Welcome to 2020, the year where predictive analytics will start to become your household resource (if it hasn’t already). We’re now a little past the halfway mark of the regular season, and a formidable season standings picture is starting to take shape. While the gap between the top teams and bottom dwellers is becoming more clear, the NHL’s infamous point system is keeping the playoff race close for all of the teams sandwiched in between. So who are the contenders and who are the pretenders? Let’s once again rely on GROSEK to take a look.
BOLD - Divisonal Playoff Team
Italics - Wildcard Team
[Current division standings in brackets]
- Vancouver Canucks, 98 pts. (Floor 90 - Ceiling 101) 
- Vegas Golden Knights, 94 pts. (Floor 88 - Ceiling 97) 
- Calgary Flames, 93 pts. (Floor 87 - Ceiling 96) 
- Arizona Coyotes, 89 pts. (Floor 86 - Ceiling 91) 
- San Jose Sharks, 86 pts. (Floor 82 - Ceiling 87) 
- Edmonton Oilers, 83 pts. (Floor 74 - Ceiling 83) 
- Los Angeles Kings, 73 pts. (Floor 72 - Ceiling 79) 
- Anaheim Ducks, 68 pts. (Floor 53 - Ceiling 68) 
The story in the Pacific is the fall from grace for the Edmonton Oilers. The individual play has inexplicably dropped since we last updated, and therefore the team not only took a slight tailspin in the season standings, but a massive one in these projections as well. Aside from that, a rather tight division with no clear powerhouse at the top leaves four to five teams in realistic playoff contention at the midpoint, excluding the two So-Cal teams caught in the riptide.
- St. Louis Blues, 115 pts. (Floor 109 - Ceiling 120) 
- Colorado Avalanche, 106 pts. (Floor 102 - Ceiling 111) 
- Dallas Stars, 97 pts. (Floor 84 - Ceiling 100) 
- Nashville Predators, 93 pts. (Floor 88 - Ceiling 98) 
- Winnipeg Jets, 89 pts. (Floor 79 - Ceiling 91) 
- Minnesota Wild, 88 pts. (Floor 86 - Ceiling 89) 
- Chicago Blackhawks, 81 pts. (Floor 70 - Ceiling 82) 
Unlike the Pacific, the Central Division holds two clear-cut powerhouses up top in St. Louis and Colorado. After that, things get interesting. The Dallas Stars are riding an optimal wave right now, but as their low floor tells us they could drop off by season-end if the stellar goaltending and timely scoring do not continue. Nashville, Winnipeg, and Minnesota are likely vying for wildcard spots if Dallas does not falter. Chicago is also riding quality goaltending, but currently does not have the horses elsewhere on the roster to contend.
- Boston Bruins, 118 pts. (Floor 107 - Ceiling 123) 
- Tampa Bay Lightning, 113 pts. (Floor 106 - Ceiling 116) 
- Toronto Maple Leafs, 103 pts. (Floor 100 - Ceiling 104) 
- Florida Panthers, 101 pts. (Floor 94 - Ceiling 104) 
- Montreal Canadiens, 87 pts. (Floor 75 - Ceiling 91) 
- Buffalo Sabres, 83 pts. (Floor 78 - Ceiling 84) 
- Ottawa Senators, 68 pts. (Floor 62 - Ceiling 68) 
- Detroit Red Wings, 35 pts. (Floor 33 - Ceiling 54) 
The cream always rises to the top, and that is certainly the case with Tampa and Toronto surging back into the top three in the division. Toronto in particular is now using near-optimal lineups each night under Coach Keefe. Florida is a strong contender in this stacked divison as well. Montreal predictably tailed off, and Ottawa and Detroit are established bottom-feeders.
Where does that leave the Sabres? Well, predictably somewhere in the low 80s. Getting Skinner and Olofsson back could maybe boost them to the mid-to-high 80s, but as far as playoffs go, it shouldn’t matter. They will likely miss again.
- Washington Capitals, 117 pts. (Floor 112 - Ceiling 125) 
- Carolina Hurricanes, 102 pts. (Floor 97 - Ceiling 104) 
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 100 pts. (Floor 92 - Ceiling 103) 
- New York Islanders, 99 pts. (Floor 94 - Ceiling 99) 
- Philadelphia Flyers, 97 pts. (Floor 90 - Ceiling 99) 
- Columbus Blue Jackets, 87 pts. (Floor 79 - Ceiling 88) 
- New York Rangers, 83 pts. (Floor 73 - Ceiling 85) 
- New Jersey Devils, 75 pts. (Floor 67 - Ceiling 79) 
This one should be fun down the stretch. Washington seems to be the first-place lock. Carolina is projected to finish second, but would have to leap-frog the Penguins and the Islanders to do so. The injury-riddled Pens are currently staying afloat on hot goaltending from Tristan Jarry, but if that tapers off they would need the return of Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad to have immediate scoring impacts. Philadelphia is also in the mix, and should at least jockey for a wildcard spot. Columbus has been hot lately but it’s not likely to sustain. The Rangers and the Devils bring up the rear.