Since December 28 our Ducks have gone 10-3 and improved their P% to .571. The Kool Aid drinkers on most Ducks sites have assumed our Ducks have already made the playoffs. By their take on it, you’d think the season ended yesterday.
I can’t help but notice the facts. Our Ducks still have 30 games to play.As impressive as a 10-3 run is, our Ducks find themselves in a dogfight with no margin for error. One look at the tsn.ca standings says it all:
|11||Los Angeles||50||27||22||1||55||143||124||17-9-1||10-13-0||5-5-0||Won 3|
|14||St. Louis||49||22||20||7||51||130||146||15-8-3||7-12-4||2-7-1||Lost 3|
As you can see, the 10-3 run is welcome but our currently 5th place Ducks haven’t put much distance on the nine teams battling for five playoff spots. The reason is that other teams are winning as well.
Take a peek at the Western Conference teams records just over the past ten games. Even though our Ducks are tied with Dallas for the most wins, our Ducks are 3rd in points over the same stretch. The 7-2-1 Dallas Stars and the 6-1-3 Calgary Flames each have 15 pts to the 7-3 Ducks 14 over the same stretch.
And that’s why P% is such a critical statistic. Over the same ten games Dallas and Calgary are collecting points at a .750 rate while our Ducks who have actually won one more game than Calgary are accumulating points at a lower .700 clip.
To anyone who thinks our Ducks are a shoe in would do well to consider this and I’m going to add emphasis:
If the currently 12 place Calgary squad gains one point every ten games and they win the GIH, we finish just one point ahead of the Flames at the end of the season.
And that bold and italicized fact can happen even with our Ducks going 21-9 down the stretch! What do you think of our margin for error now? Still think we’re a shoe in?
No doubt the 3 point game is producing a nail biter playoff stretch run. For a fairly young team like our Ducks the intensity of these stretch run games is experience you can’t buy.
Some say there’s no great secret to what our Ducks need to do to enter the 2nd season. They say, “Just win.” As you see with the Calgary example winning isn’t enough.
With nine teams competing for five playoff spots the new tie breaker system will probably come into play.
NHL By-Law 27.3 now reads as follows (with the approved revision in underlined italics):
At the conclusion of the regular Schedule of Championship Games the standing of the teams in each Conference shall be determined in accordance with the following priorities in the order listed:
a) First place in each of the three divisions seeded 1, 2 and 3.
b) The higher number of points earned by the Club.
c) The greater number of games won by the Club (excluding games won in the Shootout).
d) The higher number of points earned in games against each other among two or more Clubs having equal standing under priorities (b) and (c).
e) The greater differential between goals scored for and against by clubs having equal standing under priority (d).
Of the nine teams scrunched together Nashville and Calgary have 6 SO wins. Kings 5; Ducks, CBJ 4; Avs, Hawks, Sharks & Blues 3. If the season ended today our Ducks would take 4th place ahead of Nashville by virtue of the third tie breaker.
The fourth tie breaker, head to head P%, is just as jumbled. Currently our Ducks win a head to head P% against all four Pacific Division teams, Calgary and Minnesota. The fourth tie breaker doesn’t resolve anything between our Ducks and Chicago, Colorado, Columbus and St. Louis.
If the season ended today our Ducks lose the head to head goal differential against Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, San Jose and Los Angeles; tie against Colorado and win over Dallas, Minnesota and Calgary.
As you can plainly see “just winning” isn’t enough. Our Ducks have to win in RT or OT and by as big a margin as possible. Winning one goal games and SO’s could easily cost us the playoffs.
With a weak Eastern Conference, everybody in the Western Conference save Edmonton is a winning team. In other words, to make the playoffs in the Western Conference we have to beat teams with winning records by 2 or more goals.
Our Ducks can do it. What I don’t know is will they do it. Failing to make the playoffs doesn’t make them a bad team. It makes them an under-achieving team.