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TELL-US-STRADER: PLAYOFF NUMBERS TO KEEP IN MIND

Sunday, 01.24.2010 / 8:23 PM / Tell-Us-Strader: a Blog by Dave Strader
By Dave Strader
I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning with my coffee and computer looking at the NHL standings and how tight the playoff races are in both conferences. As I started looking at the numbers, it occurred to me that two very important stats to look at are wins and goal differential. If a team ends the season with at least 41 wins and has scored more goals than they’ve given up, they have a very good chance of making the playoffs.

In today’s NHL with the extra point for an overtime or shootout loss, a “.500 team” can have more combined regulation and OT/shootout losses than total wins. A great example right now is the Dallas Stars. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Stars had won just 22 of their 51 games. But, because 11 of their 29 losses had gone beyond regulation, they had 55 points in 51 games. The Stars had also given up 16 more goals than they had scored.

I looked back at the final standings from the last four seasons since the lockout. I can only find one team that made the playoffs with fewer than 41 wins (meaning they would have fewer wins than combined regulation and overtime/shootout losses): the 2007 New York Islanders. They earned the eighth spot in the East with a record of 40-30-12. There have been only six teams (out of 64 playoff teams the last four seasons) that have made the playoffs scoring fewer goals than they’ve given up. The only Western Conference team from that group is the 2009 Columbus Blue Jackets.

On the flip side, there have been only six teams that missed the playoffs in the last four seasons with 41 or more wins AND more goals for than goals against. Only two of those teams were from the West: the 2006 Vancouver Canucks and 2007 Colorado Avalanche.

The reason I bring up these numbers is that the Coyotes are in pretty good shape through their first 52 games. They have 29 wins and 23 combined regulation/overtime-shootout losses. They’ve also scored four more goals than they’ve given up. If Dave Tippett’s squad can stay on the plus side in both categories through the end of the season, there’s a good chance the Coyotes’ long playoff drought will come to an end.

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