When Marty’s arm popped, I suggested breaking the season down into 10-game slices, with the outside chance that Brodeur would re-appear for the final ten spot. The first micro-season saw the Devils go 6-2-2, the second set of 10 started off horribly – one win set up against five losses – but evened out with the Devils going 5-5 during that stretch.
Let’s set a reasonable goal and do the math on the math: Making the playoffs will probably require in the neighborhood of 96 points this year (last year the Avalanche missed the playoffs in the West with 95 points, which was something of a bad record to set). That means an average of 1.17 points a game. Through the first 20 games, the Devils were on a 1.2 points per game pace, and as of Saturday’s Sidneyfication, they have 26 points in 22 games, putting them 4 points ahead of last year’s pace.
My personal belief is that not all points are created equal. The obvious conclusion is that points against division rivals should be the most valuable, because they determine the top three seedings in the playoffs. But with the new schedule, there are only 24 intra-division games and 40 intra-conference games, meaning that playing well against the other teams in your own conference while playing 0.500 hockey in your division can be enough to send you into the second season. Here’s how the Devils stack up through 22 games: 8-2-1 versus the Eastern Conference’s Southeast and Northeast divisions; 3-4-1 against Atlantic division teams and a statistically insignificant 1-2-0 versus the Western Conference. That’s 19 out of 22 points against the other teams the Devils will be battling for playoff spots 4-8 (assuming they don’t win the division, which is a discussion to have much later in the season).
The hockey season mirrors the school year in many parts of the United States: camps open around the same time that school starts; the first game is played as you finally learn where your classes are; the playoffs start when baseball and spring sports are more interesting than Laplace transforms (no, he didn’t play goal for the Canadiens in the 1950s) and the Cup finals usually find a way to interfere with final exams. At this point in the season, we’re barely past Thanksgiving and looking ahead to the holidays: lots of school (and hockey) left.