Midseason NHL playoff projections
Chicago again a contender, but there are some big surprises elsewhere
With many teams already at the midseason point or hitting that 41-game mark later this week, it is time to revisit our team projections to prognosticate how the final standings will play out.
The updated playoff format introduces new wrinkles into which teams will make the postseason and what the matchups will be. The top three teams from each division -- whether the eight-team divisions in the East or the seven-team divisions in the West -- automatically make it to the postseason, with the second and third seeds in each division facing each other in round one. In addition, the two best remaining records from each conference make it as wild cards. The top team in each conference faces the lesser wild card, while the other division winner faces the superior wild card.
Taking into consideration a) each team's current record, b) our preseason VUKOTA projections based on the goals versus threshold (GVT) metric, and c) the gold standard in team puck possession metrics, Fenwick Close percentage*, we present the following midseason projections of the final standings.
*Fenwick percentage is the percentage of a team's shots on goal plus missed shots out of the overall number of shots on goal plus missed shots in their games. Close-game situations are defined as within one goal in the first and second periods, or tied in the third period. Fenwick is a measure of which team is controlling play, while limiting Fenwick to close-game situations avoids including skewed data where one team is changing tactics in protecting a lead.
Boston, last season's runner-up and a popular choice to return to the Stanley Cup finals, is the class of the new Atlantic Division, despite possibly giving up too easily on former second overall pick Tyler Seguin. Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron are perennial contenders for the Vezina, Norris and Selke Trophies. The Bruins have ranked among the top six teams in Fenwick Close since 2011-12.