We're all glued to the standings, and getting very excited when we see our teams atop the division or holding on to a playoff berth. But looking three months down the road, who'll still be in the running for the Stanley Cup, and who might be dusting off their golf clubs?
Let's take a look at the current standings (as of 1/15/12), and then project how the playoffs might look based on those current stats.
pts - current points
GP - games played to date
Avg/PPG - average points earned per game to date, taken to 3 decimal points
projected - Avg/PPG x 82
prj rank - projected rank based on projected point totals, and adjusted for how division champs factor into the standings. Those teams marked with "or" have their rankings based on tie breakers, which cannot be accurately represented on this chart.
* - division leader
Some interesting items leap out while looking at these projections.
IF these projections hold, and teams maintain their current trends (and that's a BIG "if" -- just look at the NJ Devils last season):
-- Today's top 8 in both conferences would still be in position for the playoffs. The only "wild card" would be Dallas or Minnesota - based on tiebreakers.
-- This would be the first time since the 2008 playoffs that a team had home ice advantage without at least 99 points. (2008 was also Washington, with just 94.)
-- Two teams - both in the East - could potentially need a tiebreaker for the Presidents' Trophy: the Bruins and Rangers, with 114 points each. The tiebreaker for the Presidents' Trophy is most wins; based on current projections, that would be Boston.
-- There would be 3 teams in the East (FLA, OTT, NJ) and 2 teams in the West (STL, MIN or DAL) in the playoffs who haven't been to the playoffs in a few years. Of those teams, two would have the potential to be division leaders (FLA, STL) and one (STL) would have the potential to be Western leader.
-- While the Panthers went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, they have never won their division. The Panthers haven't been to the playoffs since 2000, when they were swept out of the first round to the NJ Devils (who in turn went on to win the Cup).
-- The Blues haven't won their division since 2000. They won the Presidents' Trophy the same year. The Blues last went to the playoffs in 2009, and were swept by the Canucks in the Quarterfinals.
-- The Central and Atlantic divisions would send 4 teams apiece to the playoffs.
-- Minnesota and Dallas might be duking it out for 8th place in the West. Of course, last year, it was Minnesota's win over Dallas in game 82 that sent the Blackhawks, instead of the Stars, to the playoffs. Expect the end of season to be heated between these teams.
Of course, these are simply projections - what MIGHT be, three months from now. Any of these teams might get hot -- or get into a rut. Injuries can affect a team; returning players can make a major difference. Teams can realize how close they are to home ice advantage - or a playoff spot - and bump another team out of position. There's still plenty of season left, and who knows what might happen? Still, it's interesting to take a look at who might be in the playoff picture, and what some of the potential last-minute storylines might be.