Friday, February 29, 2008

By the Numbers: Who's In, Who's Out, Who's Home

With two weekends left in the regular season, let's take a look at where we are and peek ahead to where we might all be come playoff time.

With more top-to-bottom consistency in the standings this year than some recent seasons, going into last weekend not one team had even clinched home ice and no one had been eliminated. After the weekend was over, not only had UNH clinched home ice, but they locked up the regular season title and number one seed. That differs from recent seasons where the regular season title has been in contention among as many as four teams going into the final weekend - and ultimately still undecided until the final whistle of the final game on the final night.

At the other end of the spectrum, the two teams on the outside looking in at the party (ME, MC) both swept - moving from lonely faces pressed against the window to standing on the Welcome mat and knocking on the door. They are now two and three points, respectively, out of the final slot.

After UNH, the next five teams are separated by three points. That was also true last weekend before BU and UVM swept and leapfrogged the got-swept BC, PC and NU to jump from tied-for-5th to tied-for-2nd. BU, UVM and BC could all still finish anywhere from 2nd to 7th. PC and NU could finish 2nd-8th. Muddying the waters further, BC's two-point lead for the 4th seed and final home ice slot will be directly challenged by first PC, then NU who are tied at 5th. After playing BC, PC will then face BU, who just tussled with NU. In any event, all five teams will be joining UNH in the playoffs.

The final two slots will go to two of UMass-Lowell, UMass-Amherst, Maine and Merrimack. ME and MC can get no higher than 7th, but they could finish 7-8 and both be in. In fact, if they can survive this weekend playing the top of the standings in UVM and UNH, they will be pulling for each other as they match up against UML and UMA in hand-to-hand combat to make the playoffs. UMA can't reach home ice, but could end up 5th. With four games to go, UML isn't even guaranteed a playoff spot yet, but could finish as high as 3rd.

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