NHL Power Rankings 4/3: Dare We Say 'Playoffs?'

Career shot efficiency at the time of this photo: 100% - Bruce Bennett

As we hit the homestretch and the all-important trade deadline, we take stock of the Isles and try to figure out what it will take to get to the playoffs from here.

As the trade deadline is upon us, we won't be dwelling too much on the opinions of others, or our own numbers. As with last week's article, we will focus more on who plays who in the final weeks of the season, and what the Isles' record will likely have to be from here on out to be in the playoffs.

Quick A.M. Reads (from Dominik)

Some links and fodder before we get to the power ranking roundup and playoff chances:

Now on to the power rankings and pundit polls!

Note: Keep in mind these numbers don't count Tuesday's win over the Jets, nor last night's game.

Weekly Roundup of Opinion Polls

Site Ranking Prior Comments
CBS 19 22 A modest three-game win streak was snapped by the Pens, which is understandable. But they're square in the mix. ... But can they really count this much on Evgeni Nabokov? He has all 16 Isles wins this season.
THN 19 21 Islanders starting to turn some heads, but can they reach the post-season with such dreadful defense? Isles sit 28th in goals-against. Right now, the highest GAA of any team in a playoff spot is Winnipeg at 2.89. And they have the benefit of being in the Southeast.
ESPN 19 22 The Isles have won three of four but, if they're serious about returning to the playoffs, this week will prove a good test as they face New Jersey, Winnipeg and Washington. We're guessing that winning at least two of three will be crucial to playoff hopes.
TSN 21 22 Four wins in the last five games has pushed the Islanders to 37 points, the same as the eighth-place Rangers, though the Islanders have played one more game. Their bid for a playoff berth can be tied to G Evgeni Nabokov, who is 9-4-1, with a 2.33 goals against average and .914 save percentage since the beginning of March.
Fox Sports 20 25 Only four goalies have played more games than Evgeni Nabokov, who has seen action in 30 of the Islanders’ 35 games. There’s a good reason: No other Islanders goalie has earned a victory this season. He was again solid in Saturday’s 2-0 loss, holding Pittsburgh scoreless for the first 48 minutes.
Average 19.6 22.4

The NHLNumbers site has apparently stopped calculating their "predictive" rankings, and thus have been dropped like Wolverhampton every time they make the Premiership. The Isles appear right where you'd expect them, just on the outside looking in. Which is what you get when most people rank teams based on where they are in the standings. Yes, that's the only ranking that matters, but that doesn't always mean the teams have earned their position. Speaking of which:

LHH Power Rankings

Calculated by some guy with way too much time on his hands.

Overall
EAST W L OTL Pts Win Pct PWR Rank
1 Pittsburgh 28 8 0 56 0.778 2228 3
2 Montreal 23 7 5 51 0.729 2026 4
3 Boston 22 8 4 48 0.706 1997 5
4 Ottawa 19 10 6 44 0.629 1800 10
5 Toronto 20 12 4 44 0.611 1797 11
6 New Jersey 15 12 9 39 0.542 1516 18
7 NY Islanders 17 16 3 37 0.514 1466 20
8 Winnipeg 18 17 2 38 0.514 1465 21
9 NY Rangers 17 15 3 37 0.529 1447 22
10 Carolina 16 16 2 34 0.500 1428 23
11 Buffalo 13 17 6 32 0.444 1369 24
12 Philadelphia 15 17 3 33 0.471 1333 26
13 Washington 16 17 2 34 0.486 1264 27
14 Tampa Bay 15 18 1 31 0.456 1209 29
15 Florida 11 19 6 28 0.389 1087 30

Well, well, well.... Do the Islanders deserve to be in the playoffs? What this shows is that, being stuck in a good division (as opposed to whatever you call the Southeast), you usually end up in worse position than you deserve. Let's hope the boys can rise above that.

Standings From an Alternate Universe

Awarding more points for wining a game earlier, and less for losing one earlier. Again, calculated by some guy with way, way too much time on his hands.

