FanPost

52 Points or Magic Number Time

If the Devils win all 15 of their remaining games they are guaranteed a playoff spot. This is life in a vacuum and based on the fact that Winnipeg/Carolina could, at most, finish with 66 points, while New Jersey could finish with 67 by finishing 15-0-0 over the rest of the season. That's not going to happen, but it's certainly interesting to look at what the Devils need to do to secure their playoff spot.

Vs Florida: Any combination of 8 wins by New Jersey/losses by Florida will ensure that the Devils will finish ahead of the Cats in the standings. This is an interesting juxtaposition from last season when they won their division and were awarded home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The likelihood here is that Florida will lose 8 of their remaining 14 games anyways, so we can safely say the Devils will finish in at least 14th place. Good start.

Vs Tampa Bay: The magic number to eliminate the Bolts is 11.5. Tampa has played just below .500 all season and is likely going to be movers at the deadline. I would expect them to drop 8 of their remaining 15, at least, so three wins and an OT loss will secure 13th place for New Jersey. This is pretty much a lock.

Vs Philadelphia & Buffalo: Both of these major underachievers can cap out at 60 points if they miraculous win all their remaining games. That means any combination of 12 wins by the Devils/losses by Philly/Buffalo would suffice. If the Devils finish 7-7-1 then the Flyers and Sabres would need to finish with less than 5 losses each, meaning well over a .600 winning percentage. This is something neither team would be even remotely capable of at this time. Consider 11th place all but ensured, so long as the Devils can finish at or above .500%.

Vs Washington: The Capitals also have 15 games left and could top out at 61 points. Similar to the Flyers/Sabres, they would need to win 10 of 15 if the Devils finish at .500. While Washington has certainly improved lately, and I wouldn't count them out for winning 10 of 15, the likelihood is very low. Not to mention if the Devils can muster a 9-6-0 finish (.600 Winning Percentage) then Washington needs to finish 12-3-0 to pass them. I don't want to count the Capitals out of the playoffs, but they're probably not catching up to the Devils. 10th place seems safe.

Vs New York/B: The Islanders are a bit of a conundrum. New Jersey has very little leeway to keep pace with the Islanders who are only two games behind the Devils in the standings, with 15 games left to play apiece. The Islanders are a .500 team this season, which is a vast improvement over past seasons. The Devils would do well to play at that .600 level (9-6-0) in order to stay ahead of the young Islanders squad who could theoretically make a push for the final spot in the East. Consider 9th place a lock so long as the Devils can take 18 of their 30 remaining points (8-5-2 finish perhaps?).

Vs Carolina/Winnipeg: One of these teams is going to win the Southeast Division. The other team is likely going to miss the playoffs. These are basically are pace-setter teams. Whichever of these two teams struggles more, is setting our goal, assuming they're still playing better than the Islanders. Carolina is just over .500 this season, so they'll likely be losing their race with Winnipeg. If Carolina gets to 50 points then the Devils need to get to 51, and that means playing at a .500 level, or safely at that .600 level.

Conclusion:
The Eastern Conference playoff cutoff is likely not going to hit 56 points as John predicted earlier this season. The Devils and Rangers are neck-and-neck right now for the bottom two spots in the conference playoffs, just behind Toronto in terms of best possible finish. The absolute minimum goal for New Jersey should be to pick up 18 of the 30 points available to them as the season comes to a close. Also, of critical importance will be the games in the final week against the Rangers, as they could very likely determine who draws the Penguins/Bruins and who draws Winnipeg. We haven't played great against the 'Peg this season, but boy do I know who I'd rather play in the opening round of the playoffs.

Nine wins. 52 points. That is likely the bar the Devils will need to get to if they want to play for Lord Stanley's Cup this season.

All FanPosts and FanShots are the respective work of the author and not representative of the writers or other users of In Lou We Trust.

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