Southeast Division Update

There is about 20 games left in the NHL season and we still have yet to see one team emerge as the favorite in the Southeast Division. The Florida Panthers currently sit in first place by four points but I’ve seen biggest leads evaporate before, so this race is far from over. To get an idea of who will come out of this logjam in first place at the end of the year, I am going to take a look at each team’s underlying numbers and determine who is more likely to win the division and earn that much desired playoff spot.

I’m going to do this at the end of every week until the season’s over so we can see how things progress over time.

Team W Pts Corsi Tied. Fen Close GF GA Exp. W Exp. Pts Pace
Florida 31 74 0.51 50.27 163 184 29 57 93
Winnipeg 31 70 0.494 50.81 173 186 31 61 87
Washington 32 69 0.501 49.62 172 184 30 61 87
Tampa Bay 31 68 0.473 48.86 184 219 27 54 86
Carolina 24 62 0.486 48.77 171 197 28 56 78

Before we get into anything, I’ll break down the table for you. I have displayed the team’s wins, points, even strength possession stats, how many goals they scored compared to how many they gave up and their expected win and point total going by Pythagorean expectations. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically an expected winning percentage based on how many goals a team scores compared to how many they surrender. For instance, the Canes have scored 171 goals while giving up 197, which would give them an “expected” winning percentage of 46.4%. That equals to about 28 wins.

This method is a good way to see which teams are beating their opponents more handedly and relying less on overtime/shootouts for points. You can see the the Hurricanes have gotten the shaft in that department because they “should” be about four wins better than they are right now but the 14 OT/SO losses bring them down.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite in the division. All of the top four teams are separated by one win and six points and none of them are that great. Florida has been a solid team this year but the main reason why they are leading the division right now is the 12 points they’ve earned from overtime and shootout losses. The Panthers aren’t blowing out teams this year at all as they have the same amount of “clear victories” as Carolina (10) and have earned points in 26 of the 31 one-goal games they were involved in. It’s also worth mentioning that they are tied with the Caps for the division lead in fewest goals allowed, showing that good goaltending has been one of the reasons for their success. Florida technically has more points than they “should” right now but they have an edge on the Winnipeg Jets with games in hand and are slightly better at controlling possession than Washington. Their margin of error is also a bit larger than the Caps right now.

The Jets playoff chances are very realistic right now but the fact that they trail Florida by four points and have played two more games might hurt them. They haven’t been overwhelmingly better than Florida this year, but I would not be surprised if they ended up winning the division when all is said and done, especially with the Caps seemingly in free fall mode. Although, Washington leads the division in clear victories (16) and have finally broke the .500 mark in corsi tied so they could possibly make a run for the division. Time is not on their side, though.

As for Tampa’s recent surge, I still don’t think they can take the division. That team has been awful at controlling possession all season and it hasn’t changed much at all. The reason for their resurgence is due to some extremely high shooting percentages that aren’t sustainable in the long run. Their goaltending is still worst in the league, too even if Mathieu Garon has improved lately. That and their depth is incredibly weak with Vinny Lecavalier and Victor Hedman out of the lineup. Steven Stamkos’ line and Eric Brewer are going to need to carry this team the rest of the way if they want to make the playoffs. The Anaheim Ducks basically did the same thing last year so it’s possible, but very unlikely.

That’s how things look right now. I’ll be interested to see what changes next week.