Many of you may remember my Playoff Death Watch Page from last season. With this season being quite a bit more positive, I'll be taking an early look at exactly what it will take to clinch a playoff spot. More "After the Jump."
With the Devils being 7 points up on 9th place Washington, their playoff spot is obviously not set in stone, but one has to admit their chances are looking good. The Devils are one of 6 teams in the East that are technically already in control of their own destiny. Obviously, they're not going to win all the rest of their games (even though they don't have to), but they are at the point where they need less points to clinch a playoff spot than are available to them.
The Devils' magic number is currently 46 (discounting the ROW tiebreaker). Meaning they need 46 points between their gains and Washington's losses to finish with 1 point more than the Capitals. With 26 games remaining, 23-3-0 gets them there no matter what anybody else does. OK, so you're saying that's unreasonable. You're right, the Caps won't win all their games, so the Devils won't have to win 23.
What if Washington gets 2/3 of the points available to them (that's 109 points over a whole season, quite a run), and round up, meaning 35 points in their 26 games. That brings them to a total of 96. For the Devils to get to 97, they need a record which garners them 29 points. That's 14-11-1 (.558). That's .029 WORSE than they've done all season so far.
OK, so you're thinking Washington won't play .133 better than they have all season. What happens if they remain at the same pace (again, rounding up) as they have so far. They're at .545 right now. Over their last 26 games that would be 29 points (and .558). That puts them at 90. For the Devils to get 91 (23 more), they need to be 11-14-1.
I think the actual results will be somewhere in the middle, what if we split the difference and give the Caps 32 points (.615), ending the season at 93. For the Devils, that means they need 26 to get to 94. 13-13-0.
Everybody currently below the Caps would obviously have to do better than that to give the Devils a run. As Freddie Prinze used to say; "Looooooking Gooood!"