Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell recently reminded season ticket holders that the club has a favorable schedule in March with many home dates [including three games against last place Carolina I might add]. On the other hand, the April schedule is just plain brutal as Atlanta faces hosts Devils (emotionally charged Kovalchuk return game) and then a home and home with both Pittsburgh and Washington.
To figure out which of the East playoff bubble teams had the most advantageous schedule I copied each club's remaining games into Excel and then calculated the average number of points each opponent allows at home and on the road for each East playoff bubble team in the remaining NHL season. For example, the Thrashers play Philadelphia at home--where the Flyers typically allow the opponent just 0.871 standing points per game--but when Philly is on the road the Flyers are more generous allowing opponents 1.069 standing points per game.
So in this analysis there are two key factors 1) total number of games remaining, 2) average tendency to allow points by the opposition team at home and on the road. I make no attempt to adjust of the quality of each team's roster or injuries, trades or any other factor. It is intended to convey a rough sense of what we should expect given each team's schedule, nothing more, nothing less. And I'm certain this will turn out to be wrong as some teams will flop and others excel down the stretch.
And now the moment you're been waiting for. Here are the projected final standing based on the typical number of points allowed (home/road) by each bubble team's opponent the rest of the NHL season.
What can we learn from this exercise? The Bruins have a small but significant advantage over the other bubble teams, but that advantage amounts to just 2 points or one win--hardly insurmountable. Atlanta, Tampa and Montreal are all basically a roll of the dice. Each has a schedule that puts them into a logjam with Atlanta have the tinniest of advantages. The Rangers are 3 points out--which is also hardly insurmountable--but they will need to play very well down the stretch given their schedule. What we can't predict very well is who will get hot--more on that in a future post.
For Thrashers fans who want to see how the Atlanta schedule shakes out on a game-by-game basis consult the table below to see opponent's tendency to allow points at home and on the road.
|ATL Schedule||Team||Pts Allowed||62.0|
|Tue, Mar 2||Florida||1.258||63.3|
|Thu, Mar 4||NY Islanders||1.406||64.7|
|Sat, Mar 6||@ Tampa Bay||0.800||65.5|
|Sun, Mar 7||Carolina||1.367||66.8|
|Tue, Mar 9||Nashville||1.000||67.8|
|Thu, Mar 11||@ Columbus||0.935||68.8|
|Fri, Mar 12||NY Rangers||1.034||69.8|
|Sun, Mar 14||Phoenix||1.133||70.9|
|Tue, Mar 16||Buffalo||1.000||71.9|
|Thu, Mar 18||Ottawa||1.138||73.1|
|Sat, Mar 20||Philadelphia||1.069||74.1|
|Sun, Mar 21||@ Philadelphia||0.871||75.0|
|Tue, Mar 23||Boston||1.103||76.1|
|Thu, Mar 25||Toronto||1.313||77.4|
|Sat, Mar 27||@ Carolina||1.000||78.4|
|Mon, Mar 29||Carolina||1.367||79.8|
|Tue, Mar 30||@ Toronto||1.103||80.9|
|Thu, Apr 1||@ Washington||0.448||81.3|
|Sat, Apr 3||@ Pittsburgh||0.871||82.2|
|Tue, Apr 6||New Jersey||1.032||83.2|
|Fri, Apr 9||@ Washington||0.448||83.7|
|Sat, Apr 10||Pittsburgh||1.000||84.7|