It’s A Numbers Game
Prior to Christmas the Sens wrapped up a 2-1 win over the Predators, delivering a much needed 2 pts. and extending the Sens streak of improved play.
Since December 10th, when I mentally re-started this season, and accepted that my team had to earn 70 pts. in 52 games, the Sens have gone 3-1-2, for a P% of 0.673 and have earned 8 of 12 available points.
That’s definitely improvement, and is on target, but just.
The bad news is the wins were mostly against non E.C. teams and many of those ahead of the Sens in the E.C. standings continued to play well and bank points.
Last year required fewer than 90 points to make the post season, this year could prove to be the opposite, requiring more than the 95 pt. norm for post season play.
The Sens may well have picked a terrible year to be challenging for an 8th place finish.
But it is, what it is.
Tonight the Sens will face the penguins, and they’re probably going to lose. Look, I want them to win, I really, really want them to win, but nothing apart from pure homerism could make me expect anything but a good ‘ol ass woopin at the hands of one of the leagues best teams, captained by the leagues (hands down) best player.
Who knows, maybe the Pens will be all fat on turkey and compliments, and take a night off, but I doubt it. The fact is, if it comes down to a team taking the night off, recent history indicates it will be the Sens…I’m just sayin’.
The Pens are now what the Sens were 4 years ago. It may hurt to accept this reality, but it remains the reality none the less.
And if the Sens hope to make the post season, they too have to recognize this new reality, and over-come it with improved efforts, getting wins the hard way, after years of doing it on skill alone.
So, should the Sens lose this game, they’ll be 3-2-2 in their last 7 games, for a P% of 0.571. Not good enough to make the post season.
If they win, they’ll be 4-2-2 in their last 7 games, for a P% of 0.714, so far so good, and a little cushion to boot.
A tie will put them at 0.643, within striking distance of their goal.
If this team s going to make the post season, they’ll have to do it by winning all of the games they’re supposed to win, and some games they’re not. May as well start with a win tonight, right boys?
Here’s a break down of the final 46 games.
Games vs. teams currently above them in P% =31
Games vs. teams currently below them in P% = 15
So, as you can see, the Sens must win all of those 15 games vs “weaker” opponents, and 16 games vs. those teams currently above them in the standings, for the required 62 points yet to be earned.
Sure, it could be done with a different mix, but that would be doing it the hard way, and I’m not planning for anything more than the path of least resistance.
Who among that group of 31 games are at least close to the Sens in the standings, and play in the East, making up the next class of “must win” games?
CAR (2), ATL (2), FLA (2), NYR (2) = 8 games/16 points. Add to this they’re the all important “4 point” games, and they really are must wins.
Next are the western based teams above, but near the Sens in P%;
ANA (1), CLB (1) = 2/4 pts. Maybe not as big as the games vs. E.C. teams, but still those with the highest likelihood for positive outcomes.
That leaves another 21 games in which the Sens, in a perfect world, will have to earn at least 13 points from, for a P% of 0.310.
It is in those remaining 21 games, vs. competition with significantly better P%, that the Sens face their greatest challenge. 21 games versus legitimate NHL post season contenders. Lets be honest, teams that, to date, the Sens can’t be expected to beat.
Teams that look at the Sens and think “2 points”.
And maybe, just maybe, this attitude can be the Sens secret weapon. We all know good teams look past weaker teams, and can be caught sleeping early. If some of these teams are already post season locks, and are not particularly interested in busting their asses down the stretch, the Sens can possibly steal some late season “meaningless” points.
So which are these games might the Sens be able to steal?
PIT, March 15th, at Ottawa.
This game comes after the Pens face Edmonton at home, and is a one off road game, before a late season 4 day mini break for the Pens. It is entirely possible management will leave some key players behind for a little extended R&R, and those that do make the trip to Ottawa will already be in vacation mode.
WSH, March 25th, at Ottawa.
A game that falls in a weird spot in the WSH schedule. Washington, prior to this game, will have played just one match (vs. PHI) in the previous 6 days, and the team will likely head home from nearby PHI to enjoy the 2 days off before flying in to Ottawa for the match against the Sens. Add to this the fact that the Caps will play a back to back, with MTL, the team they lost to in last years post season, being the second game, it is highly possible the players and management will look past Ottawa.
Lastly, Philadelphia, April 5th, at Ottawa.
A game slap in the middle of a season ending 2 games in 6 nights light schedule for Philly. Add to this the Flyers have a 2 day break after this game, before a back to back to end the season, and you’re likely to have a team in “float” mode hoping to rest up before the post season.
The other 7 pts. from the top of the pack teams will have to come from a combination of luck, effort and skill.
So there you have it, 46 games, 62 points, and a post season appearance.