While I hate to confuse things with facts, as I know central Ohio fans as a rule much prefer reacting on emotion, here is an update of how the Western Conference playoff picture would look at season end if all of the teams played at their current pace from here out:
1. San Jose 137 Points (Pacific Leader)
2. Detroit 124 Points (Central Leader)
3. Calgary 101 Points (Northwest Leader)
4. Chicago 114 Points
5. Vancouver 96 Points
6. Anaheim 91 Points
7. Minnesota 89 Points
8. Nashville 87 Points
9. Phoenix 87 Points
10. Edmonton 85 Points
11. Colorado 84 Points
12. Los Angeles 82 Points
13. Dallas 82 Points
14. Columbus 77 Points
15. St. Louis 70 Points
So, what we have here is a situation where the Top 4 are playing other-worldly hockey, Vancouver is playing really, really well, and the rest are beating the crap out of each other. Since the first time I published this analysis 2 weeks ago, the CBJ have actually improved their projected point total by 1, and the target number for the #8 spot has come down by 1, for a net gain of 2 in the playoff hunt.
We have improved considerably in the number of goals we are surrendering. For the season, we are at a 3.029 GAA, and for the past 15 games, it is a stingy 2.533! (Thank you Mr. Mason!) Unfortunately, our offensive production has turned the other way. We are at 2.618 GPG for the season, but only 2.067 for the last 15 games, including our only 3 shutouts of the year.
The good news is that if we can turn our offense around, we are poised to win a lot of games. The bad news is that the injury situation makes that difficult. Tough not to envision a scenario where Mr. Howson enters the picture here, followed by Filatov at end of January. While he still needs to gain size, with Brass out we need another skill player. If Hitch handles him like he handled Brass, I think he will contribute.
Other Statistical Oddities — While San Jose has shown signs of being almost human, Boston continues on a tear. They are 2ndto SJ in projected points, 2nd to Detroit in GPG, and 1st in GAPG, with a very meager 2.265 goals allowed. With the way Tim Thomas is playing, and if they can survive the Sturm injury, this could be the team to beat for the Cup.
Timing is everything . . . the NY Rangers have amassed a 22 – 12 -3 record, while scoring just 1 more goal than they have allowed — 100 GF/99 GA. It jsut goes to show you that it ain’t how many you score, it’s when you score them. Keep in mind that the Rangers only rank 20th in GPG, but are 8th in GA. Starting to understand the Hitchcock obsession with defense?
Finally, to keep consistent with the defense theme, Florida has womed their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and would hold the 8th spot there with 89 points if everyone played their way out at the same pace from here. Don’t thank their offense — they rank 27th in the NHL with 2.485 GPG, but are surrendering only 2.576 per game, good for 4th in the league.
Moral of story — this will be a wild and wooly race to the end. If we keep our defense going, and put more pucks on the net, we will pull out of this funk and be a contender. Right now it is the psychological barrier that we need to overcome, between the injuries, the fiasco that is NHL officiating, and the pressure of an extended road trip. Some controlled recklessness is in order in the offensive zone!