Eastern Conference Bubble Update: February 8th

The stretch drive has begun in the NHL, and in the Eastern Conference, the standings seem to shift every night as there are five teams with a legitimate shot at bumping each other around at the bottom of the Conference’s Top 8. Every couple of weeks, we’ll take a look at team’s predictive stats: the rate they need to achieve points to hit the current playoffs entry point of 93 points, as well as their goal differential, PDO and Fenwick Tied, measures that help us predict whether a team has earned their spot in the standings.

Information was gathered using the NHL.com standings page, Behind the Net’s team pages and Fenwick pages.

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Florida Panthers:

Where they are: 93 pts/82 pace

What they need: 93 pts/82 pace

Why they are where they are: Florida, Washington or Winnipeg, one of them will have to make the playoffs over Toronto despite being an inferior team. Florida is a good possession team with limited goaltending capabilities, and despite a strong start, it’s been catching up to them. Who knows whether Scott Clemmensen, career save percentage .909, can continue to keep them in the race while Jose Theodore, season save percentage .916 remains hurt.

Predictive stats: -28 GD/82 | 99.4% PDO | 51.1% Fenwick Tied

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Washington Capitals:

Where they are: 93 pts/82 pace

What they need: 93 pts/82 pace

Why they are where they are: Washington started off the season as a very good possession team (55%+ Fenwick Tied) but have trailed off after a coaching switch and injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun has heated up and is playing every bit as good as we expected, but the remainder of the team hasn’t been there, failing to out-shoot the opposition and falling apart when they’re up or down by one goal. Nobody expected the Capitals to be in this position before the season started, but they’ve every bit earned their inclusion in this playoff race:

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Predictive stats: 0 GD/82 | 101.0% PDO | 51.2% Fenwick Tied

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Where they are: 94 pts/82 pace

What they need: 91 pts/82 pace

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Why they are where they are: the Leafs are a pretty mediocre possession team, with only one line that has really controlled the flow of play, but what’s helped them is a good shooting percentage that’s given them one of the league’s top offenses. Should the shooting falter, I’m not convinced the team has the defense or goaltending to stay in a playoff spot. That said, the Leafs are picking up points at a very good rate and the competition is quite minimal.

Predictive stats: +17 GD/82 | 101.4% PDO | 48.2% Fenwick Tied

Ottawa Senators:

Where they are: 89 pts/82 pace

What they need: 101 pts/82 pace

Why they are where they are: The Senators have some good young forwards as complements to veterans Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson which gave the team a surprising scoring punch early in the season: guys like Milan Michalek, Zack Smith, Nick Foligno and Colin Greening were producing a lot, while they earned some fantastic production from Erik Karlsson at the back end. However, you open up your play, and you’re susceptible to allowing a lot of shots against, which the Ottawa goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Alex Auld have been unable to handle. They were getting lucky with some one-goal wins earlier this year, but that appears to have cooled off into the stretch.

Predictive stats: -18 GD/82 | 99.7% PDO | 50.1% Fenwick Tied

Winnipeg Jets:

Where they are: 83 pts/82 pace

What they need: 112 pts/82 pace

Why they are where they are: Toronto fans probably need not worry about the Jets because they’re probably unable to compete for an at-large berth, but the Jets are a surprisingly good possession team (they were over 50% for much of the season) who still have an outside shot at the Southeast Division title if their shooting picks up. Their goaltending has been erratic, yet moderately effective, while the forwards have been streaky and have lately been unable to score a lot of goals in regulation. That said, if the shooting percentages eventually catch up to them, the Jets are a threat that just won’t seem to go away, winning a big one when it looks like they’re about to fall out of contention.

Predictive stats: -30 GD/82 | 98.8% PDO | 49.3% Fenwick Tied

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  • Danny Gray

    When the leafs, with excessive PDO and way too low Fenwick, make the playoff – then finally people will come to realize that advanced stats are a complete fraud. The leafs laugh and are better then all this “regression to mean” talk.

    Go Leafs Go

    • Not that they would understand but someone might point out that teams have been able to defy the odds for an entire season (Colorado a couple of years ago) before it blowing up the next.

      Because you can’t be bothered to try to understand advanced stats doesn’t mean that they are a fraud. They are, after all, BUILT around the NHL’s own stat gathering apparatus.

  • MC Hockey

    Hey Cam, Good article and I think your stats chosen as predictors make a lot of sense. For one piece of proof on GD, look at who’s at or above 8th place in each conference, and most teams (around 13 of 16) have a positive goal differential. Anyways, I had to remind myself what PDO is (simply save percentage + shooting percentage and it regresses very heavily to 1000 in the long run)…. but again it makes sense as a predictor as I believe it shows if youre team is having scoring luck and great goaltending when it is relatively high. So I believe Florida will stay in the race and make it as Tallon did a great job back with his “fast moves” on July 1 I can say in retrospect. Toronto looks strong offensively and I think Washington also has the horses to make a run so I predict those two teams in teh playoffs. I think Ottawa and Winnipeg are out as they just don’t have the evidence above, nor time, nor consistent scoring, nor big-time goaltending to make it happen.

  • MC Hockey

    Well Jet fans, feel our pain here in Georgia ! Ladd takes unnecessary penalty late. Sloppy defense. Losing season again this far. We had 11 years of it. I drove three hours round trip to see them 5-15 times a year and the NHL and Spirit group said they lacked fan support. All Crap. Oh , but just keep losing , and we will continue to promote our front office and fire coaches. I miss my Thrashers so bad, but I can’t remember why right now. Best of times. Hope you all get better results than we did. And better treatment by the NHL. Lying backstabbers that they are….