Hockey World Blog

NHL playoffs already in sight at quarter-season mark

By the end of November when the U.S. Thanksgiving arrives, most teams have had time to mesh, time to get back into the grind of the long NHL season and teams and players have had ample time to learn new systems of play. By the end of November, every team in the NHL has played at least 20 games – something that coaches and players alike will tell you is a good point of reference for how a team will do in the long run of the season. In fact, with only one quarter of the NHL season gone, statistics show that most playoff spots have already been decided and if your team is currently outside looking in, you might be in for a long summer next year.

According to an analysis done by the Toronto Star that utilized NHL statistics dating back to 1993, 77.5 percent of the teams that hold a playoff spot at the U.S. Thanksgiving end up making the playoffs at the end of the season. Only 22.5 percent of the teams outside looking in at Thanksgiving make it back into the playoff fold.

The news gets worse for fans of teams like the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers. The analysis also found that 84 percent of the teams that had 17 points or fewer at the Thanksgiving holiday failed to make the postseason. Meanwhile, 89 percent of the teams that had 28 or more points at the same point in time made the playoffs. This statistic bodes well for teams like Columbus, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Washington, Philadelphia and Detroit.

Former NHL player Brendan Shanahan, who currently serves as the vice-president of hockey and business development for the NHL, broke down the stats and commented on the bleak outlook for teams currently outside the playoff picture.

“If you go into a third period leading the game, more often than not, you win that game,” said Shanahan.

But if you don’t have the lead, “it doesn’t mean you’re out of it. All you’re thinking about is winning. You’re not thinking about statistics. You’ve got to focus on that 22.5 per cent, that it can be me.”

With over 50 games still remaining in the regular season, there is still a lot of wiggle room for bubble teams to move in and out of contention before playoffs begin. In fact, only four points currently separate the 12th place Minnesota Wild from the 4th place Columbus Blue Jackets in the Western Conference.

“The teams that have gotten off to a good start are rewarded in some sense, with improving their odds,” said Shanahan. “It doesn’t mean the door is closed, it doesn’t mean they can rest, and it doesn’t mean the teams behind them are out.”

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