Today, the official website of the New Jersey Devils has an article by Eric Marin titled: "Next step for the Devils: the .500 mark." In it is this statement, along with head coach Jacques Lemaire's reaction to it:
Once 10-29-2, the Devils (30-31-4) are one win away from the .500 mark. They will have the chance to reach it for the first time this season when they host Ottawa on Tuesday.
"One [win] away? Good," Lemaire said. "That’s what we were looking for. A long time ago."
He added: "We thought that it was impossible, but maybe now it could be something possible."
Apologies to Mr. Marin and Mr. Lemaire, but it isn't as clear cut as that.
Yes, a win over Ottawa tomorrow would put the Devils at a nice looking record of 31-31-4. That would give the Devils 66 out of 132 possible points, which is only 50%, or .500, in terms of points. That's not really a .500 record because the Devils would not yet have won half of their games this season.
Since, four of those 66 points have come in losses, the earliest the Devils can get to a .500 winning percentage would be to win their next five games, starting with the win over Ottawa. That would put them at 35-31-4, which would be exactly .500 in terms of winning percentage. It would also give them 74 points with 12 games left to play in the season.
Doing so would be a ridiculous feat, just as ridiculous as going 20-2-2 in the last 24 games, as it would mean extending the Devils' current winning streak of 4 to 9 games. The margin for error for New Jersey to at least win 50% of their games this season isn't very large. And playing beyond April 10 is even thinner. But don't take my word for it, take Jacques Lemaire's:
"It’s not that you don’t believe, the thing is, games are running out," Lemaire said. "That’s what I’m looking at. Soon there’ll be 10 games left. Soon. So, let’s say we lose one, two games there. We’re back to where we were. You tell me we’re going to win all of them, I’ll tell you we’ll make the playoffs, but we won’t. And we might not make it winning all of them depending on what the other teams do, because they’ll win their share."
With all of the speculation on where the team could be in April, let's go back .500. I don't think the Devils will be able to get in unless they get beyond a .500 winning percentage at a minimum. I believe hitting a true .500 winning percentage would be a fantastic achievement given how bad they were entering 2011. So let's put it to a poll. Feel free to discuss this further in the comments.
And if you'd like a stat to influence your choice (and why not), Gabe Desjardens at Behind the Net has an updated list of team's Fenwick percentages both at home and on the road when the game's tied. The Devils sit 16th in the NHL on the road but fourth at home, further evidence New Jersey is (still) better than their record indicates.