The NHL standings are an imperfect reflection of team performance. Make no mistake, what matters at the end of the season is where teams place, but at the same time bounces, referee error, overtime points and a million other factors can play havoc with where a team finishes.

There isn’t a perfect measure, at least not that I’ve seen. That said, goal differential is an interesting comparable, because there’s some argument that it’s a better reflection of team ability. In the interest of identifying teams who might be better than their record indicates, I’ve decided to compare the projected points of every NHL team with their goal differentials.

This is the chart for the Eastern Conference:

Rank Team Projection Goal Diff.
1 Buffalo 115 26
2 New Jersey 113 26
3 Washington 113 46
4 Pittsburgh 100 18
5 Boston 92 2
6 N.Y. Rangers 87 -4
7 Ottawa 87 -12
8 N.Y. Islanders 87 -15
9 Philadelphia 85 6
10 Atlanta 84 -7
11 Florida 84 -8
12 Montreal 82 -11
13 Tampa Bay 82 -21
14 Toronto 71 -39
15 Carolina 60 -45

A few teams stand out. Philadelphia is the most obvious one here; while they’re currently a bubble team, by goal differential they’re probably a second-tier contender in the Eastern Conference, and if I were betting on teams improving their record over the second half they’d be one of the first teams I’d consider.

On the other end of the scale are the Senators and Islanders. I don’t know if I’d bet against Ottawa; a big part of their problem has been goaltending and if they address that hole I think we could see their differential (and their play) improve rapidly. The Islanders are another matter; they’ve been blessed with solid goaltending but have other issues, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them drop out of the playoff race.

Comments (9)

  1. wow… +46 for the caps??? mistake maybe? seems crazy high…

  2. Kynix – That’s what happens when you’re the only good team in the Southeast.

  3. The goaltending for the Sens was fine before Leclaire went down. And then shortly after Spezza, Alfredsson and Michalek went down. That’s and entire top line and the Sens best three offensive guys gone. You don’t think that has played a major role. Just look at what the Sens of done since just getting Alfredsson back? Heck they’ve made Mike Brodeur look like a starting goaltender. I’m sure once they get all their forwards back we’ll see a much better Leclaire and Elliot cause they won’t have to worry as much about one bad goal. Cause the team can get it back with Spezza, Alfredsson and Michalek in the line up a lot easier then they can without them.

  4. @Jonathan: That’s what happens when you score 22 goals in four games.

  5. Andi – That too.

  6. Devon – Leclaire had a .901 SV% prior to his injury. That’s pretty much the opposite of fine. But you’re right in that he’s been much, much worse since.

  7. His play was getting noticeably better. As well as Elliot’s prior to freak incident on the bench. Elliot played well during his absence but those many game just wore him out so he struggled as well. I think once they get Spezza and Michalek back their goal differential will be on the positive not the negative. I think it was going up steadily before Leclaire’s injury and was the one the better ones in the East. That was until they lost quite a few games by wide margins like the 8-2 game and a bunch of others so they are where they are now. The same could be said for Philly who suffered through some injuries and there goaltending went from good to ok to pathetic real quick.

  8. Devon – You could be right about the injury impact. They’re clearly better with Spezza and Michalek then without.

  9. With this loss to Atlanta, and after blowing 2 and 3 goal leads and not making the playoffs since idk when is it time for us leaf fan to finally say enough is enough????? its been 50 years since the last time fans seen a cup, or even a cup final for that matter.I think I might finally be done with that shit, ALTOUGH, I am a true believer that it is impossible to change YOUR team but like if they can’t even give us a 5 game streak or not even a run for an eight place finish, the season is once again over and we have to wait and see who Boston takes 1st over all because the leafs really suck the bad, I KNOW THIS DOESN’T COME AS A SURPRISE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *