What do the New Jersey Devils need to do in order to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Here’s what the numbers say.
The New Jersey Devils kick off their last 32 games of the season tonight against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center. Heading into Saturday night, the Devils are in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 60 points. They sit just a point behind the second-place Penguins and five behind the first-place Washington Capitals. With five points separating the No. 3 seed and the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, the Devils’ playoff position isn’t safe by any means.
Every time New Jersey plays a division rival at this point, it’s a four-point game, not a two-point contest. There is a four-point swing in the standings if the game ends in regulation. Take Tuesday night for example. The Devils beat Philadelphia in regulation and, as a result, gave themselves more breathing room and held their spot in the division.
Tonight’s game with Pittsburgh could jump the Devils a point ahead of the Pens if they can figure out a way to win in regulation.
Since the NHL re-aligned its divisions prior to the 2013-14 season, it’s taken 95 points, on average, to have a chance to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The high number was 98 and the low was 93. For argument’s sake, we’re going to say the Devils must hit that 95-point mark if they want to be the eighth seed in the East. How do they get there?
Currently, the Devils sit at 60 points with 32 games left. They have 15 dates with Metropolitan Division teams, eight with teams from the Atlantic, and nine with clubs in the West. There is also a daunting upcoming West Coast trip where they play Nashville, Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose. This will be the stretch that determines the Devils fate.
If we’re speaking mathematically, getting those additional 35 points would require the Devils to go 16-12-4 down the stretch. Playing .500 hockey the rest of the way should get them in the playoffs but then they are taking fate out of their own hands. If the Devils want to make the playoffs comfortably, they have to win about 20 games.
With the way the Devils have been playing, this is very doable. They’re going to have to outlast a lot of good teams, however. Every team in the Metro is still capable of making the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if the Devils do anything at the Trade Deadline to improve their chances.