Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Playoff Math -- Another Magic Number

Another day, another 5,000 views, statistics, omens and other indicia of who will make the playoffs, when the CBJ will clinch, etc. etc. In keeping with the spirit of service to my loyal readership, I humbly offer yet another statistical way to evaluate the crazy Western Conference Playoff Race (henceforth referred to simply as the WCPR).

There are multiple problems in coming up with a true "magic number" in the context of the WCPR. First, we do not know with certainty how many points will qualify a team for the playoffs in the West. Though my tracking over the course of the season leads me to strongly suspect that the number will be 88, that lacks the certainty you need for a magic number. Similarly, with respect to the CBJ, there is no one defined pursuer against whom a magic number can be calculated. The Bluejackets are in 6th place, so even if the 7th place team passes us, and the 8th place team passes us, we are still in the playoffs, so long as nobody else passes us. Complicating the situation is that there are several teams who could fall into any of those slots. So, the key is to develop a magic number for each contender, and gear it off of the concept of them passing us, rather than any unknown absolute number.

If you look at the chart that I have made available through the other posts below, you will note that I have included the maximum possible points that a team could reach, assuming they won all of their remaining games. It is then a relatively simple matter to compare maximum possible values, and, using 2 points for a victory, 1 point for OTL, determine what combination of CBJ Wins/OTL and pursuing team Losses and OTL are needed before it becomes impossible for the pursuing team to pass the CBJ. For example, Los Angeles has 70 points now, and 9 games left, giving them a best possible total of 88 points if they win the rest of their games. The CBJ have 83 points, so need 6 points to shut out LA from equalling or passing them. Thus, dividing by the 2 points awarded for a win, the CBJ's magic number for LA is 3. Any combination of CBJ wins and LA losses that totals 3 does the trick. An OTL by either team reduces the magic number by 0.5.

The magic numbers for the CBJ with respect to each of their pursuers are as follows:

Los Angeles 3
Dallas 5
Minnesota 6
St. Louis 6.5
Nashville 7
Anaheim 7
Edmonton 7.5

In terms of clinching, the CBJ will have definitively secured a playoff spot as soon as all but two of the teams listed above have been eliminated.

Simple? Maybe not, but easy to track ;-) I'll post the numbers here. Go Jackets!!

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