visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday with an opportunity to apply enormous pressure to the Buffalo Sabres.

A win by the Caps and the end will be near in Buffalo on Tuesday when the Sabres put their Stanley Cup Playoff hopes on the line against the Maple Leafs, who already beat Buffalo this past weekend to put the Sabres in such a precarious position. If the Caps win Monday, Buffalo will be four points out, and on the losing end of the tiebreaker. With just three games remaining, and a maximum of six points on offer, the Sabres realistically would need to win out just to have a chance.

Whoever runs the music in the Washington dressing room might want to crank up Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" throughout the day because that is what this game is all about for the Caps. Washington is 3-1-1 against the already-eliminated Lightning this season, so there are no "mental" hurdles to overcome for the Caps. I'm a big believer that when teams have an opportunity to put themselves in an advantageous position, it best get done. Washington has already beaten the Bruins and Canadiens in shootouts to get a leg up in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Amazingly, they still have an outside chance to win the Southeast Division as the Florida Panthers stumble to the finish line. Washington and Florida meet Thursday in a game that could have huge seeding implications. But first, Washington must take care of business Monday.

Moving to the West Coast, the Kings are in an almost identical situation to the Caps.

With a win Monday against the Edmonton Oilers, the Kings can move three points up on the Sharks and four on the Stars before those two teams meet on Tuesday in Dallas. However, both the Sharks and Stars will have played one less game than the Kings, who sit in the Pacific Division lead at the moment. Phoenix is also in the mix with 91 points.

With the projection in the West being 93 points to qualify, Los Angeles will feel good reaching that total with a victory on Monday, but little will be decided. If the Kings win, the Avalanche, who have two games remaining, will not be able to catch Los Angeles and the loser of Tuesday's Sharks-Stars game will begin to "look smaller" in the Kings' rear-view mirror. But if the Kings fail to win, they will find themselves in a real fight for a playoff spot as they conclude the season with two games against the Sharks.

A team with playoff designs has to beat teams below it in the standings at this point of the season, and with the Oilers far below the Kings, this is a must-have two points for Los Angeles. The Kings can't take the Oilers lightly, though, as Edmonton has reeled off three consecutive road victories and has a record of 5-0-2 in its past seven road games.

The teams not playing on a light Monday schedule will likely be glued to TVs across North America. You can bet the Sabres will be watching the game in Tampa, as will the Panthers. The Sharks, Stars, Coyotes and Avalanche will have a keen eye on Los Angeles and might even break into chants of "Let's go Oilers" as Stanley Cup Playoff hopes will rise and fall throughout the night.

The standings will tell the story at the end of the night, so be sure to check NHL.com for the definitive word. Six days to go in the regular season and the race is intensifying.
Quote of the Day

I just wanted to do something to take my mind off the shot and let me relax a little bit. It seemed like the fans liked it. I'm glad I was able to score.

— Oilers forward Taylor Hall on lifting his arms to fire up the crowd before his penalty shot
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