Although it’s not quite the actual midway point in the league schedule, the All-Star Weekend along with the relatively new mandated bye week for teams is the only extended beak in the regular season and comes shortly after the midway mark so it is generally considered the midway point. The league is usually different coming out of the break and you’ll usually see some teams beginning to sell spare parts and the contenders and sellers will become more clear.
It was right around this time last year that the Hurricanes began their hot streak that took them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. The St. Louis Blues weren't on anybody’s radar for the playoffs at this point last year, let alone the miraculous run they began that just culminated with the Stanley Cup and continued with St. Louis hosting the All Star Game this weekend.
Last year I wrote a weekly recap breaking down how many points each team needs the rest of the way in order to make the playoffs. As you can see how things ended up in the Metro based on the standings on January 6th last year, anything could happen from now and the playoffs.
I expected the magic number for teams to make the playoffs around 97 points for the final Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. Lo and behold, Columbus claimed the final spot with 98 points and Montreal missed out with 96. Here’s a quick quote from last year’s article to break down how I came up with that 97 point total:
Last season, the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets were the two Wild Cards in the East with both teams finishing with 97 points. The Florida Panthers were the first team out and finished with 96 total points.
Two years ago, the Rangers were the first Wild Card and finished with a whopping 102 points. The second Wild Card team was the Toronto Maple Leafs with a total of 95 points. The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning were the teams that missed the cut with 94 points each.
Three years ago it was the Islanders as the first Wild Card with 100 total points and the Philadelphia Flyers totaling 96 points. The Bruins were the first team out with a total of 93 points.
If you take the average total of points of the two Wild Card teams in those three seasons, it averaged 97 points to make the playoffs. Not surprisingly, 97 points would have made the cut in each of the last three seasons, and that will likely be enough to make it to this year’s big dance as well. Below I will list how many points each team will have to accumulate over the second half in order to reach 97 points and likely a playoff berth.
The Metropolitan appears to be a much stronger division this season. As of this morning, three out of the top four in the NHL in goals allowed are in the Metro and the Penguins and Capitals make it five out of the top eleven teams in the NHL in goals allowed that call the Metro home. The 2016-17 season was the last time the Metro hasn’t produced five playoff teams. It appears that streak will continue this season as the Flyers are currently sixth in the Metropolitan but would be one win away from second place in the Atlantic.
While 97 points was the cutoff the three years prior, 98 points was the cutoff point last season and it appears that it will be closer to 98 again this season. So this year I’m going to use 98 as the magic number. I’ll list each team’s current pace and what pace each team needs from the Metro to reach 98 points, and likely a playoff spot.
33-11-5 record thru 49 games
71 points / 1.45 points per game
The Capitals will need to average 0.82 points per game to reach 98 points
31-14-5 record thru 50 games
67 points / 1.34 points per game
The Penguins will need to average 0.97 points per game to reach 98 points
New York Islanders
29-15-5 record thru 49 games
63 points / 1.29 points per game
The Islanders will need to average 1.06 points per game to reach 98 points
Columbus Blue Jackets
27-16-8 record thru 51 games
62 points / 1.22 points per game
The Blue Jackets will need to average 1.125 points per game to reach 98 points
29-18-3 record thru 50 games
61 points / 1.22 points per game
The Hurricanes will need to average 1.16 points per game to reach 98 points
27-17-6 record thru 50 games
60 points / 1.2 points per game
The Flyers will need to average 1.19 points per game to reach 98 points
New York Rangers
23-21-4 record thru 48 games
50 points / 1.04 points per game
The Rangers will need to average 1.41 points per game to reach 98 points
New Jersey Devils
17-24-7 record thru 48 games
41 points / 0.854 points per game
The Devil will need to average 1.67 points per game to reach 98 points
As you can see, the Metro is doing very well as a whole. The only team not at a .500 points percentage is the New Jersey Devils. It’s probably safe to write the Devils off already. The Rangers need to win nearly two out of every three games in order to get within contention of a Wild Card. Chances are the Rangers won’t make it, but the Hurricanes were treading water for much of the year before taking off. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The rest of the Metro has a long way to go before it’s settled. The Capitals have a tighter cushion over the rest of the Metro than usual around this time of the year. The Penguins have the exact same points differential over the third place Islanders as of today. The Islanders only have a three point lead over the sixth place Flyers, however, and it looks like it’s going to be a six team battle for only five possible playoff positions.
The playoff picture likely won’t be decided until the final second of the final game of the regular season. Buckle up folks! The second half is about to begin!
