NHL Playoff eliminations start…NOW! And a MN WILD update!

Marc Elliott

Minnesota Wild fall 2-1 to the  Calgary Flames in a Saturday Matinee tilt
Minnesota Wild fall 2-1 to the Calgary Flames in a Saturday Matinee tilt

ST. PAUL… While perusing my daily NHL information recently, I heard an interesting conversation by some analysts regarding the thinning out of the playoff projections as the season went on. One of them held the theory that if a club was not at the .500 mark 20 games into the season that that team most likely would not make the playoff for that particular year. I’ve never seen any empirical data to support that (nor did I really dig for any) but I gave it some thought. And today looking at various projections and then the reality of the standings themselves, I might be more apt to state that perhaps a 30-game benchmark might provide more of an indicator then a 20-game standard. From a media standpoint as well, wouldn’t you want to be pushing as many teams as possible as potential playoff entrants? Why the rush to start stating that certain teams have already suffered their playoff chances “death” so soon in? 

If you are a fan you already know the ropes, there are 31 teams and 16 of them get into the Stanley Cup tournament. And personally, I would hold that there might be a couple of teams that are slightly under the .500 mark that I could still see obtaining a playoff berth, so I’ll be careful here, but here is what the data says. As of this writing there are (using a W-L criteria only) 16 teams above .500 and 15 teams below that marker. Here is that list, in order of the league standings and how many games under .500 they are; PIT, -1, VAN, -4, DAL, -1, NYI, -1, CARO, -4, NYR, -4, DET, -6, OTT, -6, FLA, -7, ARI, -4, NJD, -9, STL, -7, PHI, -7, CHI, -15 and the LAK at -12. WOW! How quickly things can change! Here are the Hawks and Kings with 5 Cups between them since 2010 and they are a collective 27 games under .500. That is a head spinner right there. Let’s pick this list apart.

Let’s drop the easy ones first; it’s fairly safe to say that the Kings and Hawks are not getting in this year. No team can make up that many games, the pace and win percentage you would have to perform at for the remainder of the season are simply too great. Likewise, I believe we can wrap it up on the Flyers, Blues and Devils. Both the Flyers (just fired Coach Dave Hakstol as I type) and Devils made it in last year and will be taking a step back. I believe it would be a safe wager to drop the Sens and Red Wings out as well, and remember here, these are games under .500, not points out of a playoff position. Six games under is twelve points to make up and that’s not an easy task. Next, I would say that most likely Florida and Arizona don’t make it. Last year the Panthers had a pretty so-so first half of the year and then played like gangbusters the second half ending up one point short of getting in. I’m reluctant to say they are already done, but they probably are. The Coyotes are an up and down club and can’t seem to get any sort of consistency built up. They had a 5-game win streak earlier in the year and have now lost 5 of their last 6. It also appears that their number one Tender, Antti Raanta is out for the remainder of the year with an injury. 

Next you have the Rangers, Hurricanes and Canucks all at 4 games under. The Rangers are good at home and weak on the road. They are also 2-8 in their L10. I think they are out. The Canes’ are playing with a bit more energy this year, but they are under the radar at home and on the road and are 3-7 in their L10. They would struggle to get in. Then we have the Canucks. I wrestle with how to categorize them and assess their chances. They have a couple of the best young players in the game in Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. Boeser would have challenged for ROTY honors last year if not for injury and no one would be surprised to see Pettersson win it this year. The kid is that good. And last night they beat the suddenly hot Edmonton Oilers. I’ll reserve them a spot on the playoff bubble. Of the remaining three clubs, the Pens, Stars and Isles, they all still have a legitimate opportunity to get in. With the core the Pens have in Sid, Geno, Phil the Thrill and Letang, it’s not reasonable to count them out of anything, but they have some challenges. Number one is who will their goalie be moving forward? Matt Murray is struggling to stay healthy this year. The Stars? Their offensive core with Benn, Seguin and Radulov is epic to say the least, but then there is the rest of the roster and they have depth issues all over the place. The Isles, under new coach and reigning SC winner Barry Trotz have finally found some structure to their game that had been mostly MIA last season. They lost John Tavares, but I can’t dismiss them, not right now. If one or two of these teams elevate and get in, which team or teams, already holding a spot, drop out? Hmmmm…

ON MY LIST, based on league standings, the WILD is 16th. The reality is that based on current Conference and Division standings, the WILD is 3 points out of a playoff spot. Can they get back in? I had them going 1-2 last week, they surprised and went 2-1, beating MON and FLA before dropping a tough 2-1 game on Saturday to Calgary. For the playoffs they are behind EDM but hold 2 games in hand. They are even with VAN but hold 4 games in hand. DAL is a point behind with one game in hand. If I were to sum up the CAL loss in one term, the Wild were simply, “out-toughed”. Here we go;

WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 16th, trending for 93 points with a 63% chance at the playoffs, 2% chance for the SC. The SAGARIN, 11th on a 17-15 record, 3-8 vs. T10, 5-11 vs. T16, schedule difficulty rank of 15th. NHL Standings, t13th with 3 other teams @ 17 wins, t16th with 36 points, t16th on pct. of points available @ .563. 16th in the league (based on ROW), 9th in the Western Conference on a 17-13-2 record, 4th in the Central, 9th position in the Wild Card, one spot out. 10-5-2/Home, 7-8/Road, 4-6 L10. 16th in GF/101, 5th in GA/90, 8th in PP% @ 24.3, 2nd in PK @ 85.6 and 14th in PIM with 281. This week: vs. SJS, @ PIT, vs. DAL. I’m hoping for a 2-1 week! HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL! PEACE