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Red Wings Playoff Race: The Magic Number and Points Pacing

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I was doing some back of the envelope math today that I wanted to share in regards to the Red Wings and their race to extend their playoff streak (which we've said all season long is a stupid measuring point for a successful season unless making the playoffs also extends out to making an actual run in the playoffs). The thing is that Detroit is almost guaranteed to make the playoffs, regardless of how much our confidence is shaken right now.

Sportsclubstats.com has the Wings' chances right now sitting at 97.8%

The envelope math tells us that Boston, the 9th place team right now, has a maximum potential earned output of 101 points with eight games left to play. Detroit sits at 90 points with nine games remaining. To avoid worrying about tiebreaker situations, the Red Wings can lock the Bruins out of catching them with any combination of 12 points earned by Detroit or lost by the Bruins. For the record, Ottawa's theoretical max is 103, so Detroit's magic number to make sure they stay 3rd in their division is 14 points.

It's pretty likely that Detroit won't fall below eighth place in the conference. Here are the standings as they look right now on NHL.com

NHLstandings27Mar2015

What I wanted to do was go by pacing for each team to give us a range of expected outputs. For that, I put together the points paces for the Red Wings, Senators, and Bruins based on their full-season record and also based on their last 10 games.

Team Current Points GR Full Season Pace Last 10 Pace
Detroit 90 9 101.10 96.3
Ottawa 85 9 95.48 99.4
Boston 85 8 94.19 93.8

So even with the awful pace the Wings have put up lately, they'd still have to be worse and/or Boston would still have to be better to knock Detroit out of the playoffs. However, Ottawa's red-hot pace of having earned 16 out of a possible 20 points in their last 10 games means things will have to change from recently to keep the Sens out of the 3-seed in the Atlantic.

Considering last year's Red Wings, who went through an absolute nightmare of injuries sustained put up 93 points on their way to a playoff berth, how many points better do you think they should have been? If they keep playing like they have been, the improvement will be just three points. Even if they play like they have all season, the Wings are on pace to improve by fewer than 10 points on last year's record.