(Number of points) (5) (4) (3) (2) (1) (0) Actual
EAST RW OTW SOW SOL OTL RL Pts Place
1 Pittsburgh 24 2 2 0 0 8 134 1
2 Montreal 18 2 3 2 3 7 114 2
3 Boston 17 1 4 2 2 8 107 3
4 Toronto 18 2 0 4 0 12 106 T4
5 Ottawa 14 1 4 4 2 10 96 T4
6 Winnipeg 14 3 1 2 0 17 89 7
7 New Jersey 12 1 2 6 3 12 85 6
8 NY Rangers 12 2 3 3 0 15 83 T8
9 Carolina 15 1 0 1 1 16 82 T10
10 NY Islanders 12 2 3 0 3 16 80 T8
11 Philadelphia 12 2 1 2 1 17 76 12
12 Washington 12 2 2 0 2 17 76 T10
13 Tampa Bay 13 1 1 1 0 18 74 14
14 Buffalo 8 1 4 4 2 17 66 13
15 Florida 8 1 2 1 5 19 57 15

Yes, the Isles are still shown in 10th, but they are only a shootout win behind 8th in this case.

OK, on to the war board:

Remaining Head-to-Head Match-Ups

Redone so we focus just on the two spots that are within reasonable reach, and those teams that are reasonably close to those spots. The following shows how many games played and points each team has, followed by their remaining schedule. The first of those columns, is the number of games left versus the teams above the fray (1st through 6th overall in the conference). The final one is the number of games left vs the three bottom teams.

Current Top Bottom
Place Team GP Pts Six NJ NYR CAR WAS NYI PHL Three
7 New Jersey 36 39 7 --- 2 0 0 0 1 2
8 NY Rangers 35 37 4 2 --- 2 0 1 1 3
9 NY Islanders 36 37 4 0 1 1 1 --- 2 3
10 Washington 35 34 7 0 0 2 --- 1 0 3
11 Carolina 34 34 6 0 2 --- 2 1 1 2
12 Philly 35 33 7 1 1 1 0 2 --- 1

(Currently typing with crossed fingers as the boys hold onto a one-goal lead.)

The Good:

The Isles and Rangers each have the least games remaining against the Top Six (although the Rangers must play Pittsburgh twice), and the Isles, Rangers and Caps are tied for most games remaining against the bottom-feeders. They also have two games against the Flyers remaining, which - on paper - should be an advantage.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, the Rangers and Devils play each other twice more this year, and if those games are three point affairs, it will make it that much more difficult for the Isles to climb (or stay) above either of them. And one of these days, the Hurricanes will finally play some of those games they have on hand.

The Middle:

But if the Isles perform similarly as the other playoff hopefuls against the top and bottom teams, those 5 games they have left against the other teams in the hunt are all they'd really need to do well in. For example, if we make the following assumptions:

1) All of the above teams, including the Isles, lose every game against the Top Six.

2) All of the above teams, including the Isles, win every game against the Bottom Three.

3) The other teams finish around .500 in all head-to-head games against the other playoff hopefuls, excluding the Isles.

4) The Isles win their five head-to-head games against the other teams shown above.

Based on the above, the Isles would finish five points clear of any of the other teams shown here, and seven points ahead of what would be ninth place. That's not to say everything will break the Islanders' way, but it shows how important those five head-to-heads are. If they win those, the other teams would have to find a whole bunch of points against the better teams in the conference.

The Bottom Line(s)

Anyways, if all goes right (all other teams lose all games against the Top Six, Bottom Three, and the Isles, and split the points against each other), the Isles could conceivably make the playoffs on a record of 2-9-1.

More likely, things will be more difficult. Assuming the other teams' head-to-heads end up as three-point affairs more often than normal (40% of the time, vs. the usual 24%), that they beat the bottom feeders, and that they reap half the points from the upper echelon clubs, the Isles record would likely have to be around 8-3-1, but that should be considered the opposite extreme. More likely, points will still be lost along the way against the bottom feeders, etc..

The middle road? Well, if the others' head-to-heads end in three-pointers around the usual rates, and they get some points off of the top six teams, and a majority of points against the bottom three, then the Isles would need a record of around 7-5-0.

And now that Matty Mo just iced the game for good, it's 6-5-0!

It sure is good to be talking about real playoff hopes at the trade deadline, rather than convincing everyone that they're out of reach.

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