Breaking down the (early) NHL playoff picture

by Mar 19, 10:10 AM
Tim Fuller / USA TODAY Sports

At the conclusion of Tuesday's jam-packed 12-game schedule, NHL teams teams have anywhere from 11 to 14 games left to play. While there's still much to be determined in terms of playoff qualification and seeding, the picture is getting clearer every day.

What follows is a look at each team's chances of making the playoffs prior to game played on March 19 (as per sportsclubstats.com). 

Note: Teams with a star next to them currently hold wild card spots. As per sportsclubstats, these percentages are based on a weighted method that takes the opponents record and home-ice advantage into account when randomly picking scores, so the better team is more likely to win. 

Also, "Out" or "0" does not necessarily mean mathematically eliminated; rather, in the millions of times the season could be played out, the team in question would never made the playoffs (likewise for "In" and "100'). 

Therefore, these numbers are accurate enough to be a useful, interesting tool, but can't be taken as gospel. 

Atlantic Division

TeamPointsGame RemainingPlayoff Chances
Boston Bruins9913In
Tampa Bay Lightning811499.2
Montreal Canadiens831297.4
*Toronto Maple Leafs801275.9
Detroit Red Wings751442.4
Ottawa Senators69142.4
Florida Panthers60130
Buffalo Sabres4613Out

The top three teams in the Atlantic are virtual locks, while the Red Wings kept their hopes alive with a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, although Toronto has two games in hand on Detroit. Unfortunately for the Senators, their collapse against the Canadiens on March 15 and an 8-4 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday basically quashed their hopes.

Metropolitan Division

TeamPointsGame RemainingPlayoff Chances
Pittsburgh Penguins9414100
Philadelphia Flyers791489.4
New York Rangers781280.5
*Columbus Blue Jackets761473.3
Washington Capitals761220.9
New Jersey Devils711317.3
Carolina Hurricanes69131.4
New York Islanders61120

Six teams remain alive in the Metro, and the Capitals did themselves a big favor with a 3-2 win in Anaheim on Tuesday. The Flyers and Blue Jackets hold an advantage with two games in hand on the Rangers and Capitals, while the Devils' chances appears to be fading after a loss to Boston.

Central Division

TeamPointsGame RemainingPlayoff Chances
St. Louis Blues10114In
Colorado Avalanche9313100
Chicago Blackhawks9313100
*Minnesota Wild821392.6
Dallas Stars751449.1
Winnipeg Jets71121.2
Nashville Predators68130.3

The big question in the Central is whether the young Stars - losers of two in a row - can hang on and grab the second wild card spot (presently held by the Coyotes, as seen below). The top four teams in this division are basically set, with the Avalanche and Blackhawks jockeying for home-ice advantage in their eventual first-round series.

Pacific Division

TeamPointsGame RemainingPlayoff Chances
Anaheim Ducks9713100
San Jose Sharks9712100
Los Angeles Kings821398.4
*Phoenix Coyotes771357
Vancouver Canucks72111.4
Calgary Flames63130
Edmonton Oilers59120

While the Pacific Division crown remains up for grabs, all that's left to be decided here is the Coyotes' inclusion in the playoff picture. Winners of two in a row, Phoenix has a better chance of qualifying than Dallas, but the Stars have a game in hand. 

Feature photo courtesy of Tim Fuller / USA TODAY Sports