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Updated Red Wings’ Playoff Odds and Scenarios



Dylan Larkin, Red Wings

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg once offered that arithmetic is where “numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.”

That quote seems particularly appropriate these days because the proliferation of legalized gambling has flooded the sports world with daily odds and numbers dealing with the probability of an outcome. We used to follow NHL playoff races simply by paying attention to wins and losses. Now, we receive regular updates on the probability of a team earning an NHL playoff spot.

On Sunday, Stathletes listed Detroit’s probability of earning an NHL playoff berth at 22.8%. But Detroit’s 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday was deemed important enough to raise their Stathlete playoff probability to 42.9%. lists the Red Wings’ postseason probability at 40.5%.

The Red Wings are still not officially in a playoff spot, although they are tied, based on points, with the Washington Capitals for the final Eastern Conference wildcard position. Both teams have 82 points, but Washington technically owns the spot because it has two games in hand. The Capitals play a road game tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Philadelphia Flyers are the complicating factor in the race. They have a playoff berth because they sit third in the Metropolitan Division race with 83 points. If the Capitals win tonight, the Flyers would move down to the last wildcard spot.

Islanders Still Chasing Red Wings

Also, don’t lose sight of the fact that the New York Islanders, who beat Philadelphia Monday night, are only three points behind Detroit. The Islanders have a game in hand against Detroit. says the Islanders have a 13.8% probability of earning a postseason position.

It is highly unlikely that the Capitals, Red Wings, Flyers or any other team will catch the Tampa Bay Lightning who have the first wildcard spot. With eight games left to play, the Lightning have a seven-point lead over both the Capitals and Red Wings. They are six up on the Flyers.

Should the Red Wings win the final wildcard spot,  they would play the New York Rangers based on today’s standings. By coincidence, Detroit’s next game is Friday against the Rangers. Detroit lost twice to the Rangers this season in Madison Square Garden.

But the division champions are unsettled. First-place Boston and second-place Florida are two points apart in the Atlantic, while the Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes are three points apart in the Metropolitan. The last wildcard team will play the division winner with the most points. Today, the Rangers have 104, while the Bruins and Hurricanes have 101.

All we know for sure is that the Red Wings only have seven games remaining, and probability percentages won’t matter unless Detroit wins the majority of those games.  They are coming off a 1-2-2 record on a five-game road trip.

Red Wings fans are sweating this out. As the late radio star Paul Harvey once said: “If there is a 50-50 chance something can go wrong, then nine times out of 10, it will.”