How Many Points Will it Take to Make the NHL Playoffs?

By Derek Kessinger
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks currently lead the NHL with six points. They’ve played three games so far. How close are they to making the playoffs? In a 48-game season, it is never too early to ask that question. Especially for the four teams in the NHL who have no points including the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

It’s time to get a little bit statistical on this post. I’m sorry, but unfortunately the NHL uses numbers, and did not cancel a crisp percentage of their season. The NHL will complete 58.54% of their 82 game season with 48 games. The safe bet to make the playoffs is usually 100 points, so we will round up to a guaranteed playoff birth at 59 points (58.54% of 100).

Now the Presidents trophy last year went to the Vancouver Canucks, who had 111 points, which would be 65 points under the shortened season. Over the last five years, the highest point total, reached by both the Canucks and San Jose Sharks was 117 points, which is 69 points with some generous rounding, or about 1.41 points per game. The most points ever were recorded by the 1976–77 Montreal Canadiens, (132 points in 80 games), which would be equal to 79 points this year.

Of course, in this shortened season, nothing is guaranteed. The last playoff seed has gone to a team with between 88 and 97 points in each conference, with about 93 points being a rough average overall during the last five years. 88 points would equal 51 points this year, 93 points would equal 54 and the apparent safe number of 97 points is 56 points.

As for wins, last year the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers won 51 games, which would be just 30 wins in the lockout-shortened season. The Detroit Red Wings won the most games in a year, 63, in 1995-1996, equal to 37 wins this season. The fewest wins ever was 8 by the Washington Capitals in 1976-1977. That would be less than five wins this year. Are any of the teams bad enough to record ten points or less this year?


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