As the regular season is winding down, the clock is ticking on some teams’ playoff hopes, while the countdown also begins toward teams clinching postseason berths.
The Nashville Predators aren’t just looking to clinch a playoff berth, as the case has been in recent years. With bigger fish to fry, it’s important to take a big-picture view while still keeping the immediate goals in mind as well.
That’s where our new magic number tracker is going to come in handy down the stretch.
Each day for the remainder of the regular season, we’ll update two things – what the Preds’ magic number is for playoff positioning, and which results are preferential for the best possible playoff positioning.
(One caveat: every game assumes a regulation or overtime result for tiebreaker purposes. Shootouts will muddy the waters a bit, so the fewer, the better.)
How the magic number is calculated
The magic number is the difference between the Preds’ current point total and the maximum point total of whatever team is in the spot of reference (i.e., whichever playoff spot is in question), plus one point to avoid tiebreakers.
For example, Nashville currently sits at 93 points, and second-place Winnipeg’s maximum possible point total is 121, so the Preds’ magic number to clinch the Central Division title is 29 (121-93+1). It’s a combination of points gained by Nashville, plus points lost by the other team in question.
That number seems like a lot, but it could drop by as many as four points if both teams play on the same night.
With Nashville and Winnipeg’s victories yesterday, the Preds’ magic number to win the Central Division remained unchanged.
The best news was that the ROW (regulation/overtime victories) tiebreaker is even at 37 apiece. Nashville had been behind in that regard for some time now, so to see that gap close completely is very good for the Predators.
Vegas has three more ROW than Nashville, so it would serve the Preds well to simply stay in front of the Golden Knights in the race for home-ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
Those two points gained in Denver technically kept the Preds in front of the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, as Nashville has one game in hand on Tampa Bay and is only one point behind the Lightning.
Boston isn’t out of it, either, as the Bruins are still holding three games in hand on Tampa Bay despite being six points back in the race for the East’s top seed.
Current magic numbers to clinch
These numbers are how many points the Preds need (either by their wins or others’ losses) to guarantee a finish in that spot, basically climbing the next rung up the ladder, if you will.
Playoff spot: 17
1st wild card: 18
2nd in Central, home ice in first round: 21
Win Central Division: 29
1st in Western Conference: 31
Presidents’ Trophy: 34
Monday’s rooting interests
In this section, we’re going to break the schedule down into four levels – games toward clinching a playoff spot, games for clinching the Central Division, games for top seeding (both in the West and for the Presidents’ Trophy), and games of no consequence.
No games fall into this category tonight.
Ottawa @ Dallas: Nashville will secure home-ice in the first round faster with Dallas losses. Plus, in this section, East over West is always best, especially with a regulation finish, so the Senators are the choice here.
Top seeding interests
Toronto @ Buffalo: The Maple Leafs are a minor player in the Presidents’ Trophy race and will fall out of contention for it sooner rather than later, but until they do, they’re in here for now. Side with the Sabres, as a regulation loss by Toronto means they’re pretty much out of any Presidents’ Trophy discussion.
Games of no consequence
Calgary @ Pittsburgh: The Flames are barely still in the race for a wild card spot, so unless they move up, they don’t leave this section. And, let’s be honest: you’re not siding with Pittsburgh. Instead, you could watch the Kids Baking Championship on Food Network. (Although they could have probably named that a little differently to avoid some confusion, because baking kids is highly frowned upon.)
Arizona @ Edmonton: Nothing to see here, move on, unless you like train wrecks. The Coyotes are still mathematically alive, but that could - and probably will - end this week.
N.Y. Islanders @ Vancouver: Sleep is the preferred option.
Overall, it’s a pretty quiet night, and it won’t mean much in the way of movement toward any clinching scenarios. Tuesday will be the next best chance to see any push forward in those regards.
With the Preds off, which game are you most interested in watching tonight?
This poll is closed
Ottawa @ Dallas
Toronto @ Buffalo
Calgary @ Pittsburgh
Arizona @ Edmonton
N.Y. Islanders @ Vancouver
I want to see some kids cooking stuff