Via The Globe and Mail:
With the average team now having played 32 games, or two-thirds of their season, it seems like a good time to project forward what teams will need to qualify for the playoffs.
In the East, it currently looks like the cut-off will be about 52 points, which is very low if you project it out over a full 82-game season (about 89 points).
And here's their projections of what a team needs to do to get to 52 points as of Wednesday morning:
First of all, this is obviously not including playoff seeding, which would have the Jets in the three spot and the Canadiens as No. 4. Also, this story was posted Wednesday morning, but since the only East game last night was Bruins-Canadiens, I still thought it relevant. Now, I left out the top three because I don't think anyone doubts the Pens, Habs or Bruins making the playoffs (or being caught by anyone behind them). I also avoided the bottom four because no one thinks the Sabres are going 11-4-0 over the last month. Sorry, Buffalo, it's rebuild time. As for what's currently constituted, I think it's a safe bet the rest of the top eight is who we'll see playing the first week of May. Carolina is probably the closest to upsetting the balance, but I don't think more than one team from the Southeast is getting in, which means they or the Capitals will have to catch the Jets before season's end with the other two teams being out of luck.
For the Devils, I think 7-7-1 is eminently "doable," despite the injuries and despite the possibility of not having Ilya Kovalchuk until the final week of the regular season. Consider the Devils' remaining schedule.
If the Devils need to go 7-7-1 to make 31 points, that means they only need 15 points. While I am loathe to be the guy that looks at the upcoming schedule and maps out wins, that's precisely what I'm about to do. For the sake of argument, of course. I fully expect the Devils to get three points out of this weekend's Florida trip, leaving 12 points on the board. I think the Devils should at least get to overtime against the Islanders and Maple Leafs, meaning there's now 10 points left to make the playoffs. At this point, Ilya Kovalchuk will have passed the two-week mark in his recovery, but let's assume it takes him three to return to the lineup. Out of that week's games against the Bruins and Senators, I think they'll give Boston a game, but let's not be homerish here. Let's assume they lose to Boston and Ottawa in regulation. Now, Kovy returns in time for the game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs, a game I think the Devils win after regulation: 8 points left. A win over Philly in regulation and a the Panthers takes the total down to 4 points with four games remaining. Of course, those four games are probably the toughest part of the Devils' schedule in terms of a four-game stretch of opponents. The good news is that the Devils don't have to travel -- at all. Their two road games during the stretch are just over the River against the Rangers and those games bookend two home matchups with the Canadiens and Penguins. Let's assume they lose both games to Montreal and Pittsburgh in regulation, based purely on standings points. I absolutely think the Devils will get at least two points out of the two games against the Rangers, even if they come during a shootout in the regular-season finale.
So where does that leave the Devils? With 15 points and an assumed playoff spot if the 32-point projection is accurate. There's always room for error -- the Devils could take Pittsburgh to overtime or beat Boston in a shootout -- it's all possible. My point is that 15 points over the final 15 games is very doable. The problem lies in what happens if the Devils end up doing to the bare minimum and are stuck in one of the final two playoff spots, staring at a first-round matchup with Jarome Iginla's Penguins or the Player-to-be-added-by-Wednesday-deadline's Bruins. But seeding is another discussion for a time that's at least a couple weeks away. For now, let me know what you think. Can the Devils rack up enough points to secure their playoff spot?