Why a good start is so critical

Teams with poor records at the end of October and November are already in trouble to make the playoffs.

It’s not time to fret just yet if you’re a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers or Washington Capitals – it was just one game. If the losses start to pile up after 10 contests, however, you might want to cancel your Stanley Cup viewing party. That’s because good starts in the NHL are crucial when it comes to making the playoffs.

We crunched the numbers for a story written by Ronnie Shuker that appears in the
Oct. 14 edition of The Hockey News magazine and the results were telling. The data below shows the percentage of times teams made the post-season (from 1993-94 to last season) based on their end-of-month placement in the standings. For example, the team sitting 15th in the East after October games qualified for the post-season 8.3% of the time. Teams 13th in the West through December contests failed to qualify in the top eight. We chose 1993-94 as the starting point since that was when the NHL previously realigned and changed its playoff qualification format. It’s also important to note that teams sitting in third place have lower percentages than many of the fourth-place holder because there were division leaders (primarily from the Southeast) who got displaced.

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