American Thanksgiving has come and gone and which NHL teams will make or miss the playoffs is coming into clearer focus.
It’s a fairly common belief in hockey circles that if you’re in the playoffs by American Thanksgiving, chances are you’re going to be in the post-season dance five months later.
So how does that notion hold up to scrutiny? Not badly, actually. But it would be very, very dangerous for the 16 teams that are in the playoffs to think they can basically put in on autopilot for the rest of the season. According to numbers crunched by thn.com over the past 10 years when they’ve actually been playing hockey on American Thanksgiving – something they didn’t do in 2004 and 2012 – teams that are currently in the playoffs have a 77 percent chance of keeping their spots in the top eight.
When you remove the two seasons from the past 10 that did not include the extra point for a shootout win, the probability of making the playoffs goes up to 78.9 percent.
All that may be true but I think there is a great deal of volatility in the standings this season that could see some teams currently below the cut line moving up and knocking out some others.
In the WC, Minnesota is 3 points back of the final wild card spot (currently held by Winnipeg) but has 3 games in hand, a far better goal differential (+10 vs. -3) and continues to dominate possession stats with an average +8 shot differential.
I’d wager it’s quite likely that LA will eventually supplant the Calgary Flames for the 3rd spot in the Pacific Division standings and then the question will be can Calgary fend off any of Winnipeg, San Jose or Dallas for a wild card spot. With 30 points, the Flames have a head start but they really can’t falter at all if they want to make the dance.
Sports Club Stats has 3 teams that are essentially done for the season in assessing their chance at the playoffs…Arizona (7.4%) Colorado (6.9%) and Edmonton (0.3%) while San Jose still has an outside chance (28.6%) but is fading rapidly.
In the EC, things are even more chaotic.
4 teams are currently within 4 points of the last wild card spot now held by Toronto and 2 of the 4 have games in hand…Florida has 2.
Washington has a very tenuous hold on the final Metropolitan Division spot with a meagre 22 points with all of the Rangers, New Jersey and Philadelphia within 3 points so it’s pretty much a pick ’em situation there.
Detroit’s stellar play of late (6-2-2 in their last 10GP) is starting to give them some separation for third in the Atlantic Division although Boston is snapping at their heels.
Toronto is the team to watch here since they have yet to suffer an extended melt down which has become their annual calling card and, if that does indeed occur again, there are 5 teams right behind them waiting to pounce.
As in the WC, there are 3 teams with virtually no chance of making the playoffs, Carolina, Columbus and Buffalo so it now seems the McDavid Sweepstakes has 6 leading contenders…3 from each conference.