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NHL Playoff Calls (Sorry Yogi Berra but this ain't Baseball)

Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees looks skeptical upon hearing news that his famous quote "It ain't over, till it's over" is being questioned by SBnation blogger Mitch Smith.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees looks skeptical upon hearing news that his famous quote "It ain't over, till it's over" is being questioned by SBnation blogger Mitch Smith. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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With all due respect to Yogi Berra and his famous quote "It ain't over, till its over" sometimes it is in a hockey playoff race.

It is coming down to the wire and it is hard not to start watching the competition for results. I can’t recall a tighter race that involved so many teams in the West.

Almost all teams still hold their destiny in their own hands at this point. But some teams are essentially a lock for the playoffs (in or out) from a reasonable perspective.

Mathematically nothing is confirmed yet but from a reasonable perspective we are getting into the realm of very high probabilities. I am one of those people who mixes Math with "Lets Get Real" in my thought process. I am perfectly fine with calling playoff confirmations before they are mathematically absolute and I have never missed before.

Some teams may see this as a jinx, too bad for you. Some teams may take this as an insult and feel free to come mock me after if your team comes up and makes the playoffs despite my call.

Think of this as the reasonably early but not mathematically absolute playoff confirmations. I’m willing to put ready money on my predictions at this point in the season.

Don’t expect ALL teams to get called (in or out) before the end of the season either by the way - Yogi is right in some cases even in hockey BUT at this point I call the Vancouver Canucks a playoff confirmation and the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche a playoff miss in the West.

We are getting into the realm of parallel universes with hyper-active hockey gods if you are going to argue otherwise.

Playoff Calls

The Countdown to 96

Wins Wins Needed
WESTERN GP PTS Pts to 96 GR Needed divided by GR
1 CANUCKS 66 91 5 16 3 IN
2 RED WINGS 66 86 10 16 5 31.25%
3 SHARKS 66 82 14 16 7 43.75%
4 HAWKS 66 80 16 16 8 50.00%
5 COYOTES 67 78 18 15 9 60.00%
6 STARS 65 77 19 17 10 58.82%
7 FLAMES 67 77 19 15 10 66.67%
8 KINGS 65 76 20 17 10 58.82%
9 DUCKS 65 75 21 17 11 64.71%
10 PREDS 65 75 21 17 11 64.71%
11 WILD 65 74 22 17 11 64.71%
12 BLUE JACKETS 64 69 27 18 14 77.78%
13 BLUES 65 65 31 17 16 94.12%
14 AVALANCHE 65 60 36 17 X OUT
15 OILERS 66 54 42 16 X OUT

Further explanation after the break...


(1) Why use 96 points for the cutoff?

Well, no team has ever missed the playoffs that achieved 96 points. It may change this year but it is a historically solid number.

(2) Why are you just using GR and Wins Needed?

Because it is the simplest way of looking at the games at this point. Most teams are still in the position of being able to win themselves into the playoffs.

(3) What about all the other stuff – OTL – Shootouts and so forth?

One my favorite concepts is something called Ockham’s Razor which essentially means that the simplest way is the best way. At this point in time the simplest answer for all teams is simply to win their games. That is as simple an approach as you can get.

The other information is simply extra right now and won't even factor for the majority of teams, no point listing shoot-out records for the Canucks - they won't need that tie breaker. For some teams it will likely become very relevant at the end of the season and expect my table to expand at that moment.

(4) On what grounds are you calling teams in or out.

Lots of things, for those who insist on knowing, I am looking at the remaining schedule of the team, strength of opponents, looking at the Wins Needed divided by Games Remaining, looking at their recent record, checking injuries, player streaks with a host of other factors.

When I call a team IN or OUT for the playoffs I am very sure on the call despite Yogi scowling away at me.

You can personally take it or leave it. Over the next few weeks the Western race should tighten to the point that we will see only 4-5 teams instead of the current 9-10.

And once again, do not expect all teams to get a playoff call. I fully expect the Western Conference race to come down to the final games for several teams but it is helpful to start clearing the field at this point.