As the Eastern Conference playoff race tightens up, what do the Carolina Hurricanes need to do to secure a spot?
Before I jump into this, here’s a disclaimer.
I am not a statistician. I am terrible at math. My pre-algebra teacher in seventh grade was more concerned about yelling at students than teaching, so my math foundation was shattered at an early age. So before you rip me apart for “fuzzy math” or making incorrect assumptions, keep that in mind.
This is not meant to be a definitive statement about the Hurricanes making the playoffs or not. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what they MIGHT need to do in order to make it happen. Especially considering how tight the Wild Card race is in the East — everyone is still in this thing with just a little less than half a season to go.
As I started to dig into this, I found PlayoffStatus.com. Yes, it looks like it was built in 1996, but it contains a lot of interesting data that gives playoff probabilities and projections. Full credit to the site’s owners for this data … I did not come up with this on my own.
Yet another disclaimer … this data is current as of around 6:00 am on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. This article will date itself quickly.
Where Are We Today?
As of today, your Carolina Hurricanes currently sit at 21-19-7 … 49 points. We’re currently 6th in the Wild Card race. We were up to 3rd before this 4-game losing fest, but now Florida and the Islanders have passed us.
I think it’s safe to assume we ain’t getting one of the top three spots in the Metro. So I’m leaving out the division standings. Here are the latest Wild Card standings:
So, as you can see, it’s getting quite cozy here. Everyone is within five points of the last wild card spot at the moment. And a bad stretch of games — like we just had — can put us behind in a hurry.
The Canes have played 47 games, which means we’ve got 35 to go (I can do some math). Only the Islanders and Maple Leafs have played less at this point.
According to PlayoffStatus.com and all of the data they aggregate, Carolina has a 73% of not making the playoffs this year. That sounds about right. If you’re disheartened, those are the best odds out of all of the other WC contenders besides the Rangers, Leafs and Bruins. Florida is a point ahead at the moment, but their chances of not making it are at 92%, for example.
Bad news is, the Rangers look like pretty much a lock — they only have a 2% chance of missing out, and they have a legitimate shot at creeping into a divisional spot. They also like Toronto’s chances of getting there — only a 39% chance they’ll miss out. Boston has a slightly better odds than us of making it — they’re coming in at a 71% chance of not making it.
What’s the Outlook?
Let’s take a look at strength of schedule. According to PlayoffStatus.com, Carolina has the 6th toughest schedule in the Eastern Conference. But, good news, the games we’ve played are tougher than the games upcoming.
When you only look at games played, the Canes have played the most difficult schedule in the East — our opponents thus far have won 53% of their games.
But coming home, our opponents’ winning percentage drops to 48% … the second easiest slate of games in the conference. 🙂
What Do We Need to Do?
Get more points. As many as possible. I’m the John Madden of hockey blogging.
But seriously, we need to win at a higher percentage the rest of the way.
We’ve won about 45% of our games thus far. I’m not going to get into calculating OT losses moving forward because it’s too complicated for my brain — PlayoffStatus doesn’t either.
Let’s assume we win 45% of games coming in and have no more OT losses. I know, not likely, but let’s assume it for simplicity’s sake.
Hell, let’s bump it up to 51%. Let’s say we win 18 games and lose 17 in regulation. That leaves us at 39-36-7 with 85 points. Good enough?
Probably not. We’d only have an 11% chance of grabbing the last WC spot with that record. Granted, you toss in a few OT losses and things look a little better.
I could get into a bunch of hypotheticals, but getting north of 90 points is crucial. At 89 points, the odds of making the playoffs tip in our favor. When you get into the mid-90s, the odds improve dramatically. Finding a way to get hot against a potentially favorable schedule and getting to 93 points puts playoff odds at 87%.
Our fearless leader Fitz has been saying all season we need 95 points. Getting 95 yields a 95% chance of getting in.
So there you have it. After all that data, it all comes down to one thing — get some damn points. And we need to pick up the pace a little bit to make it happen.
Bill Peters Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes.