NHL Quarter Recap: Teams Chances of Playoffs

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With roughly a quarter of the season done it is time to look at the odds of each team making the playoffs.

It is still pretty early and a lot could and probably will change throughout the season, but it is definitely interesting to see where the league stands after each quarter. The results could stir up some questions within the league such as with last year’s expansion draft, did team’s make the right moves? Are any trades needed to be made to turn a teams ship around? Will we see another Cinderella story? or is it time for some top teams to finally fall off the cliff?

I’ll be using Hockey Reference Playoff Calculations: https://www.hockey-reference.com/friv/playoff_prob.cgi which base their results on 1000 simulations of the remainder of the season.


Metropolitan Division

New Jersey – 25 Points – Games Remaining 63 – 74% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 2

Columbus – 25 points – Games Remaining 62 – 78.9% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 1

Pittsburgh – 25 points – Games Remaining 60 – 33.1% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 8

NY Islanders – 24 points – Games Remaining 62 – 73% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 3

Washington – 23 points – Games Remaining 61 – 33.1% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 7

Carolina – 22 points – Games Remaining 63 – 66.3% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 4

NY Rangers – 22 points – Games Remaining 61 –  41.1% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 5

Philadelphia – 20 points – Games Remaining 62 –  38.8% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 6


After the 1000 game simulation, the biggest surprise by far is the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions are tied for the lowest chance of making the playoffs with last years Presidents Trophy winner the Washington Capitals. Penguins have lost some key forwards in Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh is currently amongst the worst teams in goals for and goals against %. Did Penguins choose the wrong goaltender? or can they turn it around? Knowing the Penguins office they will probably push all their picks in at the deadline for a trade in hopes to push their Stanley Cup two-peat into a three-peat.

The Washington Capitals seem to be one of the best regular season teams in the past 10 years, so it’s very surprising to see them tied for lowest chance of making the playoffs. Even if they did go on a run and make it, would it really mean anything? Time and time again they push to go far in the playoffs but keep coming empty handed with second-round knockouts. Last year seemed to be their year as they pushed all their chips on the table when they got Kevin Shattenkirk, but with him gone after that big push is Washingtons window finally closed? Based off these results it really shows it. I can’t imagine Washington building a powerhouse team like they did last year. Is it finally time to trade Alexander Ovechkin? Still too early to say, but if things pan out like these results then expect a lot of Ovie talks this summer.

For some Columbus might seem like a surprise, but not to me. After their 50 win season last year they proved it to me that they are becoming a big threat. What surprises me is the Carolina Hurricanes 1 point out of a playoff spot. Overall this team seems like it has been a mess since their Eastern Conference loss in 2008-09 by not making the playoffs since. With some recent strong drafting, especially at defense, it looks like Carolina is finally coming to play. I still believe they are a trade away from taking that next step. They do have a lot solid defensive players, so it’s only a matter of time they trade one of them.


Atlantic Division

Tampa Bay – 32 points – Games Remaining 62 – 98% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 1

Toronto – 28 points – Games Remaining 61 – 91.8% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 2

Detroit – 23 points – Games Remaining 61 – 53.4% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 3

Ottawa – 22 points – Games Remaining 63 – 50.3% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 4

Boston – 20 points – Games Remaining 63 – 41.7% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 5

Montreal – 18 points – Games Remaining 61 – 7.3% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank 7

Florida – 16 points – Games Remaining 62 – 15.6% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank 6

Buffalo – 14 points – Games Remaining 62 – 1.8% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank 8



The biggest surprise is how poorly Montreal has been. Yes, Carey Price has only played half of their games, but even then he is 3-7-1 with a 3.77 GAA and .877 Sv%. This team seemed to be great defensively with lots of offensive problems, but now it’s looking like they are having problems on both ends of the ice. This team for the past 5 years seemed to feel like they could be right there for a Stanley Cup but seem to disappoint year after year.  Normally people look to the head coach as the person to get fired for a shake-up, but honestly, it seems like the shake-up that needs to happen is the firing of their GM Marc Bergevin. Since the questionable Subban trade, it seems like he has been in some warm water. The Montreal media is brutal so I would not be surprised if we see that water burning hot by the end of the year, especially if these results hold true.

Buffalo at the bottom again. In the past 5 years, they have picked in the top 10, with two of those picks being second overall in their respective draft. They are honestly starting to feel like the Edmonton Oilers when they got top picks what seemed like every year. The only difference is on paper Buffalo looks like a solid playoff team. They have so much young talent and even veterans that it’s starting to baffle me on why they are so bad. Last year their goaltender Robin Lehner posted a .920 Sv%, so maybe it really is coming down to their defensive core. With the exception of Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges, most of their defensemen are under the age of 25. Maybe they just don’t have enough experience just yet, or maybe they just don’t have that guy to step up and be that bonafide top 2 defensemen. If the results hold true then they can expect to have another potential top 2 overall pick.


Central Division

St. Louis – 31 Points – Games Remaining 61 – 94.2% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 1

Winnipeg – 27 points – Games Remaining 63 – 84.2% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 2

Nashville – 24 points – Games Remaining 63 – 71.5% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 3

Chicago – 22 points – Games Remaining 62 – 56.8% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 4

Colorado – 21 points – Games Remaining 63 – 52.9% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 5

Dallas – 21 points – Games Remaining 62 – 34.4% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 7

Minnesota – 20 points – Games Remaining 63 –  48% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 6



Winnipeg is what surprises me most in this division. I expect them to improve and be better, but according to the active standings and season simulation results, they are getting better faster than I expected. It might have been different if they were in a different division, but the Central Division is arguably the toughest division in the entire NHL. I thought them getting Steve Mason was a smart move as they needed someone who could help out in net, but Connor Hellebuyck has taken over starting duties and has been absolutely remarkable. If Hellebuyck manages to keep this up then I can see Winnipeg achieving 100 points this season.

Minnesota Wild seems to be a threat and not a threat at the same time. On paper, they look like a solid team, especially with their great defensive core, but then they actually play hockey and it’s like the opposite of what you expect. The Wild haven’t lived up to the hype when they got Zach Parise and Ryan Sutter. Most of this teams core is in their 30’s so the window to win is closing pretty fast. I expect Minnesota to push for the playoffs, but unless Zach Parise can come back healthy early on I don’t expect them to make it.


Pacific Division

Los Angeles – 25 Points – Games Remaining 61 – 81.9% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 1

Vegas – 25 points – Games Remaining 63 – 79.4% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 2

Calgary – 22 points – Games Remaining 63 – 53.0% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 4

Anaheim – 21 points – Games Remaining 63 – 47.6% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 5

Vancouver – 21 points – Games Remaining 62 – 87.9.1% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 6

San Jose – 20 points – Games Remaining 64 – 56.7% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 3

Edmonton -16 points – Games Remaining 62 –  8.9% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 7

Arizona – 11 points – Games Remaining 60 –  0.1% Chance of Making Playoffs – End of Season Division Rank: 8



I think its safe to say the biggest surprise is the Vegas Golden Knights. Every night they seem to be breaking a new expansion team record. This is all without starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury might I add.  Even with these numbers, I am still not 100% sure if they will make the playoffs, and here is why. The Golden Knights have 8 UFA’s and 8 RFA’s coming up at the end of the season, so they might end up trading a lot of roster players come trade deadline. Of course, it would be great to see them in the playoffs, but if even half of those guys walk at the end of the season then they are missing out on so much potential draft picks that they could have gotten if they were to trade those players. I think GM George McPhee will disappoint some of the fans by trading these players away and ruining their playoff chances, but building for the future is important, not just a single season.

Edmonton Oilers being this bad. I can’t imagine a healthy Connor McDavid not being in the playoffs, but it very well might happen. Just when this team seems to be on the rise, they end up near the bottom of the league once again. I don’t believe Edmonton will be this bad all year and expect a trade coming soon, especially with Peter Chiarelli as GM. I actually have this team as my Cinderella pick. They might have an 8.9% chance of making the playoffs right now, but I expect them to snag up a wild-card spot.

Both Western Conference wild-card spots will go to the Central division according to the simulation. I don’t believe that will be the case. I actually predict the Pacific Division to snag up both wild-card spots going against the simulation results. Below I will actually put my quarter playoff predictions for both conferences.

Eastern Conference


1. Columbus
2. New Jersey
3. Rangers


1. Tampa
2. Toronto
3. Ottawa


1. Washington
2. Carolina

Western Conference


1. St. Louis
2. Nashville
3. Winnipeg


1. Anaheim
2. Los Angeles
3. San Jose

Wild- Card

1. Calgary
2. Edmonton

Overall it is still early on in the season, so anything can happen from now until April. I seem to clearly disagree with the simulation results a bit, but there is still months of hockey left to be played to find out who is truly right. Around the 41 game mark, I will make an updated article to see if anything has changed in the simulation and to see if my predictions are holding true. Until then enjoy the next quarter of the season.

Troy Woodland
22-year-old aspiring sports journalist. Knowledgeable in most sports, but an expert in NHL and NBA.
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