It’s been a long time — too long, admittedly — since I’ve checked in here at the blog. However, the release of the first AHL Playoff Primer on Friday morning compelled me to throw together some thoughts.
Firstly, here is a link to the document at theahl.com.
If you’re not familiar with the primer, it basically breaks down each team’s path to clinching a playoff berth, calculating teams’ magic numbers and their strength of schedule, among other things.
So, what does it mean for the Penguins? Well, their magic number was 56 entering the day. That means any combination of the Penguins gaining and fourth-place Lehigh Valley losing 56 points would get the team into the postseason.
That’s a high number, you say. You are absolutely right, at least in comparison to recent seasons.
Your next question is whether or not WBS has a realistic shot of making the playoffs based on that number. Here’s how I look at the breakdown:
Firstly, the Penguins need to pick up their point percentage, which sits at .529. Looking at last season, Bridgeport had a nearly identical percentage through the full season and finished fifth — a whopping 15 points behind Providence for the last spot. The Penguins are lucky the race is still as close as it is for so many teams.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has not shown it has the consistency to rip off a 10-game point streak like Hershey or Providence both have of late. Let’s say it earns 60 percent of its points the rest of the way — a better pace than it has had all season and a realistic outlook given the team’s repeated inconsistency — putting its season total at 84.
If Lehigh Valley stayed basically at .500 the rest of the way, going 13-12, it would be enough to hold off WBS. Hershey is sort of in the same boat at 14-12. Overtime games would muck things up further for WBS.
My takeaway in that situation, then, is the Penguins are going to need a good amount of help that seemingly isn’t close to materializing. Providence is on fire, and Hershey has a hot goaltending tandem and has gotten reinforcements in different areas that it didn’t have to start the season.
Thus, the Penguins’ easiest team to pass is likely the Phantoms, given the teams play each other six times the rest of the season. However, they need to win the rest of the season series dominantly. Let’s say with an overall gain of six points.
But that still leaves another team the Penguins need to leap, and Hershey would be the only logical choice. It just feels like a perfect storm scenario where their poor record against the Bears this season will probably come back to haunt them.
This also ignores the fact the Penguins’ schedule is home game heavy, and they’ve been worse at Mohegan Sun Arena for whatever reason.
So in my estimation, the Penguins need to either get really hot really fast and win 16 or 17 of their last 25 games or otherwise hope a team above them completely sputters to the finish based on whatever circumstance to feel any sort of comfort.
It’s definitely possible, but two-thirds worth of season data would suggest the odds are not all that good.