So there is On Goal Analysis (OGA), making bold claims of teams’ ability to qualify for the playoffs starting as far back as 24 October 2008. As you look at www.ongoalanalysis.com you see three teams each in the East and West that are sitting at the OGA call of ‘In The Curve’ – playing on an average level, neither IN nor OUT of the Playoffs at this time.
“What?” you ask? "But just how does OGA’s proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) see the final Playoff positions being decided?”
If you are looking at the OGA home page sidebar, you can see that seven teams have been called Chasing Stanley, a Playoff berth clinch, in the standings. Of the three teams In The Curve, who is most likely to earn the remaining Playoff berth? As we project out the PQC to the end of the night on April 12th, the FLORIDA PANTHERS have the most potential to finish with a post-season bid.
But translated from the PQC into the difference in winning games, there is only one game each separating FLORIDA, CAROLINA and BUFFALO in order. Even tighter is the variation in current winning percentage of each team. From FLORIDA to CAROLINA, there is a .9% spread. That’s right, the PANTHERS are winning just under 1% more than the ‘CANES, or, over an 82 game season, only less than one more game. I would say it doesn’t get much closer than that, but there is only a 1/4 of 1% deviation between CAROLINA and BUFFALO which translates to less than one Overtime Loss (OTL)
But wait! As of games completed on 10 March, a glance up and down the line shows FLORIDA outpacing The RANGERS in jockeying for Playoff position. This equates to a hair’s breadth of a lead to OGA as the PANTHERS’ distance in front of NEW YORK in terms of potential wins is only the same as what stands between CAROLINA and BUFFALO.
This all comes down to the fact that OGA stands by its calls of IN the Playoffs and says as of 10 MARCH it looks like FLORIDA is the front runner to secure the eighth Playoff spot, never mind the seed. BUT, and this is a HUGE ‘BUT,’ CAROLINA could out distance all of them if they continue playing .800 Hockey, and short losing streaks by FLORIDA and BUFFALO may see them out of the Playoffs all together.
In this continental direction, OGA says there are only six teams Chasing Stanley, so two playoff berths are up for grabs. Of these three In The Curve teams, who is most likely to move on to the post-season ? Calculated for April 12th OGA style, COLUMBUS and EDMONTON are those two teams. The STARS’ recent losing woes are their difference here. In translating everything to simple WINs, the BLUE JACKETS and EDMONTON are about one win and one OTL apart, while DALLAS follows EDMONTON by a scant OTL.
“But just a doggone minute!” you exclaim. “I can count, and the difference between 8th and 13th in the West is only two wins! That could change in one weekend…”
Basically, OGA agrees with you. Any three-game losing streak can be a season-ender, just like DALLAS is harming their chances by displaying an historical 9 – 17 record (.346 Hockey) from 1 – 10 MARCH since the Lockout.
“And MINNESOTA is ranked 9th right now, yet you say they are still Chasing Stanley? Come on!” Actually, dropping south of VANCOUVER in the current standings, our as-of-10-MARCH projection of the possible last three teams to survive the regular season in the West in order are, COLUMBUS, MINNESOTA, and EDMONTON barely nudging out NASHVILLE.
If the higher-ranked team loses to the lower, or if a team drops two or three straight games, the order of magnitude of the “L” in this conference is severely damaging to Playoff hopes. Just about ANY West-on-West game is at a ‘must-see’ level of excitement.
The above are projections from teams’ potential stature at season’s end. The In The Curve gang is a tight-knit bunch who could come unraveled if any mini-skid occurs. Seen another way, any of these teams could shut all of we pundits up if they just start pocketing the ‘W.’
The Kenny Chesney song was called, and advises us, ‘Don’t Blink.’ Because just as not blinking in a small town means you miss the only stop sign in those parts, doing so instead of watching these teams duke it out to 12 April means you miss potential changes in the final standings NIGHTLY.
So saddle up, Ladies and Gentlemen. The final, wild ride to the NHL’s FIRST finish line is already on…