Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Advanced Calculus

Tonight is the night where wins and losses mean everything. It's the final Tuesday before the end of the regular season, and there are playoff spots on the line. Some key matchups will hold teams' fates in their hands, so this entry is all about math. Who needs what to happen to clinch a playoff spot? Who needs who to win to stay alive in the battle to claim a spot in the post-season dance? All will be revealed through the power of mathematics. And you thought this was just a hockey blog. Tonight, you are invited to gaze at the wonder of math as your resident pedagogue, Teebz, displays the intricacies of playoff hockey, and the quest for the post-season! What that last sentence is saying is that I'll show you what needs to happen for teams to clinch tonight. Much easier to read that way. Here we go.

We'll start in the Eastern Conference, and at the top of the standings since those are the easier-to-understand equations.

The New Jersey Devils can clinch the Atlantic Division Title tonight if they earn at least a point against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The can also clinch if the Florida Panthers defeat the Philadelphia Flyers. If the Flyers lose in extra time or regulation time, New Jersey earns one of the top three seeds.

Those Philadelphia Flyers can clinch a berth in the playoffs if they earn at least a point against the Florida Panthers. They can also clinch a playoff spot if the New York Rangers lose in extra time or regulation time to the Montreal Canadiens. However, the Flyers will want to earn both points, and hope that Toronto defeats the New Jersey Devils for a shot at the Atlantic Division title.

The Pittsburgh Penguins can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. They can also clinch if they lose in extra time to the Lightning, but have both New York and Florida lose their games either in extra time or regulation time. In a third option, they can also clinch if both the Rangers and Panthers lose their games in regulation time. Again, if I'm Pittsburgh, I'm shooting for the win rather than relying on others to help me.

The Montreal Canadiens can clinch a playoff spot if they defeat the New York Rangers tonight. They can also earn a spot by losing in extra time to the Rangers if the Panthers lose in regulation time to the Flyers. For the Canadiens, a win would be huge considering how poorly they played against Ottawa last night. Confidence needs to be restored in the Habs' dressing room.

If both the Rangers and Panthers win in regulation tonight, New York would still be in eighth-place in the Eastern Conference due to tie-breaking rules. They have more wins than the Panthers do. For the Rangers, they need to beat Montreal. For the Panthers, they need Montreal to beat the Rangers, and then they have to beat the Flyers. Neither can clinch yet, but those two games carry huge playoff implications.

Over in the Western Conference, one team who can clinch anything tonight is the Calgary Flames. If the Flames defeat the Vancouver Canucks in regulation time, they will clinch the Northwest Division title, and the three-seed for the playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks can clinch fourth-place with a win over the Nashville Predators coupled with a regulation loss for the Canucks. Obviously, the Canucks have a lot to play for tonight.

If you're scoreboard-watching tonight, both the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues are in action. Both have 86 points, but Nashville has more wins, so they sit in eighth spot. Nashville plays Chicago - a much tougher test - than St. Louis' matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes. A win by both teams sees no changes to the standings. A win by Nashville and a loss by St. Louis puts the Blues on a thin lifeline as they need to win their final two games and hope that Nashville loses both of their games. A win by St. Louis coupled with a loss by Nashville puts St. Louis into eighth spot with two games remaining. After that, all heck breaks loose with mathematical equations and tie-breaking scenarios.

The Minnesota Wild's remaining three games are must-wins. They play at home tonight against the Dallas Stars. If they lose, and either Nashville or St. Louis wins, Minnesota is eliminated. They will definitely need some help over these last three games to make the playoffs.

The Edmonton Oilers are in the same boat as Minnesota. All three remaining games are must-wins. They play the Los Angeles Kings in Edmonton tonight. If they lose, and either Nashville or St. Louis wins, Edmonton is gone. Like Minnesota, they will need a pile of help.

There are your setups for this evening. Lots of drama, and everyone is clinging to their proverbial lives in this battle. I'm off to volleyball, and then to watch hockey. We should have a clearer picture of how the playoffs will look once the dust settles tonight, but you're still going to have to remember all these formulas if you want to pass tonight's class. Get studying!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


JTH said...

As a Blackhawks fan, obviously I haven't had a vested interest in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the many years. Can you refresh my memory? Do they re-seed after the first round?

As the old saying goes, "if the season ended today" the Hawks would have the #4 spot. At the time I'm writing this, they're 3 points ahead of the Flames.

If the Hawks and Flames both advance to the second round, who has home ice for that round?

Teebz said...

No reseeding. Calgary as the #3-seed would have home ice advantage over the Blackhawks despite the 'Hawks having more points.

Sorry, JTH. Brutal system, but that's how it works.