At On Goal Analysis, we have you covered as your favorite team has hit or just passed the 50-game mark this season.
We give you three things of interest in this blog. First is an accounting of your team’s Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) which gives you the earliest possible call of IN (Chasing Stanley) or OUT (Tee Time) of the 2011 Playoffs. We also calculate their projected finish in terms of Conference position and team points. And finally, we tell you about the likelihood of a surge or ebb in team play heading to Game 60 (G60).
Without further ado, we now hit the Eastern Conference followed by the Western in alphabetical order.
The Eastern Conference
Atlanta Thrashers. ATL currently is playing In The Curve, or just about average against the PQC. The only year better, PQC-wise, was 2006/7. But having just hit the 55-game mark, they need W’s in the last half of this 10-game stretch or they may meet requirements for Tee Time. Their current projected points/finish in the East is 86 points/10th place. And in the next 10-game stretch, they are most likely to have another period of a diminishing PQC against the Curve which may just see them find themselves out of playoff contention.
Boston Bruins. BOS has been Chasing Stanley since G20/24 November. They have had a few minor dips in their PQC, but currently are playing a notch better than any season except their monstrous 2008/9 year. Projected points/finish in the East at G53 is 101 points/3rd place. Note they bounce back and forth with Montreal between 3rd or 5th/6th place with PIT and/or WSH in the middle and based on who won or lost each night. You might see them increase their PQC again between G50 and G60, but it would be a first against their post-lockout averages to have a third PQC-gaining furlong in a row.
Buffalo Sabres. BUF was currently playing In The Curve. But as they hit the 50-game mark, they barely missed a PQC call of Tee Time with their worst numbers since the Lockout at that point in the season. Their current projected points/finish in the East at G51 is 88 points/9th place. Their current winning percentages would see them hit G60 at Dusting Off Clubs, just short of elimination, but a hotter-than-average winning streak could just as easily see them ushered into 8th place. They are most likely, however, to ebb this 10-game stretch and either rest just shy of, or at, Tee Time.
Carolina Hurricanes. CAR was also currently playing In The Curve. Based on current hot-and-cold play, they are most likely to remain In The Curve at G60. At G50, their PQC was tied with that of the 2006/7 season, second only to their Stanley Cup winning year. Their current projected points/finish in the East at G53 is 91 points/8th place. CAR needs another 6-0-2 run like they had from 28 DEC to 11 JAN, but are likely to either post a very modest PQC gain, or ebb lower in PQC difference from the median.
Florida Panthers. FLA was called at Tee Time at G40/on 8 JAN. Based on current play, they are on par with last season and just barely better than 2005/6 through 2007/8. Their current projected points/finish in the East at G52 is 83 points/11th place. Truly, this is a rebuilding year for Dale Tallon and the Cats.
Montreal Canadiens. MTL was OGA’s first Chasing Stanley call of the season at G10/29 October. After a PQC slide from G31-G40, they are again on the rise, a normal slippage occurrence each year for this team. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 54 is 99 points/6th place behind BOS, PIT and WSH. (Remember the yo-yo with BOS between 3rd and 5th place here.) There is a 50/50 chance of Les Habs either increasing or decreasing their PQC, so anything – such as injuries – could adversely affect the team enroute to G60.
New Jersey Devils. NJD was given a qualified PQC call of Dusting Off Clubs – just short of elimination from the 2011 Playoffs – at G10/27 October based on their past ability to play The Great Game. By G20, there was no denying they were at Tee Time and will remain so going onwards to G60 despite their recent surge. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 53 is 67 points/13th place. The Devils are a ‘solid’ OUT when it comes to the nature of NHL play and making the playoffs this season.
New York Islanders. NYI had a dismal G11-G20 stretch and were called at Tee Time for G20/21 November. Their G50 PQC is worse than every year except 2008/9. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 52 is 66 points/14th place and behind NJD. Flip a coin as to whether or not they improve their PQC in the G51-G60 spread, but improving would mean teams are coming into the building thinking they are playing an easy mark. NYI, as with NJD, is a solid Tee Time this season.
New York Rangers. At G50, the NYR hit their second straight 10-game stretch with a Sharpening Skates – just short of IN the 2011 Playoffs – ranking. That G50 PQC is eclipsed by the 2005/6 and 2008/9 seasons, but markedly better than the two seasons in between when they also made the playoffs. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 55 is 95 points/7th place. After four straight PQC-gaining furlongs, expect the Rangers to fall off a bit and land at In The Curve by G60.
Ottawa Senators. OTT was called at Tee Time at G30/9 December. Their G50 PQC is tied with 2008/9 as their worst G50 PQC since the Lockout. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 53 is 62 points/and last place in the East. Expect OTT to slide on their PQC again by G60 – they have already joined NYI and NJD as a solid Tee Time this season.
Philadelphia Flyers. PHI was OGA’s fifth Chasing Stanley call of the season at G18/15 November. Fast forward and their G50 PQC is the highest they have experienced since the Lockout. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 53 is 114 points/1st place in East and pushing VAN for 1st overall in the NHL. They have increasing PQCs every 10-game furlong since G40 of last season. Expect the trend to continue – this team is the most solid lock for the 2011 Playoffs of any team in the League.
Pittsburgh Penguins. PIT has been Chasing Stanley since G28/4 December. Since G40, their PQC has been their highest since the Lockout, to include where they will be at G55. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 54 is 110 points/4th place in East. While there is a 50/50 chance of their PQC increasing above the In The Curve mark by G60, it is practically impossible to not predict a dip with the loss of their top two players through at least early March for Crosby and until next season for Malkin. PIT GM Shero needs to pull the trigger on a top three forward to ensure their Playoff future, but their current level of play could drop off by almost 10% and they are likely to still squeak in to the Playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning. The TBL are a legitimate Chasing Stanley team this season. A solid ‘lock’ for the playoffs unless the wheels fall off the cart, the only question is how deep into the post-season they will go. They have been Chasing Stanley since G10/20 October. They have also consistently been at their highest post-Lockout PQC rankings since G35 this season. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 54 is 110 points/2nd place in East. Expect the Lightning’s steadily rising PQC trend to continue through G60.
Toronto Maple Leafs. TOR was called at Tee Time at G36/30 December. Their G50 PQC is only better than in 2009/10. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 52 is 75 points/12th place in the East, an improvement from last season of only one point, but three places in the standings. TOR will likely continue their steady PQC slide by G60.
Washington Capitals. Make no mistake, WSH is having its issues in the W column this season. That said, they have been Chasing Stanley since G17/13 November. A solid playoff contender, their margin of ‘lock’ is less than in the previous two seasons. Their G50 PQC is lower than at any time since the 2007/8 season at the same point. Projected points/finish in the East at Game 54 is 100 points/5th place in East. The Caps have been surging since their pre-Winter Classic slump, and expect that trend to continue going onward to G60.
So the Eastern Conference is likely to have three teams increase their PQC, eight drop, and four either remain the same or go either way. That should point to increases occurring across the Western conference one would think. But such simple conclusions are not always correct in PQC-land.
Come back to the OGA blogs later for the rundown on the hard-to-call Western Conference to be posted at a later date.