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Taking a look at the playoff race in the East

When I sat down to write this post, I thought we might be at a place, 77 games in (and a Metro Division Title), that I could start to preview potential first round goalie matchups. Then, I looked at the standings. There is so much congestion in the bottom of the of the division spots and the wild cards that I honestly didn’t know where to start.

Obviously, the Panthers aren’t catching the Penguins, Islanders or Caps. There is an extreme long-shot that they would even catch Detroit. At this point, the odds are clearly looking like the Rangers will play the Bruins in the first round.  However, the B’s have been playing much better lately and find themselves tied in points with the third place Red Wings for the last division spot in the Atlantic (albeit with one less game). They are only two points back of Pittsburgh for the second wild card, as well.

I would be surprised if a ton happened in four games leading up to the start of the postseason, and in the era of the loser point, a three point swing is tough to muster in such a short window. However, I do think that there is potential for some shuffling leading up to the start of the second season.

The top of the conference is pretty well established with the Rangers, Habs and Lightning looking at top three seeding. Every other team that is seriously contending (I haven’t completely written Ottawa off, but they will need some help) is within three points of one another.

It takes a little intrigue out of that five team race that the two and three seeds from each division automatically play each other, so the only real matchup movement we will see would be teams climbing out of, and dropping into, wild card spots. Pittsburgh has a game in hand on both the Caps and Isles, so we could see them dump one of their Metro rivals into that spot, or the Bruins and Red Wings could swap, of some team could nose dive and Ottawa could sneak in.

When you look at the remaining schedules, Washington probably has the roughest ride. They have Ottawa, Detroit, Boston and the Rangers left this season. Ironically, the Rangers might be the least interested in taking it to the Caps, since it’s the last day of the season. The Isles have the easiest schedule with only Pittsburgh in the playoff picture of their remaining matchups. The rest of the field has a decent mix of contending teams and weaker sides.

Now, I feel compelled to point out that I hate the loser point with every fiber of my being. However, in this case, I am pretty excited about the potential for last minute drama in the East, and it could drastically change our preconceptions about the Rangers first round opponent.

So, to you, BSB Community, how do you think this will all shake out? How would you like to see it go? Let’s hear about it in the comments below. As of now, it looks like I’m going to have to wait a little longer to write my Round 1 Goaltending Preview.

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  1. Justin, in regards to the loser point, what do you think about this tweak to the system?

    As it is right now, some games distribute more points than other games. That in itself, seems odd. The Rangers earned 2 points last night, while Minnesota earned 0. However, if the game was won in overtime, a total of 3 points would have been allocated.

    One way to circumvent this awkward schematic is to award 3 points to a team who wins in regulation, as opposed to only 2. This way every game would be weighted equally.

    If games end in a tie after regulation, each team gets a point….and they use OT/SO (which isn’t going anywhere, be it good or bad) just as games are decided now.

    While some would suggest it would allow for separation and, in turn, detract from the playoff race, I’d argue it would make individual games more exciting as teams would push the pace in a tied 3rd period to earn their 3 points as opposed to securing the loser point before regrouping for the other point in overtime. It would also allow some teams a bit more hope to sneak into the playoffs down the stretch, if they were to string together a few 3 point wins in regulation.

    I first heard the idea from my brother, but I’m curious what others think. At some point I’d like to run a schematic of team’s records and see how this would affect the standings. The beta test would probably solidify my inkling to give this new points allocation method a shot.

    1. Timely discussion point, I think I’ve seen articles at ESPN, Grantland and FiveThirtyEight about this over the last few days. I am all for the 3 point system. It works well in soccer and allows for a zero-sum analysis when it comes to point distribution. For me, it’s as easy as 3-2-1-0 for Reg win-OT win-OT loss-Reg loss.

      I agree that it would make things more interesting toward the end of games when teams are pulling for that third point. It also wouldn’t necessarily reward teams that gain extra points from shootout wins. Sign me up. I don’t think the league will ever do it, though. They love the congestion in the standings.

      1. For me, it’s as easy as 3-2-1-0 for Reg win-OT win-OT loss-Reg loss.

        ^ summed up nicely.

        And yes, I agree with the league unlikely to adopt this model. Congestion is good for selling tickets. If it’s a way to increase attendance at more arenas then it will probably not change.

        PS- you need to get to more games (I suggest traveling with the team during the playoffs) as they really put a shellacking on the Sens when you made the trip to Ottawa.

        1. The 3-2-1-0 point spread has been tossed around for quite awhile, but I haven’t heard of the idea gaining any sort of traction with the GMs. It’s certainly the equitable way to weight games, but then it undercuts the League’s efforts to create non-organic parity.

          Unfortunately, as sound as it is, the idea probably won’t be adopted by the League –at least no time soon.

    2. I’d even be in favor of 5-4-3-2-1-0 with 5 for a reg win, 5 for an OT win, 3 for a SO win, 2 for SO loss, 1 for OT loss and 0 for a regulation loss. That said, even the 3 pt system isn’t likely to happen. The NHL didn’t put the current system in place because it’s the best; they did it because under this system virtually every team has a winning record. It is the same mentality as giving every kid a trophy in Little League. Although it’s probably even more about money and selling tickets. It’s much easier to sell tickets to fans when your loser team looks like a winner.

      I did a few calcs on the standings using my 5 pt system, the 3 pt system and the old 2 point system with 1 pt being awarded for a regulation tie. I think the Kings got hosed the most by Loser points. The main reason I did it was to compare this Rangers team to others since there is so much talk about 100pt seasons and Wins records. The current system totally inflates the numbers and distorts how good this Ranger team is vs the ones in the early 70s and early 90s.

  2. While on this subject, why not no points for anything but a win. This would make the game tougher to play, and the winner takes it all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If they go into the OT, and SO, but the winner is the only one to get points…………..

  3. Hatrick, your system is exactly the right one and I remember my son-in-law & I talking about that very system while at MSG and we both agreed it would be ideal. But the NHL is run by cognitive dinosaurs so don’t expect logic to prevail.

  4. After Friday night’s games the Rangers clinch the Prez Trophy by winning 4 of their final 5 no matter what the Ducks do. They clinch the conference with 5 points no matter what Montreal and Tampa do.

    Looking good!

    1. Ducks lost. Down to 3 out of 5, not that I’m looking to over inflate the importance of home ice for the Rangers who are very good at home but absolutely incredible on the road!!! LGR

  5. I have always hated the loser point but have never been a fan of a three point system. Just from a historical perspective it doesn’t feel right to me.

    What I would do is two points for a regulation or OT win. If the game goes to a shoutout, the winning team gets one point. No loser point awarded under any circumstance. This would incentivize the teams to get it done when actual hockey is being played, not a skills competition.

    It will never happen obviously, but just my two cents.

  6. I don’t care about the Prez trophy. The Bruins concern me. They have momentum and have been winning with a lot of 3rd period comebacks. They are big and physical and will hammer the Rangers who don’t counter and don’t have a good PP when penalties are called. We will have to get by them with speed and Rask can be beaten but I would prefer any other team in the 1st round.

    1. I also have some slight concerns about the Bruins if for no other reason than they are on a good run right now.

      The team I would love to see the Rangers face in the 1st round is the quickly fading Red Wings. Small, not fast enough to keep up with the Rangers, and they are currently getting some bad goalkeeping. The Penguins wouldn’t be a terrible match-up either.

  7. Do not want to play the Bruins – built like LA Kings. Detroit or Penguins would be preferable in the first round.

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