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Updated playoff projections: April 5th

Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 8:51 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 5th
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 80 92 2 94
8th 80 88 2 90 2

9th 80 88 2 90 2
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
6th 80 98 2 100
7th 80 93 2 95 1
8th 80 92 2 94 2

9th 80 89 2 91 3
The skinny: At the Trade Deadline, the projections for the No. 8 spots in the Eastern and Western Conference was 89 points and 91 points, respectively. The total points required for Stanley Cup is going to be at least 92 in the West and could be as high as 92 in the East. Time for a little recap of what the projection was on Feb. 27 and what has transpired entering action Thursday.

Eastern Conference (Feb. 27)

Standings Points Projected wins Actual record since Feb. 27
3. Florida 70 10 8-5-6
9. Washington 67 11 9-6-3
12. Buffalo 62 14 12-4-2
Western Conference (Feb. 27)

Standings Points Projected wins Actual record since Feb. 27
3. Phoenix 73 10 8-6-4
7. San Jose 71 11 9-7-3
8. Dallas 70 11 9-7-1
9. Los Angeles 68 12 12-5-1
10. Colorado 68 12 9-6-2
Florida has benefitted from gaining a single point in six games, an equivalent of three wins. So, as the Panthers prepare to play Washington on Thursday, they need a single point to qualify.

Washington has earned close to the original projection, but with a higher actual point total now necessary it will need at least one more win to qualify. If the Caps beat the Panthers Thursday night, they will still be alive for Southyeastern Division title and the No. 3 seed in the West when the season concludes with all 30 teams playing Saturday.

On Feb. 27, Buffalo needed to go on a tear and it did; but it still may not be enough. The Sabres must win in Philadelphia to keep their playoff hopes vibrant and need a Panthers win against the Caps to gain control of their own playoff destiny entering the final game of the season. If the Capitals win out, Buffalo can not pass them.

In the West, the Kings were true to projection and reeled off the necessary wins to put them in the driver's seat and on the brink of playoff qualification. Now, the Kings just need one of four points in its home and home against San Jose to close the season.

Dallas and Colorado will be rooting hard for the Kings to beat the Sharks in theses two games because both the Stars and Avs must help themselves and get help to qualify for the postseason. Dallas and Colorado have both fallen short of the needed wins and equalling the projection looks to leave one or both short of the playoffs.

Phoenix, meanwhile, has met the wins total, or points equivalent. One more point guarantees the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive year for the Coyotes.

The math tells a very accurate story, but ultimately it falls to the teams to win their games. Win and the points add up. Lose and you are looking at all kinds of combinations and permutations to get you to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis