Through 52 games, the Red Wings find themselves in a great position. They are tied for 2nd in the Atlantic Division with Montreal at 71 points and they trail first-place Tampa Bay by just two points. Last season on February 9th, the Red Wings were 5th in the Atlantic Division at 26-20-12 with 64 points. Instead of racing for a Wild Card spot, the Wings are in contention for the top seed in the East this season. How does the Red Wings’ closing schedule compare to Tampa Bay, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and the New York Islanders, and what is the most likely outcome?
Red Wings’ Closing Schedule
Thus far the Wings have played 27 games at home and 25 games on the road. That leaves them with a final 30 games consisting of 14 home games and 16 road games. This include a brutal remaining stretch in February that sees them play seven of their nine games on the road. Check out the breakdown of their remaining schedule:
|Team||Opp Points%||Opp H/R Points%||Opp H/R GF||Opp H/R GA||Opp H/R 5v5 CF%||Opp H/R 5v5 SCF%|
As you can see, the Wings have quite a daunting task in front of them. Their opponents have earned 58.1% of the points available thus far. When we split that into home and road based on where the Wings will face the opponent, that percentage jumps to 59.5%. In the Red Wings final 30 games, the Wings will play 13 games against the top-10 teams in terms of points percentage (excluding the Red Wings). How does this compare to the teams they are chasing for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference?
Eastern Conference Contender Schedules
|Team||Games Remaining||Opp Points %||Opp H/R Points%||Opp H/R GF||Opp H/R GA||Opp H/R 5v5 CF%|
As you can see, the Red Wings’ closing schedule is by far the most difficult. However, when we think about the tiebreakers used to determine the playoff seedings, consider this. Detroit has three games in hand on Tampa Bay, but trails them by just two points. The Wings also have 1 game in hand on both the Islanders and Penguins, but lead them by 2 and 3 points respectively. Essentially, Detroit is in a good position right now where even if they don’t post as good of a closing schedule as the other teams, they have an ounce of wiggle room.
When it comes to actual seeding, Detroit is in a good position when looking at regulation and overtime wins. Detroit has 29 of them, tied with Montreal and trailing Tampa Bay. You could make the case that Montreal will be the toughest team for Detroit to pass which means that the two remaining games against the Habs will be of the utmost importance.
Prediction For Red Wings’ Closing Schedule
As shown above, Detroit has the toughest remaining schedule, but is sitting in a favorable position right now. I always prefer to estimate carefully, so I taking Detroit’s current point rate of 1.36 points/game, I decided to drop that to 1.2 points/game or a 6-4 record per 10 games. A rate of 1.2 points/game would give the Wings 36 points from their final 30 games, allowing them to finish with 107 points. SportsClubStats, a site that simulates the remaining games for each team using previous game data, suggests that if the Wings finish with 107 points, they have a 5% chance of being the #1 seed in the East, but most likely will end up as the #3 seed.
If the Wings were to earn points at their current clip of 1.36 points/game, the Wings would finish with 112 points, giving them a 10.9% chance of winning the President’s Trophy and a 56% chance of being the #1 seed in the East. SportsClubStats suggests that the most likely scenario is for the Wings to go 17-10-3 and finish with 108 points, the #3 seed, and a first round matchup with either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Washington Capitals. However, this doesn’t factor in the NHL’s current playoff format, but as the #3 seed, Detroit can expect to see Tampa, Montreal, or Boston in the first round.
For the first time in two years, Wings’ fans can breathe a little easier as this year’s team is competing for the #1 seed as opposed to a playoff spot. Surprisingly, the Wings have not had home ice advantage in a playoff round since 2011. That seems likely to change this season, even with the Red Wings’ closing schedule being as difficult as it is. Get on the edge of your seats Wings’ fans, we’re in for a fantastic finish.
Prashanth is a fourth-year doctor of pharmacy student at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill, NC. He has covered the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers since April 2014. He is always willing to hear any and all debates pertaining to his articles, so feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org