Around the League

Sunday Musings: NHL playoff picture

Note: this post started as a Western preview and turned quickly into an Eastern post. Consider it a follow up to Justin’s post on Friday 🙂

While the Rangers have been battling for the proverbial cherry on top of a charmed 2014-15 season, a lot of teams have been struggling to get in to the playoffs. The beauty of having so many teams make it there is a really, really exciting late March-early April around the league. As of Easter Sunday, only three teams in the East and four teams in the West have clinched playoff spots, with two divisions entirely up for grabs. What this means is there are a lot of good teams, and a few really terrible teams, who are enjoying playing spoiler.

There are three teams in the West mathematically eliminated from the NHL playoff picture, which pales in comparison to the East, where seven teams have next season to look forward to. The East seems pretty locked up if you were to just look at the numbers, but you’d be grossly mistaken.

Florida was mathematically eliminated after their loss to Tampa last night, leaving what many think is a two-horse race between Ottawa and Boston to take the final Wild Card spot. What people seem to forget is that the streaking Bruins (winning their last five) have 95 points: the same as the sinking Penguins. The Penguins have lost their last two, and are 3-6-1 in their last ten going into Philadelphia today. Should Pittsburgh lose out, they could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Though it’ll be hard for Pittsburgh to miss, with Evgeni Malkin coming back and Buffalo as one of their four games remaining, the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a similar position. Also with 95 points in the Atlantic, they have Boston almost even with them (Detroit has an extra game in hand, meaning the Bruins have one more loss than the Wings) and lots of pressure bearing down. The Wings haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1985-86 season – before lots of us were even born – but barely snuck in last season as well. Coach Mike Babcock is an Olympic gold medal winning coach, but maybe a change of scenery will do him well.

The Ottawa Senators, despite the butt kicking the Rangers dealt their way to clinch a playoff spot last week, have been tearing up the second half of the season following the departure of longtime coach Paul MacLean. Andrew ‘the Hamburglar’ Hammond coming up as their savior with really impressive numbers has rejuvenated the team, which looked flat and dead early in the season. It seems that Erik Karlsson has found his stride as captain and, with defensive partner Marc Methot coming back from an injury that sidelined him for most of the season, Karlsson has also found his unbelievable scoring ability again. With offensive outbursts from forwards Kyle Turris and rookie Mark Stone, they could win out and make the last week of the regular season incredibly interesting.


knock knock...
knock knock…

Looking at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, is anyone really safe? Even the Islanders, despite celebrating like they’d won the Cup in November, aren’t officially situated in the playoff picture. It would be really, really difficult for them to miss, but with them losing like it’s their job lately, no fan should really feel super confident.

To close out this post, here are a few Chris-like musing questions:

  • Who do you think will miss the playoffs in the East?
  • Who do you want the Rangers to face in the first round?
  • Which of the teams on the fringe (DET, PIT, BOS, OTT) do you think is most dangerous?

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  • I think that the final game against buffalo will not allow Ottawa to make the playoffs. I would want them to play the penguins as the defense is in shambles and then a second round matchup against the islanders or capitals is certainly winnable. Boston is obviously the most dangerous followed by det Ott and pit.

  • 1. It’s a crapshoot. If I was forced to bet, I’d say Ottawa misses
    2. Pittsburgh or Ottawa
    3. Boston because they have Rask.

    I did a quick analysis of the Rangers “50 Win Season” and compared it to other Ranger teams under the rules in place thru ’82-83 and the OT rules with no shootout (which I think was 1998-99) and the current points system.

    No OT

    GP W L T Pts PPG
    2014-15 78 41 21 16 92 1.18
    2011-12 82 39 24 19 97 1.18
    1993-94 84 46 22 16 108 1.29
    1991-92 80 49 23 8 106 1.33
    1972-73 78 47 23 8 102 1.31
    1971-72 78 48 17 13 109 1.40
    1970-71 78 49 18 11 109 1.40

    • Dang it…posted accidently….then this one which is OT but no Shoot Out

      Year GP W L T Pts PPG
      2014-15 78 46 21 11 97 1.24
      2011-12 82 47 26 9 103 1.26
      1993-94 84 49 23 12 110 1.31
      1991-92 80 50 25 5 105 1.31

      PPG is points per game.

