Predicting Playoff Fates for NHL’s Fringe Postseason Teams
Stanley Cup odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate as of Tuesday, March 20. Make sure you’re confirming these lines before deciding on or placing a wager, as they will continue to shift as the regular season inches closer to the finish line.
Eastern Conference Fringe Picks
No. 9: New Jersey Devils (+2800)
The NHL’s Eastern Conference fringe race only stretches two teams deep. The New Jersey Devils, who are currently in eighth place, find themselves four points behind the seventh-place Philadelphia Flyers, while the 10th-ranked Carolina Hurricanes are an insurmountable eight points behind the final postseason spot.
That bodes well for the two remaining teams jockeying for status…for now anyway. One of them still needs to be cut from the field. As of this moment, it looks like that team will be the Devils.
This race is too close to call in many respects. The Devils and Panthers are neck and neck when it comes to goals scored and allowed. Even Hockey-Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS), which rates teams according to strength of schedule and point differential, considers them eerily similar squads.
That leaves us to consider their remaining schedules. And that hurts the Devils. They have the second-toughest upcoming slate in the Eastern Conference and seventh overall in the entire NHL. Though the Panthers aren’t facing a particularly simple spate of tilts, they’re closer to the middle-of-the-road in difficulty than not.
No. 8 Florida Panthers (+3500)
There isn’t much to add here beyond the Panthers’ having a substantially easier schedule.
Florida is 7-2-1 over its last 10 games and currently owns the tiebreaker over New Jersey. Failing a late-season flop that runs counter to their recent surge, the Panthers are perfectly positioned to erase the one-point gap standing between them and eighth place.
10. Dallas Stars (+2800)
The Western Conference postseason battle royale is far more up in the air than the Eastern Conference’s race. We could technically go deeper than the five teams presented here. After all, only eight points separates the fourth-place San Jose Sharks from the ninth-place St. Louis Blues.
Still, we’re operating under the option that the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds are sewn up. Both the Sharks and Minnesota Wild, respectively, are given at least a 94 percent chance of making the postseason. Contemplating their downfalls feels disingenuous to those overwhelming odds.
All of which doesn’t spell good times for the Dallas Stars. They barely have a one-in-three shot of sneaking into the playoffs despite currently having more wins than the eighth-place Anaheim Ducks. But their remaining schedule sees them face opponents with average winning percentage of 53 percent. And they haven’t fared well against these foes all year.
9. St. Louis Blues (+4000)
Giving the Blues a playoff nod is tempting. They have one of the West’s easier schedules to close out the year and are 11 games over .500 after playing out the third toughest slate in the conference.
But they haven’t done a good enough job netting aggregate points to curry favor over their closest competitors. They’ve made a dent in the points department of the standings in 52.1 percent of their games, which ranks a so-so ninth in the West. That screams mediocrity, and that’s not good enough to survive this brutal fist fight.
8. Los Angeles Kings (+2800)
Sticking the Los Angeles Kings at No. 8 might actually underrate them. They own seventh place now, and Hockey-Reference’s SRS says they’ve actually played like the third best team in the West when taking into account their point differential.
At the same time, they haven’t faced enough superpowers to earn complete blind faith. They almost fall inside the bottom 10 of power play offense and don’t have loads of experience winning games in overtime and shootouts. They’re also in the bottom five of power play goals allowed.
That doesn’t mean they’ll stay here beyond a shadow of a doubt. They have an easier schedule on tap than the Colorado Avalanche. But their points percentage (58.9) just isn’t impressive enough for a team that’s played out a dead-even subset of opponents on the year to guarantee anything more than this. That we’re coloring them playoff locks at all is a win unto itself.
7. Colorado Avalanche (+2800)
Only five teams have a harder schedule to close the year than the Avalanche. Earmarking them for seventh place is a gamble—a calculated one.
SRS rates them as one of the NHL’s top eight teams, and while their offense can struggle at times, they offer far more balance than any of their peers. Among this five-squad heap, they’re the only one that places in the top 13 in the league of both power play percentage and penalty killing percentage.
That general scrappiness should see them through their hellacious stretch run. But don’t take our word for it. The numbers say the same thing.
The Avalanche are given an 80 percent chance of making the playoffs at this writing.
6. Anaheim Ducks (+2000)
Good luck talking us out of this pick.
No team on this list has an easier closing schedule than Anaheim. SRS rates them as a middle-of-the-pack faction, and their offense can stall for entire periods at a time, but the Ducks consistently find ways to win. Their 4-7 record in shootouts is slightly concerning, but at the same time, they’re tied with the Nashville Predators for the league lead in shootout appearances.
The Ducks are also tied with the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres for the NHL lead in total combined losses during shootouts and overtimes (12). Letdowns are never a good thing, but their propensity for keeping games close and putting themselves in a position to win means a whole lot when the margin for error in this conversation is razor thin.
Combine this with the fact they’re one of the five best penalty killing squads in the league, and it’s not hard to slot them in sixth place. Really, given all we know, it would be harder to stick them any lower.
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