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Some Deadline Math To Chew On February 26, 2012

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

The trade deadline is Monday at 3, which is a little more than 24 hours from when I’m beginning to type this.  The question facing Caps fans–and Caps management–is whether or not there’s any chance of making the playoffs.  I decided to break out my calculator and have a look at the math.

These calculations are through all games Saturday night:  Sunday’s games will change these numbers a bit, but not enough to change my analysis all that much.

Let me give a quick refresher on how to figure out clinches and eliminations, for those who don’t know how I’m getting these numbers.  A team clinches over another team when it has scored more points than the other team can possibly attain.  Conversely, a team is eliminated by another team when there are not enough points remaining to catch the team ahead of it.  Games Remaining are valued at 2 points apiece.  So if a team has 67 points with 20 games remaining, it has another 40 points it can still earn, for a Max Possible Points of 107 (which is where the Caps stand now, by the way).

The difference between one team’s current points, and the other team’s max possible points, is the “magic number” between those two teams:  i.e., what it would take to clinch over, or eliminate, the other team.  There are actually two ways to compare teams:  Team A Max Points vs Team B Points, or Team A Points vs Team B Max Points.  So there are TWO magic numbers between each team:  one represents a clinch, the other, an elimination.

So, here are the current scenarios for the Capitals against all the other teams in the Eastern Conference.  Since the Caps still have 40 points available, they could go anywhere from up 40 on their current points, to down 40 on their max possible points.  Anything outside 40 points, whether a clinch or an elimination, is outside the Caps’ direct control.

Before you panic, that actually works both ways.  It is true that if the Caps want to clinch over another team that’s more than 40 points up, they’re going to need to run the table and still need help.  However, if the Caps have an elimination number that is above 40–and they’ve got quite a few of those–then they would have to essentially tank the table and still “get help.”

I’m also going to look at the spreads, i.e., the difference between the clinch number and the elimination number.  I’m going to use Games Remaining as a ballpark number for what’s attainable, and for the Caps, that’s currently a spread of 20.

Here are the numbers:

Pts: 67
Games Remaining: 20
Max Pts: 107

Pts: 84
Games Remaining: 22
Max Pts: 128
Clinch with: 61*
Eliminated by: 23
Spread: -38

Pts: 77
Games Remaining:  22
Max Points: 121
Clinch with: 54*
Eliminated by: 30
Spread: -24

Pts: 68
Games Remaining: 22
Max Points: 112
Clinch with: 45*
Eliminated by: 39
Spread: -6

Pts: 75
Games Remaining: 21
Max Pts: 117
Clinch with: 50*
Eliminated by: 32
Spread: -18

Pts: 75
Games Remaining: 21
Max Pts: 117
Clinch with: 50*
Eliminated by: 32
Spread: -18

Pts: 74
Games Remaining: 22
Max Pts: 118
Clinch with: 51*
Eliminated by: 33
Spread: -18

Pts: 72
Games Remaining: 19
Max Pts: 110
Clinch with: 43*
Eliminated by: 35
Spread: -8

Pts: 68
Games Remaining: 18
Max Pts: 104
Clinch with: 37
Eliminated by: 39
Spread: -2

Pts: 65
Games Remaining: 20
Max Points: 105
Clinch with: 38
Eliminated by: 42*
Spread: +4

Pts: 62
Games Remaining: 20
Max Pts: 102
Clinch with: 35
Eliminated by: 45*
Spread: +10

Pts: 60
Games Remaining: 21
Max Pts: 102
Clinch with: 35
Eliminated by: 47*
Spread: +12

Pts: 60
Games Remaining: 21
Max Pts: 102
Clinch with: 35
Eliminated by: 47*
Spread: +12

Pts: 59
Games Remaining: 20
Max Pts: 99
Clinch with: 32
Eliminated by: 48*
Spread: +16

Pts: 58
Games Remaining: 20
Max Pts: 98
Clinch with: 31
Eliminated by: 49*
Spread: +18

Okay.  So the Caps can forget about catching the Rangers and Bruins at this point.  Mathematically, it’s possible; as a practical matter, not so much, barring a miraculous stretch run by the Caps and collapses by the Rangers and B’s that would rival the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

I’ll get to the 3 spot in a second.  The short take on the 4-7 spots is that they aren’t completely impossible as of today, but a couple of losses (or wins by the teams in those spots) and they might be.

But before you start moping, take a look at the lower end of the chart.  As of right now, every team behind the Caps, from Toronto on down, needs more than 40 points to eliminate the Caps.  In other words, if the Caps take care of their own wins, they should have no trouble hanging on to the 9 spot at worst.  That’s not great, especially given the regular season success we were spoiled by in recent seasons.  But the Caps do in fact have a shot at the playoffs right now, and a good one.

Now, you’ll note that the Panthers’ clinch number is above 40.  I won’t mince words:  that is a major concern.  The Caps are going to have to do a lot of winning, now, and hope Florida stumbles a bit, in order to have a shot at the Southeast Division crown.  Note, however, that the spread in magic numbers against the Panthers is in single digits.  That is definitely doable, but the Caps need to start rattling off a good W number, now, to do so.  It is too late in the season to be consistently inconsistent.

As for the Jets, that’s a race that could go either way.  Not a bad spot to be in, to be sure, but the Capitals do need to take advantage of that spot, ESPECIALLY given the two weeks’ worth of home cooking they’re about to be served.

While the first three-quarters of the regular season have been somewhat unspectacular, the Capitals are still in position to make the playoffs, and potentially skate away with the division championship.  I would contend that it’s too early to give up on the season now, and frankly, I expect we’ll be seeing some playoff hockey in the District this spring.

How much playoff hockey?  Well, you know what I said before the season started.  And you know how much I’d love to be right about it.

The Caps can make the playoffs from where they stand, and I would submit that if they make it in from here, they may prove to be a force to be reckoned with.  I may be in the minority here, but I would be extremely disappointed if the Caps opted to cash in their chips on Deadline Day.  They can make the playoffs from here; and if they did, that same never-say-die attitude which would get them there, would also serve them well once they DID get there.

Now is not the time to surrender.  This season just might work out, after all.




1. Caps Today, 2/27 | Caps Today - February 27, 2012

[…] Capital Spirit: Some Deadline Math To Chew On […]

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