In the Predlines Sunday Morning Skate, we touched on a couple of items of interest for the Preds, one being what it might take to make the playoffs. This article is intended to be a more in-depth discussion of the Preds’ playoff chances after the twenty-game mark.
Last season, the Nashville Predators missed the playoffs for only the second time since the 2003-04 season. It was bad timing for the Preds who seemed to be making strides in the post season. They had reached the conference semi-finals two years in a row and were starting to look like they should be in the discussion of Stanley Cup contenders.
The playoff picture is different this season with the realignment and unbalanced conference structure. Prior to this season, the NHL consisted of six divisions split over two conferences with eight teams from each conference making the playoffs. The three division leaders were seeded 1 through 3 and the next five teams with the highest point totals were seeded 5 through 8. This season, the playoff structure is different. The NHL is now divided into four divisions within the two conferences. The top three teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The remaining two spots in each conference will be filled by the next two highest point earners. This means it is possible for one division to send five teams to the playoffs. One unusual wrinkle is that the four wild card teams will be seeded against the top four point earners, regardless of conference. So, a team from the east could end up playing a team from the west in the first round, and vice versa.
Right now, the Preds are in 7th place in the Central Division and 12th in the Western Conference. They sit seven points out the final wild-card spot in the West. They have earned 20 points through 20 games and that point-a-game pace will not be enough to play on after the regular season. We estimated the Preds would need at least 90 points to be in the race, but it looks like 94 is a more realistic target for postseason play. According to Sportsclubstats.com, 94 points would give the Preds a 32% chance of making the playoffs (all of our numbers are based on info from this site).
A couple points either way increase or decrease the Preds’ playoff chances accordingly -
100 pts – 95.6%
99 pts – 91.1%
98 pts – 83.0%
97 pts – 72.4%
96 pts – 59.7%
95 pts – 45.4%
94 pts – 32.0%
93 pts – 20.5%
92 pts – 12.5%
91 pts – 6.9%
90 pts – 3.4%
89 pts – 1.6%
In order to get to 94 points, the Preds would need to earn 74 points in their next 62 games. This would require a record of 33-21-8 (or something similar). While it may seem like a stretch for the Preds to get to 12 games over .500, they have done it in three of the last four seasons. The biggest obstacle here will be the eleven teams already ahead of them in the standings. So far, all eleven of those teams are on pace for more than 94 points, so the Preds will need a couple teams to falter, in addition to earning enough points on their own.
Currently, the Preds have a 6.68% chance to make the playoffs. The Preds started the season with a 57% chance and it has slowly gone downhill from there. The biggest change occurred over the course of the recent road trip. Since the Preds’ win against the Colorado Avalanche last week, the playoff chances dropped from 36.6% to a season low of 3.5% before the win against Chicago brought them up to their current level. While these numbers clearly fluctuate over the course of the season (and even a day), the Colorado Avalanche who are currently in 8th place (8 points ahead of the Preds) are already showing a 91% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings have the lowest chance of making the playoffs of the top 8 teams in the current Western Conference standings, and it is already at 76.3%.
The biggest issue for the Preds is still the injury to Pekka Rinne. Marek Mazanec has been solid lately, but the Preds need to start putting wins together before they start falling farther behind. The rest of the team is not really going to change much this season, so the organization needs to decide as soon as possible what they are going to do in net. If Rinne is going to be out for a while, the Preds need to move quick to add someone or just decide Mazanec (or even Carter Hutton) is going to be the guy. If I have to guess, the Preds will probably stick with the team they have and try to get the job done. This has always seemed to be the Predator way and it has been pretty good at getting the job done in the past.
What do you think? Can the Preds still get the job done or have they already fallen too far behind?