It’s going to be out the other teams (more) than us," goaltender Martin Brodeur said today. "We have to do our share, but other teams have to help us out a little bit if we want to get in that race. We only can control what we can do and that’s what we’re facing right now.
Marty is absolutely right, and in the spirit of his assessment I have put together another L10 projection for the Eastern Conference. Before I go on, I highly recommend you check out Frank G's playoff deathwatch page at http://mysite.verizon.net/fgiannettijr/DevilsPlayoffDeathWatch.htm. He's got a great analysis of how the Devils need to perform given each team's overall performance this season, and given each team playing at a .500 level for the rest of the season.
A lot took place this weekend in the Eastern Conference. The Devils took three out of four possible points in games against Florida and Montreal while some other teams didn't fare as well. Thanks to this, Jersey's Team may have finally climbed out of the conference basement for good, having gained a point on the Islanders and tying the anemic Senators. Ottawa plays Vancouver tonight, and so long as they lose in regulation we'll hold onto 13th place for another day.
So everyone understands, what follows below is the projected Eastern Conference final standings if every team performs at the level they've played at over the course of their last ten games. This works very simply. The Devils, who I will use as a great example, are 7-1-2 in their last ten games. This means they've captured 16 out of a possible 20 points, or, an .800 percentage. The Devils have played 53 games and have 29 remaining. They can capture a total of 58 points (if they won every game remaining). An .800% performance over 29 games equates to 46 points. Added to the Devils current 42 points they are projected to finish the season with 88 points.
Applying this formula to all fifteen teams gives you the following standings at the end of the season. In parenthesis is the number of points they are projected to gain, and the change this presents from their current position in the standings:
1. Philadelphia Flyers (121, +0)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (110, +0)
3. Montreal Canadiens (104, +3)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (117, +0)
5. Washington Capitals (104, +0)
6. Boston Bruins (102, -3)
7. Buffalo Sabres (90, +3)
8. New Jersey Devils (88, +5)
9. Carolina Hurricanes (87, -1)
10. Florida Panthers (82, +1)
11. New York Rangers (81, -4)
12. Atlanta Thrashers (77, -3)
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (68, -1)
14. New York Islanders (65, +1)
15. Ottawa Senators (54, -1)
There are a few key changes since last Friday (when I last went through this exercise). The Flyers and Penguins have both pushed the envelope but are keeping pace with each other. Boston has slipped a little and it looks like Montreal could make a push to finish with the top spot in the Northeast division. Buffalo, last week predicted to finish with 97 points has slipped down while the Capitals have returned to their expected level of play. Most importantly though, the Devils can still hold onto the eighth seed in the playoffs if everyone keeps up this pace!
As I mentioned last week I am not saying I think the Devils will make the playoffs. Like Frank, I am merely providing one statistical analysis. Hockey is not a game of statistics like baseball so you have to take this kind of analysis with a grain of salt. A lot of teams on this list fluctuated a lot with only one weekend of games to sample from. That's the nature of statistics. While Atlanta was projected to hit 77 on Friday, and still has the same mark, the Capitals went from 94 to 104. The Devils fluctuated down slightly from 91 to 88, but the Rangers dropped three full games, from 87 to 81.
So what's the point of all this? Like the title says, I want to help keep some hope alive and will continue to do so until the day the Devils are eliminated from the playoffs. Should we sell off guys like Hedberg and Arnott to pick up some draft picks? Heck no! Not until the day we're eliminated from the playoffs. If that day happens to come after the trade deadline then so be it. I don't really want to help anyone else win the cup anyways!