Ten games to go.
At least, Carolina has ten games left. Buffalo, in the meantime, has garnered up yet more games in hand, with 12 contests left to play. Indeed, there is very little left of the regular season to decide who will make it into that final playoff spot, and Buffalo and Carolina are currently deadlocked with 76 points.
My grandfather used to pitch a fit over the value of statistics, (more on that later), but in the spirit of the desperation of the unknown that lies before Sabres Nation, some stats are worth a look.
Here is how the remaining schedule looks for both teams, and how the opponents have fared in their last ten games (as of games prior to March 18):
- Ottawa (6-4-0. Surprised? Me too.)
- At Tampa Bay (3-4-3. Surprised? Me too. Again)
- Tampa Bay (3-4-3. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.)
- At Washington (9-1-0. Rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth is an emerging star.)
- Montreal (7-3-0)
- At New York Islanders (4-2-4)
- Buffalo Game Seven? How poetic. (5-3-2)
- Detroit (6-2-2)
- At Atlanta (5-3-2)
- Tampa Bay (3-4-3)
- Atlanta (5-3-2)
- Nashville (5-3-2)
- At Montreal (7-3-0)
- Florida (3-5-2)
- New Jersey (7-3-0)
- At Toronto (4-4-2)
- New York Rangers (6-4-0)
- At Washington (9-1-0)
- At Carolina (4-5-1)
- Tampa Bay (3-4-3)
- Philadelphia (game in hand) (4-4-2)
- Columbus (game in hand) (1-5-4)
Now, examining the strength of opponents’ overall schedule is moot – a team’s overall schedule has nothing to do with how it has been playing lately.
A perfect example of such schedule-stat-breaking is New Jersey, who before a couple recent breakdowns, had gone from the NHL cellar to playoff contention after posting the best record in the league since December – while also setting a NHL record for the greatest comeback from games under .500 of all time. They had been 19 games under the mark.
Like they say, “The Devils in the details.”
A better study, really, is the recent record of the teams Buffalo and Carolina are facing. So, at the risk of giving myself a statistical headache, I will put together the combined records of those last 10 games played by their opponents, compared to each team’s remaining strength of schedule based on the entirety of the season.
Carolina’s Opponents (last 10 games): 51-30-19. Strength of remaining schedule: .490
Buffalo’s Opponents (last 10 games): 58-44-18. Strength of remaining schedule: .490
Well, that was pointless. Like my grandfather used to say, “These idiots needs to stop talking about useless statistics and call the dang game!”
True to my grandfather’s words, that is what Buffalo and Carolina are looking at right now. Their opponents are nearly even in record over their last ten games combined, and their remaining strength of schedule is even. It is simply going to boil down to who out-wins the other.
It’s now a ten game season. (Or twelve.)
If this thing plays out like a nightmare that drags out to that final game, and both teams wind up with equal records, (odds are that it will), the first tiebreaker at the end of the season is wins – not counting shootout wins. (Tip-o-the-sunglasses to Mike Harrington over at the Buffalo News for reminding me of that.)
Of course, there is always the insane idea that New Jersey might continue to unleash itself all over the NHL and oust both Buffalo and Carolina.
So, Grandpa, you were right after all. No more stats. Let’s get to the dang games.