The weather will be warmer soon. This means the start of baseball and the end of hockey. That is in a couple of months from now. With the playoffs right around the corner, here is why points matter in the NHL.
When looking at the Metro Division, there are four really good teams looking for a playoff spot. Every one of them can take over the division. These top four teams are only separated by six points. The Carolina Hurricanes have 67 points, while the Pittsburgh Penguins have 66, the New York Rangers have 64 and the Washington Capitals have 61. The Hurricanes, Penguins and Caps all won their games last night, while the Rangers have been in a long break. Their next game is on Tuesday, February 15 against the Bruins.
The Hurricanes have the advantage here with having only played 45 games. This gives them a better opportunity to put more pressure on the teams trying to catch them. The Penguins played 48 games, so this is a difference between three games. That is, potentially, six points that the Canes can use to add to their lead. Of course the Penguins, Rangers and Caps don’t want that to happen. They need to continue doing what they’re doing and win.
The Rangers need to do a better job. Although they have a great season going for them, they need to score more five-on-five goals. The league average for actual goals for (aGF) is 92. The Rangers are below average with 86 goals during five-on-five play. The total amount of goals scored is 142. This is above the league average of 138, which is good. Although a lot of their goals are scored during five-on-five, things could be better.
If people thought things were tight in the Metro Division, then they didn’t look at the Pacific Division. With the exception of the Seattle Kraken, the first seven teams are separated by 11 points. The top four teams are separated by only four points. The Vegas Golden Knights have 59 points, sitting first in the Pacific. The Calgary Flames have 56 points, while both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks have 55.
The Flames have an advantage in terms of the least amount of games played between the top four teams. They only played 44, where both the Golden Knights and the Ducks played 48. The Flames can use this opportunity to gain points on the Golden Knights. Also, the Flames have the fourth-highest goal differential in the league at +41. They are the best in the Western Conference though.
Here is why points matter a lot in the NHL. Of course, that is the whole point of winning, to get more points and be higher in the standings, but it is more than that. If, at the end of the regular season two or more teams are tied in points, their rankings are based on other stats. It is referred to as a tie-breaking procedure to determine the standings.
First, they look at the fewer number of games played (superior points percentage). Then, the greater number of games won, which are regulation wins. This excludes any games won in OT or a shootout. Third, the greater number of games won, excluding shootout wins. Next, the greater number of games won by the team (total wins), which is found in the W column (wins).
Now it gets into a more technical breakdown of who earns the higher spot in a tie-break. The fifth thing to look at is the greater number of points earned in games against the clubs who are tied. For example, if the Rangers and Penguins are tied at the end of the regular season, playing 82 games and their records are identical, they would look at who won more games when these teams faced each other.
The sixth thing is who has the greater goal differential for and against, including OT goals or shootout goals. This is determined by the DIFF column.
Finally, the last thing to look at for a tie-break is the greater number of goals scored, which is the GF column. OT and shootouts are included.
Just win the games. That is what the coaches, players, GM’s and owners want. It is easier said than done, especially when playing against either a great team or a team that has caused problems for them personally. Everyone wants to win and it really comes down to this concept. Every team has their own way to do things. Sometimes, it is not necessarily good, which is why there are winners and losers. Some teams just haven’t figured out their game and that is why they are bad. It could also be due to injuries or COVID that a team’s main players are out. Also, the team in last place may be there because their lines aren’t matched upright. Certain players, when matched up correctly, will play to their potential. It is a matter of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
Losing is a part of the picture too. Playoff contenders hope the teams ahead of them lose because that gives them more hope. The Rangers want nothing more than to win most of their remaining games, but they probably want their division rivals to lose most of their remaining games as well. Fans feel the same way and that isn’t just for playoffs. Fans are always rooting against the division rivals, especially the teams who are always at the top of their game.
The playoffs are right around the corner so the players need to make things happen. Three more months and then Stanley Cup playoff time. Can’t wait!
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