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There is the old saying that NHL teams who are in playoff position at Thanksgiving are likely to remain there when the season ends. In fact, since the 2005-06 season, when the salary cap was instituted, 77% of NHL teams who were in playoff position on American Thanksgiving have maintained that status.
Because the 2021-22 season started a week later than normal, Thanksgiving Day would be a premature demarcation point for assessing the teams. But now that we have reached the Christmas break, the standings show a clearer picture.
NHL teams in playoff position on Thanksgiving Night have ended up making the playoffs 77% of the time in the salary cap era.
Notably that’s 77% of the time for both the four-division (74/96) and six-division (86/112) formats.
*excluding shortened seasons
**going by Pts% not Pts
— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) November 21, 2021
In assessing the teams, consideration is given to their current standings position, as well as how they are faring in advanced statistics at the current time.
The Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Rangers are bunched together at the top of the Metropolitan division. The Pittsburgh Penguins, in fourth place, currently trail the leaders by four points.
Then there is a gap between the Penguins in fourth place and the Columbus Blue Jackets who are currently in fifth place. Columbus has just one game in hand over the Penguins but no games in hand over Carolina.
The Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils are bunched up behind the Blue Jackets. As for the New York Islanders, despite the fact that they were highly regarded prior to the start of the season, they may be discovering that “it’s getting late early”.
A Look At The Numbers
In the advanced statistics department, the Hurricanes, Penguins, and Capitals have their percentages in Corsi For, Fenwick For, Shot For, Scoring Chance For, Goal For, and Expected Goals all exceeding 50%. The Rangers rank below 50% in most of those metrics so there’s a chance they could regress.
Of the bottom four teams, the New Jersey Devils are the only team exceeding 50% in any of those categories. However, they have a lot of points to make up before they can even approach fourth place.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Toronto Maple Leafs are bunched together at the top with 40 standings points or more. In the middle are the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins who trail them by nearly 10 points. The Buffalo Sabres are in sixth place and five points behind Boston. The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens are bringing up the rear.
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The Lightning, Panthers, and Maple Leafs have nearly all of their percentages in Corsi For, Fenwick For, Shots For, Scoring Chances For, Goals For, and Expected Goals for exceeding 50%, although Tampa Bay’s Shot For Percentage is currently under 50%.
Boston, currently in fifth place, has nearly all their percentages exceeding 50%, except Goals For Percentage. In addition, the Bruins have five games in hand over Detroit, who is ahead of them by three standings points. Boston also has a better Points Percentage than Detroit.
In the Central Division, the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche are currently the Top Four teams. All have 36 or more standings points and rank in the top four in points percentage. The Winnipeg Jets currently rank fifth. Behind them are the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and Arizona Coyotes.
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The Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild have nearly all of their percentages in Corsi For, Fenwick For, Shots For, Scoring Chances For, Goals For, and Expected Goals for exceeding 50%.
The St Louis Blues are under 50% in most of the advanced statistics, but have a strong Goals For Percentage. The Dallas Stars, who have a slightly negative goal differential are not strong in any of the advanced statistics, with all falling below 50%.
The Las Vegas Knights, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers occupy the first four standings positions, with the first two having 40 points and the second two four points behind them. After that, the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks are clustered behind them. The Seattle Kraken are bringing up the rear by seven points.
The Calgary Flames have the best percentages in Corsi For, Fenwick For, Shots For, Scoring Chances For, Goals For, and Expected Goals For Percentages. The Las Vegas Knights exceed 50% in most of the metrics except for Scoring Chances For Percentage.
The Edmonton Oilers exceed 50% in Corsi For and Expected Goals For percentages but are under 50% in the others. The Anaheim Ducks exceed 50% in Shots For and Scoring Chances For percentages, but are under 50% in the others.
Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Kings, currently out of playoff position, are currently exceeding 50% in all advanced statistics. The Vancouver Canucks, also currently out of playoff position, exceed 50% in most of the advance statistics except Expected Goals For and Scoring Chances For percentages. The San Jose Sharks, currently out of playoff position, are below 50% in the advanced statistics metrics.
Here is a link to the complete list of advanced statistics from Natural Stat Trick. Standings information gathered from NHL.com
By Diane Doyle