Monday, March 12, 2012

NHL Playoff Race After 68 Games


At the end of 2011, I posted the NHL standings after 27 games, because at that time, some teams had played more games than others and it was tough to see just where they stood relative to each other. The 27-game mark is also about 1/3 of the way through the season, and I intended to post an update after 55 games, which would be the 2/3 mark. However, most teams completed their 55th game while I was on my most recent road trip and I didn't have time to do the analysis. So I've let the schedule run on a bit and am now posting the standings after 68 games played, as this makes for exactly half a season since the first post.

First, here are the points for the middle half of the season, ignoring divisional breakdowns.
East
NY Rangers      55
New Jersey      54
Pittsburgh      53
Ottawa          49
Boston          48
Philadelphia    48
Carolina        47
Washington      45
Tampa Bay       45
Winnipeg        44
Florida         43
NY Islanders    41
Buffalo         40
Toronto         36
Montreal        35

West
St. Louis       60
Nashville       59
Vancouver       59
Detroit         56
Dallas          48
Calgary         48
Colorado        47
Anaheim         47
San Jose        45
Chicago         44
Los Angeles     44
Phoenix         43
Columbus        32
Minnesota       31
Edmonton        30
St. Louis and New York Rangers led their conferences, which is not surprising as they both lead after 68 games as well. What is clear is that the West had a better top four with Detroit's 56 points enough to take first in the East. Perhaps the most interesting point is that the top three teams in the East are from the same division (Atlantic), and 3 of 4 in the West are also from the same division (Central) . I don't think it is much of a stretch to predict a Stanley Cup final between squads from these two divisions.

Toronto was only one point better than woeful Montreal during that stretch. They won 15 games in their first 27, then 15 in their next 41. See you next year.

Here's the 68-game standings, with that teams conference position after 27 games in brackets:

East            GP  W   L  OT   PTS
NY Rangers (1)  68  43  18  7   93
Boston (2)      68  40  25  3   83
Florida (3)     68  32  23 13   77
Pittsburgh (5)  68  42  21  5   89
Philadelphia (4)68  39  22  7   85
New Jersey (10) 68  39  24  5   83
Ottawa (9)      68  35  25  8   78
Washington (8)  68  34  28  6   74
-----------------------------------
Winnipeg (11)   68  32  28  8   72
Buffalo (7)     68  31  29  8   70
Tampa Bay (13)  68  31  30  7   69
Toronto (6)     68  30  30  8   68
Carolina (15)   68  26  27 15   67
Islanders (14)  68  28  31  9   65
Montreal (12)   68  26  32 10   62

West            GP  W   L  OT  PTS
St. Louis (6)   68  43  18  7   93
Vancouver (5)   68  42  18  8   92
Dallas (8)      68  37  26  5   79
Detroit (2)     68  44  21  3   91
Nashville (11)  68  40  21  7   87
Chicago (4)     68  36  25  7   79
San Jose (3)    68  34  25  9   77
Phoenix (7)     68  33  25 10   76
-----------------------------------
Colorado (12)   68  35  29  4   74
Calgary (13)    68  31  25 12   74
Los Angeles (9) 68  31  25 12   74
Anaheim (14)    68  29  29 10   68
Minnesota (1)   68  29  29 10   68
Edmonton (10)   68  26  35  7   59
Columbus (15)   68  22  39  7   51
Nothing much surprising here, there are only two spots up for grabs in the East with Buffalo going up against the Southeast teams, one of which will take the 3rd seed. Essentially Ottawa and New Jersey played themselves into the playoffs at the expense of Buffalo and Toronto.

In the West, Nashville knocked out LA, but the Kings are on the doorstep with two other teams in what should be an interesting race.

Generally though, both conferences have four stronger teams that should be fighting it out in the second round. However, note the two 4-5 matchups, both between these superior teams. The weak 3rd seed in both conferences means it is better to finish 6th than 5th, at least in the first round.

Let's have a quick playoff simulation, using the regular season series:

1st round
NY Rangers/Washington - Rangers lead 2-1
Boston/Ottawa - Boston leads 4-1
Florida/New Jersey - Florida leads 2-1-1
Pittsburgh/Philadelphia - Philadelphia lead 2-1
St. Louis/Phoenix - St. Louis leads 2-0
Vancouver/San Jose - Vancouver leads 3-0-1
Dallas/Chicago - Dallas leads 2-1
Detroit/Nashville - Detroit leads 3-2

No upsets here.

2nd round
NY Rangers/Philadelphia - Rangers lead 5-0
Boston/Florida - Boston leads 2-1
St. Louis/Detroit - Detroit leads 3-2
Vancouver/Dallas - Dallas leads 2-0

The West sees top two seeds go down.

Semi-finals
NY Rangers/Boston - Rangers lead 3-0
Dallas/Detroit - Detroit leads 4-0

Weak third seed finally shown the exit in the West.

Stanley Cup
NY Rangers/Detroit - Rangers won on March 21st, so they will be the champs!

Update (June, 2012): Nope, LA wins, just as I predicted last year! So look for the Rangers to win in 2013, assuming there is a season.

Best,

Sean

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