After a disastrous weekend trip to Florida, the Devils now find themselves in big trouble in the playoff race. They now sit five back of 8th place in the Eastern Conference and, despite a mostly favorable schedule, have seen their odds dip considerably after being in not bad shape following last week's big win over the Flyers. The type of weekend they had against Florida and Tampa was one a team in their position could ill-afford. For the time being, scoreboard watching matters little, the Devils just flat out need wins. How many do they need to have a good shot at the postseason?
As things currently stand, the answer is in the neighborhood of 10 wins, which would get them to 91 points on the season. The cutoff for the postseason looks like it rests around 90 points. It could be higher and it could be lower, depending on how the final month shakes out, but at this particular moment, 90 is the number. Here's a pretty good visual representation of how things stand.
Visual version of the NHL standings. Yellow is where a team can end up. Green = where they land on current PPG pace. http://t.co/79gVWNHunh— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) March 18, 2014
So with everyone continuing on their current points-per-game pace, the Rangers would be the last team in in the east with 90 points. The Devils would finish 5 points out of it at 85 points based on current pace, so it's readily apparent that they have work to do (if you somehow didn't know this already).
SportsClubStats.com, for the uninitiated, is a good way to keep track of everyone's playoff odds throughout the season. Basically, it continuously calculates every team's probability of making the playoffs based on current standings and remaining schedules. It's also a helpful tool for seeing who the team should be rooting for on a given night. Taking a look at the Devils' season-long playoff probability chart, you can see how much of a complete roller coaster this year has been.
It's easy to see why this season has given everyone whiplash. The Devils, since rebounding from a dreadful start to the season, have been consistently bounding back and fourth over 50% playoff odds for the better part of four months. That pretty much mirrors the feel of the season, where the team constantly reaches the precipice of competence, only to immediately shoot themselves in the foot.
Their highest playoff probability of the season was 72%, immediately before their Stadium Series matchup with the Rangers, when they had a chance to leapfrog their cross-Hudson adversaries in the standings with a win. We all know how that ended, along with the stretch of blown leads and missed opportunities that followed, leading to only 33% odds going in to the Olympics. Coming out of the break, they again battled themselves back into good position, though, winning four out of six games, culminating in a huge win against Philly that took them up to 58% chances overall. The good feelings were again short lived, however, as this weekend's Sunshine State disaster dropped them down to 27% odds, their lowest since early November.
The Devils have been just a shade over .500 for the season, so continuing along that path gives them roughly 14 points in 14 games to finish with 85. The odds of making the playoffs with 85 points are between 0.1 and 0.0% so treading water is no longer an option for this team. That 90-point mark mentioned earlier seems like the line according to SporstClubStats as well. Getting to 91 points gives the Devils a 60-70% chance to get in, whereas 90 points leaves them at only 40-45%, so to get the odds on their side, the Devils need to shoot for at least 91. Looking at the Devils' chances if they finish anywhere between the 87 and 93 point mark illustrates just how crucial each point will be in their final 14.
With 71 points right now, that means the Devils need 10 wins in their remaining 14 games down the stretch, or more accurately, they can drop a maximum of 8 points. It's a difficult task, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility. If the Devils could find some way, any way, to get on a small roll and string together four or five wins at some point during this stretch, it would help their cause immensely. Now, given that the Devils still haven't put together 3 straight wins since November, it seems difficult to fathom, but the schedule really does get pillow-soft after the next handful of games, so if there is any time to do it, a stretch that includes the Leafs and then 9-straight non-playoff teams seems like the place. Even if you feel a winning streak is impossible at this point, the Devils don't technically need one to accomplish the goal of 20 points in the final 14 games.
So do I think the Devils' climbing back into the playoffs is possible? Definitely. Do I think it's particularly likely? Well, I'm certainly skeptical at this point. I always try to stay optimistic about the chances, but this team has an awful lot of ground to make up in a lot of time and they've showed an immense propensity to falter whenever they put themselves in a positive position this year. If they can take five or six points in their next four games, I think they are still breathing going into the cushy stretch of their schedule. A couple regulation losses in the next few could spell the end, though.
So the task at hand is now pretty clear, but do the Devils have what it takes to get there? How do you feel about their chances? Are you holding out any hope or did the wreck this past weekend have you packing it in? What do you think needs to happen for them get on track? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading.