The “Race” for the West’s Top Spot

With just about seven and one-half weeks to go in the NHL regular season, Wings fans can sit back and be comfortable in the knowledge that we have the best record in the West, are coasting into the Western Conference playoffs with the top seed in hand and might even lock up our seventh President’s Trophy. Everything is as it should be.

wingsbanners

What’s that you say? “Look at the standings?” Why bother? We’re on top of the West and everyone knows it.

OK, OK, if you INSIST on wasting my time, I ‘ll humor you with a quick look at NHL.com.

See right here, ‘Western Conference Standings.’ Number one team? The Detroi…

Um, whoops.

That’s right Wings fans, in case you haven’t been paying attention (which i’m sure you ALL have), our beloved Hockeytown Heroes sit in lowly SECOND PLACE in the Western Conference, behind…

newsharkslogo

SAN JOSE? WTF DUDE?

Ok ok, no need to panic. We are only 1 point behind the Sharks with 24 games to play. We can make that up…can’t we?

Great question and glad you asked. Here’s the deal: while we are only 1 point behind the Sharks RIGHT NOW, the key thing to remember is that they have three games in hand on us, since we have played 58 games to their 55. If you count those three as wins for SJ, that puts them 7 points ahead of us at the end of the season. The point: Realistically, we sit 3.5 games back of the Sharks with 24 games to go. Insurmountable: not quite. A challenge: you betcha.

Before we go any further, let’s get some background information out there that will prove vital in this discussion.

Records as of 2/19/09 (W/L/OTL)

  • San Jose: 38-8-9, 85 points
  • Detroit: 38-12-8, 84 points

Home/Road Records this season(Win Percentage)

  • San Jose (Home): 24-2-3 (82.75%)
  • San Jose (Road): 14-6-6 (53.85%)
  • Detroit (Home): 21-4-3 (75.00%)
  • Detroit (Road): 17-8-5 (56.67%)

Games remaining before end of season

  • San Jose: 27 (12 at home)
  • Detroit: 24 (13 at home)

Games remaining before March 31st

  • San Jose: 21 (9 at home)
  • Detroit: 18 (9 at home)

What does it all mean? Basically, we will know EXACTLY what needs to be done when we hit March 31st and both teams have exactly six games remaining. For the sake of the argument, and the sake of saving everyone from reading 50+ game predictions, here is how we will move forward:

  • San Jose wins 83% (7 wins) of their remaining home games and 54% (6 wins) of their remaining road games before March 31st.
    • Projected point total: 111 points
  • Detroit wins 75% (6 wins) of their remaining home games and 57% (5 wins) of their remaining road games before March 31st.
    • Projected point total: 106 points

Um, ok? EXACTLY! Basically what this futile math exercise has told us is that the Wings (statistically) should make up minimal ground on the Sharks, and (statistically) should be 2.5 games back heading into the final six games of the season.  

OK, so now what? Now, I am going to attempt to break down the last six games of the season for each team and determine what the result of those games may be, thus determining a Western Conference champion.

San Jose

Against

Season Results

Projected Result

4/2 @ Edmonton

2-0-1

Win

4/4 vs. Anaheim

2-1-0

Win

4/5 @ Anaheim

2-1-0

Loss

4/7 vs. Colorado

2-0-0

Win

4/9 vs. Phoenix

2-1-0

Win

4/11 @ Los Angeles

3-0-0

Win

Detroit

Against

Season Results

Projected Result

4/2 vs. St. Louis

3-0-0

Win

4/5 vs. Minnesota

2-0-0

Win

4/6 @ Buffalo

1-0-0

Win

4/9 vs. Nashville

3-1-0

Win

4/11 vs. Chicago

4-0-0

Win

4/12 @ Chicago

4-0-0

Loss

Which gives us?

  1. San Jose – 121 points
  2. Detroit – 116 points

ARGH! Do you believe this is true?

*Sigh* Unfortunately, yes. While the breakdown I have provided is chock full of speculation, all signs point to it being tough to catch the Sharks. They are a VERY good club who are itching to win their first Western Conference regular season crown. They know that this is their best chance to date, so look for them to keep the pressure on to win.

THAT SAID, Todd McLellan is not a fool and has to realize his team is running away with their division. They are practically guaranteed a top three seed in the playoffs, and he can afford to rest his players before the playoffs if they keep performing the way they have. Meanwhile, Detroit has a good grip on the Central (but not a stranglehold) but could face some late pressure from Chicago. This could keep the Wings aggressive, while San Jose takes it easy, potentially giving Detroit a shot at claiming a late regular season championship. This is HIGHLY doubtful in my mind, but it is a possibility.

The short of it is this: If the above numbers hold true, Detroit needs to go 6-0 and has to have SJ do no better than 3-3 in the last six games. This could potentially give Detroit 118 points to SJ’s 117, with the consideration that SJ loses all of their games in regulation. If they somehow end up tying in points, it becomes a matter of who won more games and who won the head-to-head matchups, which then makes the Feb. 25th game a must win for Detroit to salvage a 2-2 record against the Sharks. If they SOMEHOW wind up tied in wins and head-to-head, it goes to goal differential, which San Jose currently leads, though only by four goals.

Say it ain’t so?!

Keep in mind, this is all speculation. There is ALOT of hockey yet to be played and this could change drastically. All I am trying to do for you is break down what the landscape would look like come April if both teams played at a pace consistent with how they have played this season. It’s entirely possible that either team could go on a crazy win streak while the other slogs along, which would throw my entire equation to the birds. However, I think that it is more likely that these two teams will continue to play well, and will ultimately give us a rather interesting run to the playoffs.

I also think that the head-to-head matchup on the 25th could dictate how the rest of the season plays out. A win for Detroit and they are breathing right down the necks of the Sharks and making them second guess if they can stave off a proven, championship caliber team. A win for the Sharks, and their confidence is sky high from taking the season series and could create doubt in the mind of the Wings as to whether or not they can hang with a team like San Jose down the stretch.

In Conclusion…

Accordingly to my ridiculous calculations and numerical lunacy, San Jose wins the West regular season crown. They have a statistical edge, and the odds are in their favor that they win enough games to keep the Wings at bay. But in the other corner, the Wings have all of the intangibles. They are a proven winner. They have been here before. And they know that the Cup isn’t won in April. But they also know how important home ice is come playoff time, and would love to limit their potential trips to the west coast by locking up the top spot.

My numbers say San Jose wins this. Common sense tells me that San Jose will also win this, as they are just THAT good this year (Jennifer Leggio is grinning ear to ear right now, I guarantee it). But don’t ever count out Hockeytown and the magic of the Red Wings. Let’s hope it’s a good run to the finish line.

GO WINGS!

Some extra tidbits: Of the Stanley Cups that the Wings have won since 1997, they have been the top seed three times. The 1998 championship team was the 3 seed in the west. The last time the Wings were a 2 seed, they were swept by the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the eventual Western Conference champion.

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5 Comments

Filed under I (Kinda) See the Future (Maybe)

5 responses to “The “Race” for the West’s Top Spot

  1. One kind of neat thing about this, is either way a “Wings” team makes top seed in the west. It’s fun to see Todd McLellan craft a team much like the Wings after being an assistant coach with the Wings. Great to see that the coaching style Detroit has come up with can lead to successful teams (whereas the Penguins have super amazing talent, yet are sucking).

  2. KeiferNandez

    I bet this is really interesting, after all, look at how long it is! Unfortunately, Detroit can suck it.

  3. Pingback: Prepare Thyself: Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 « Sleepless in Michigan

  4. Pingback: The State of Hockeytown « Sleepless in Michigan

  5. Pingback: Prepare Thyself: March 30 – April 5 « Sleepless in Michigan

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