The magic number to get into the playoffs since the lockout and institution of the shootout has been between 90 and 95 in the Eastern Conference. Let's say you need to get to 93 pts this year.
With 7 pts in the first 13 games of the season, the Devils need 86 pts in their remaining 69 games to make the playoffs. 86 pts in 69 games is 102-pt pace over the course of an entire season, which means that they need to play like one of the top-3 teams in the conference from here on out. OK, that doesn't sound so bad - it's where most of us expected the Devils to be before the season started, right?
But 86 pts in 69 games is a lot. It would require a team to go, say, 40-23-6. And it leaves very little room for error.
Suppose the Devils do a complete 180 immediately but hit a slump in February in which they only gain 10 pts in 10 games (a slump which would look mighty good compared to what we've seen so far). That would leave them having to gain 76 pts in the other 59 games - equivalent to a record of 35-18-6. And I think such a slump is inevitable - they won't be able to stay hot for 5/6 of a season.
It's also unrealistic to think they'll just snap out of it immediately. If they start playing better over the next 5 games, getting 5 pts, and then get really hot, hit the same February slump as described above, and then finish the season strong, they would need 71 pts in the 54 games that would constitute their two hot streaks - equivalent to a record of 33-16-5.
So, based on this, I'll make my prediction - if the Devils can't put together a 3-game winning streak at some point in the next 12 games (which they'll have to do without Zach Parise), their playoff chances are toast. And even if they do, they've still got a huge mountain to climb and probably can't afford more than one slump for the rest of the season.
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