      Under the system in place until the ’82-83 season before OT, no Ranger team would have won 50 games. Once OT was instituted, only the ’91-’92 Rangers won 50 games. The best regular season record based on Points Per Game are the teams from ’70-71 and ’71-72

  • Good stuff Snake. When it’s all said and done, this might be the greatest Rangers season of all time!

    As for the questions……

    1) Ottawa runs out of time and misses the playoffs

    2) Ottawa, Pittsburgh or Detroit. Rangers would beat any of those teams in 4 or 5 games.

    3) I actually don’t think any of the possible first round opponents are capable of beating the Rangers in a seven game series. That being said, the Bruins would be the toughest. Agree with Snake….Rask can steal games and the matchup is tough for the Rangers. Would probably take 6 or 7 to dispatch them.

  • Sorry for not knowing…..

    If 2 teams are wild card from the same division, how are the matchups determined?

    If 2 teams are wild card from different divisions, how are the matchups determined?

    What happens in the second round?

    Thank you for your help in advance!

    • The team with the top seed in the East (between the two division winners) plays the wild card with the fewest points regardless of division. The team with the 2nd most points in the East will play the 1st wild card or the one of the two with more points. It’s still 1 vs 8 and 2 vs 7 for the two wild card teams.

      • Jon answered your first two questions. In the 2nd round, the winner of the series featuring the division’s #1 seed plays the winner of #2 vs #3 from their division. For example if the season ended today:

        1 (#1 seed) – NY Rangers vs 8 – Detroit

        the winner of this series would play the winner of

        2 – Washington vs 3 – NY Islanders

        1 (#2 seed) Montreal vs 7 – Pittsburgh

        the winner of this series would play the winner of

        2 – Tampa Bay vs 3 – Boston

        The 2nd round could be NYR vs NYI and Pittsburgh vs Boston.

  • Mark my words. If Pttsburgh doesn’t lose out and miss the playoffs. They’ll be a much different team in the post season. Right now they might be having trouble scoring but this doesn’t look like the Pens of the past 4-5 seasons that scored in bunches before coasting to the playoffs. They’re deeper up front than they’ve been and play a better possession game than in the past. This is a little more like the way things went the year Bylsma was hired and they won the Cup.
    Things are going to break right for them at the right time. I have a bad feeling about playing them if they’re the 1st round matchup.

    • They can’t score, their defense is porous and banged up. Their goalie is unreliable. And the Rangers totally have their number. They have been successful in getting Crosby and Malkin frustrated these last few years. To me, if the Pens make it, they will be a team that, if the season were to go another week, probably wouldn’t. Can’t see them beating the Rangers, but hey, stranger things have happened!

      • I don’t think the Rangers will run into them in the 1st round. However, I do think fans will be looking at them differently after their 1st round series. I could see them beating Montreal or the Islanders. Their blue line is banged up but they should be relitively healthy come the start of the post season. Especially up front and they have a deep 12 forwards. I hope I’m wrong and they go one and out or win their 1st round series and the Rangers continue to own them. I just think they are entering the playoffs differently than they have the last 4-5 seasons.

  • “Who do you think will miss the playoffs in the East?”

    The loser of Tuesday’s Pittsburgh — Ottawa game. Ottawa has Pitt, NYR, and Philly. They play the Rangers who might have 111 points and the EC #1 (and possibly the President’s Trophy) locked up. Pitt has Ottawa, NYI, and Buffalo, so a loss to the Sens and Isles and they’re done.

    “Who do you want the Rangers to face in the first round?”

    Pittsburgh if they make it or Detroit. I’d prefer to not have to face one of the hottest teams in the league in the opening round and both Pitt and Detroit are struggling.

    “Which of the teams on the fringe (DET, PIT, BOS, OTT) do you think is most dangerous?”

    Ottawa because they are the hottest as well as they are the team with the hottest goaltender. Boston is second. I don’t think the B’s have any chance to win the Cup because they have been too inconsistent this year. When they are on, they look like the Bruins of the recent past and when they are not, they look worse than the Bruins from about 10 years ago when they failed to make the playoffs more times than they did.

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