2012 NHL Playoffs: Sabres' Playoff Probability for March 23rd

The Sabres have the Capitals where they want them as they now control their own destiny.

According to the weighted method at sportsclubstats.com, the Sabres have a 22.9% chance of making the playoffs. The weighted method randomly picks the winner of every game using a loaded coin based on each team's record and who has home ice. It then runs this simulation for the rest of the season millions of times and sees how each team finishes each time. However, the current Sabres team is much better than the Amerks-Sabres hybrid team from the middle of the season. To get a better idea of the Sabres' actual probability of making the playoffs, I created a similar model using different methods to weight the coin.

Four methods were used to weight the loaded coin to determine the Sabres' playoff probabilities.The first method creates probabilities of winning, losing, and losing in overtime based on each team's overall record. This method is most similar to sportsclubstats.To control for the Sabres' injuries and recent improvement in play, another method uses each team's record since January 22. Additionally, weights created using the Pythagorean win-loss formula and a 50/50 method are included; both of these methods assume a 22% chance of going to overtime (approximate league average), although the Pythagorean win-loss carries over the winning percentage to overtime and the 50/50 method uses a 50% chance of winning in overtime. None of these models consider the strength of the opponent, while sportsclubstats does.

The probabilities are after the jump.

Using the weights provided by each method and a random number generator, the model simulates the rest of the season for all of the mentioned teams, finds each team's total points, and then determines whether or not the Sabres make the playoffs. The model considers the Sabres, Capitals, Jets, Panthers, and Senators. Including more teams above the Sabres would increase their playoff probability and including more teams below them would decrease the probability; these omissions are likely to have a negligible effect given the space between the omitted teams and the Sabres in the standings.

Method (Sabres' W%-L%-OTL%)
Playoff Probability
Overall (.473-.392-.135) 34.2%
After Jan 22 (.615-.192-.192) 73.0%
Pythagorean (.457-.423-.119) 32.4%
50/50 (.5-.39-.11) 35.3%

The method used to weight the coin has a huge impact on the likelihood that the Sabres' make the playoffs. Using recent play to predict the rest of the season, the Sabres have a 73% chance of making the playoffs as the Sabres' 61.5% winning percentage since Jan 22nd is well ahead of the other four teams, with Florida in second with a 53.8% winning percentage. The overall, Pythagorean, and 50/50 methods all give very similar results as the Sabres and the teams that they're competing with all have similar records that are right around a 50% winning percentage. The difficulty of the Sabres' remaining schedule, as Zach posted about earlier, accounts for most of the difference between the 34.2% in the Overall method and the 22.9% from sportsclubstats. Accordingly, all percentages in the table should be looked at as optimistic because they don't adjust down for the Sabres' strength of schedule. The Sabres still have an uphill climb, but their recent play gives reason to be more optimistic than a 22.9% likelihood. Only one point behind the Capitals with a head-to-head matchup left, the Sabres now control their destiny.

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