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New York Islanders: Calculating Playoff Magic Numbers

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Overview of the HP 30th Anniversary edition of the 12c Calculator at the HP 30th Anniversary celebration of the 12c Calculator at Harry's Cafe & Steak on August 30, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for HP)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Overview of the HP 30th Anniversary edition of the 12c Calculator at the HP 30th Anniversary celebration of the 12c Calculator at Harry's Cafe & Steak on August 30, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for HP) /
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The New York Islanders playoff magic number was reduced to two after a win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. How do you calculate that number?

Calculating how many points it will take for the New York Islanders to make the playoffs isn’t something we get to do every year. But with the success they’ve been having this season we’ve all been following along until that magic number hits zero and they’re officially in.

But with the thousands of possible outcomes, how do we know what the New York Islanders playoff magic number? Here’s how to figure out the Islanders (and any other NHL team’s) magic number.

What You Have and Could Have

The idea of calculating a team’s magic number is simple enough. What you’re trying to do is figure out how many points does my team need to make sure it can’t be eliminated from the playoffs. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but to know who is in the playoffs you have to know who isn’t.

For what should be obvious reasons, I’m going to use the case of the New York Islanders at this moment in time. After 78 games, the New York Islanders have 97 points on the season. The first non-playoff team in the East is the Montreal Canadiens with 90 points in 78 games.

I’m using the Montreal Canadiens because in order to make the playoffs the Islanders need to have more points than the first team not in the playoffs. Think of it like you’re running away from a bear. To survive you just have to be faster than someone else.

Steps to calculate:

  1.  Figure out the competitions maximum: With four games remaining in their season, the Montreal Canadiens can only return a maximum of 98 points. Assuming they win all of four those games.
  2. Subtract from your team’s total: The New York Islanders currently have 97 points on the season. Subtract the Isles 97 points from Montreal’s maximum of 98 points. The remainder is 1.
  3. Does your team have the tiebreaker: If the Islanders finish with 98 and the Habs finish with 98, do the Islanders hold the tiebreaker? If they do then 1 is the magic number, if they do not then add one to the remainder from step 2.

Tiebreakers

The first tiebreaker in the NHL is points percentage (points per games played). But at the end of the season where every team has played 82 games, that tiebreaker isn’t a factor.

Tiebreaker number two is the number of regulation and overtime wins (ROW). At the moment the Islanders ROW is 41, for the Montreal Canadiens their ROW is 39. (The Isles hold the ROW tiebreaker.)

Tiebreaker number three is head-to-head points earned. The Islanders are 1-1-1 against the Habs. Meaning both teams are tied at three points.

Tiebreaker number four is the goal differential for each team. The Islanders sit with a +25 while the Canadiens hold a +9 goal differential. (The Isles hold the ROW tiebreaker.)

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As it stands now the New York Islanders magic number is one (if Montreal is the last non-playoff team). A regulation win over the Buffalo Sabres is all it’s going to take to get the New York Islanders into the playoffs in 2018-19.

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