New Jersey Devils playoff hopes still alive

Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils

Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thanks to a four team snail race between the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, and Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils have clawed their way back into the picture.

The Devils have 79 points, which makes them only three back of the final wild-card holding Blue Jackets. Three points is a lot to make up with only seven games remaining, but stranger things have happened.

According to Carbon Bets, the Devils playoff making probability is 18.6 per cent.

Those who believe advanced hockey analytics provide significant insight into the quality of a hockey team have numbers to prove that the Devils are better than their record shows.

According to Extraskater.com, the Devils have the fifth best possession numbers in the NHL – a 53.7% 5v5 close FF%, meaning only four NHL teams enjoy more regular five-on-five puck possession than New Jersey.

Which four teams? The Los Angeles Kings (56.6%), Chicago Blackhawks (55.3%), San Jose Sharks (55%) and Boston Bruins (54.2%).

The top four leading teams in 5v5 close FF% is a playoff bound group that features the three last Stanley Cup winners and a San Jose Sharks club that’s in contention every single season.

The Devils are out of the playoffs right now, but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and in terms of an NHL season, the fat lady’s song is heard in chorus with the final horn of the eighty-second game of the season. The Devils have seven more tries to prove they are as good as the possession numbers indicate, and deserving of a spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Shootouts have been an Achilles heel of the Devils this season – they’ve managed zero wins in ten attempts to win one after sixty-five minutes.

Let’s say the Devils win five of those shootouts: give them another ten points on the season, and a comfortable spot in the postseason. But, I guess every team can say “what if” about some shortcoming this season, so it is what it is.

A spot in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs is still unlikely for the Devils, despite their recent ascent up the standings, but should they get hellishly hot over the next two weeks, and receive a little help from the Caps and Jackets, New Jersey still can pull it off.

NJD play the last place Sabres tonight in a game they need to, and should be able to win. The Capitals and Jackets are in action, as well, against tougher competition. But the Devils can’t really worry about anyone else, they just need to keep winning hockey games.