31-14-5; 67 pts; 168 Goals For (7th in the NHL; 6th last week); 136 Goals Against (7th; T-5th)
1-1 record last week
Call it a comeback! Pittsburgh wins 4-3 with four straight goals
Pens out of gas, fall 3-0 in Philly
Friday, January 31 - vs PHI, 7 p.m. ET
- 11/14/19, C Nick Bjugstad - IR; Core muscle surgery
- 11/29/19, D Brian Dumoulin - IR; Lacerated ankle tendons
- 12/16/19, D Justin Schultz - IR; Lower-body injury
- 12/29/19, LW Jake Guentzel - IR; Shoulder surgery
- 1/18/20, LW Dominik Kahun - Day-to-day; Concussion
33-11-5, 71 pts; 177 GF (3rd; 1st); 144 GA (11th)
Did not play last week
Monday, January 27 - @ MTL, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, January 29 - vs NSH, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 31 - @ OTT, 7:30 p.m.
29-15-5, 63 pts; 143 GF (22nd); 132 GA (T-3rd; 3rd)
1-0-1 record last week
CAR: 2 SO
Williams wins the skills competition
They don’t make it easy
Saturday, February 1 - vs VAN, 1 p.m.
- 12/20/19 - RW, Cal Clutterbuck - IR; Wrist
- 1/1/20 - D Adan Pelech - IR; Achilles
27-16-8, 62 pts; 138 GF (23rd; T-25th); 130 GA (2nd)
2-0 record last week
The return of Bjorkstrand + Kivi’s first NHL win = revenge on the Rangers.
B-b-b-bjorkstrand beats the Jets
Saturday, February 1 - @ BUF, 1 p.m.
- 9/24/19, C Brandon Dubinsky - IR; Wrist
- 12/13/19, D Ryan Murray - IR; Upper-body injury
- 12/13/19, RW Josh Anderson - IR; Shoulder
- 12/20/19, RW Oliver Bjorkstrand - IR; Back
- 12/28/19, G Joonas Korpisalo - Day-to-day; Torn meniscus
- 12/31/19, C Alexandre Texier - IR; Lumbar stress fracture
- 1/2/20, D Dean Kukan - IR; Torn meniscus
29-18-3, 61 pts; 159 GF (10th; 16th); 132 GA (T-3rd; T-5th)
2-0 record last week
CAR: 2 SO
Williams returns and scores winning shootout goal
Williams scores twice as Canes down Jets
Friday, January 31 - vs VGK, 7:30 p.m.
- 1/15/20, D Dougie Hamilton - IR; Fractured fibula
27-17-6, 60 pts; 158 GF (T-11th; T-12th); 150 GA (T-14th; T-15th)
1-0 record last week
Flyers shutout Penguins 3-0 en route to huge win before the break
Friday, January 31 - @ PIT, 7 p.m.
Saturday, February 1 - vs COL, 7 p.m.
- 9/12/19, C Nolan Patrick - IR; Migraine disorder
- 11/6/19, D Samuel Morin - IR; Torn right ACL
- 12/10/19, LW Oscar Lindblom - IR; Illness
- 1/7/20, D Shayne Gostisbehere - Day-to-day; Knee
- 1/13/20, G Carter Hart - Day-to-day; Strained abdominal
- 1/19/20, C Michael Raffl - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
23-21-4, 50 pts; 158 GF (T-11th; T-12th); 159 GA (21st; T-18th)
0-2 record last week
Two Third Period Goals Doom Rangers Against Columbus
Rangers Rally Late But Fall to Islanders 4-2 at MSG
Friday, January 31 - vs DET, 7 p.m.
Saturday, February 1 - @ DET, 7 p.m.
- 1/20/20, Aretmi Panarin - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
17-24-7, 41 pts; 126 GF (27th); 173 GA (30th)
Did not play last week
Monday, January 27 - @ OTT, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, January 30 - vs NSH, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 1 - vs DAL, 7 p.m.
- 9/30/19, D Brian Strait - IR; Concussion
- 1/8/20, LW Ben Street - IR; Upper-body injury
- 1/11/20, RW Kyle Palmieri - IR; Foot
- 1/15/20, G Louis Domingue - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
Which Metropolitan game is the most intriguing?
This poll is closed
1.27.20 - WSH @ MTL, 7 p.m. ET
1.29.20 - NSH @ WSH, 7:30 p.m.
1.31.20 - PHI @ PIT, 7 p.m.
1.31.20 - VGK @ CAR, 7:30 p.m.
2.1.20 - VAN @ NYI, 1 p.m.
2.1.20 - CBJ @ BUF, 1 p.m.
2.1.20 - COL @ PHI, 7 p.m.