Death Watch: Panthers eliminated; Islanders on the brink

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

The good news is that golf courses in Florida during March can be downright lovely. The bad news is that, well, the Florida Panthers will have plenty of time to enjoy them.

From George Richards at On Frozen Pond, after the Panthers' 4-2 loss to the Sabres mathematically eliminated them from the postseason race:

Although that's been a foregone conclusion as the Panthers ride out of the string of remaining games, Friday's loss officially assures the Panthers will miss the playoffs for an NHL record 10 consecutive seasons — and by counting the strikeout season of 2004-05, 11 straight years.

Florida had been tied with the California/Cleveland/Minnesota and Colorado/New Jersey franchises in missing the playoffs for nine straight seasons. Florida hasn't been to the playoffs since being swept in the opening round by the Devils in 2000.

"It doesn't hurt anymore,'' said coach Pete DeBoer, in his third year with the team. "We've been hurting for a while. You just get numb to that pain.''

The Sabres and Hurricanes increased their postseason chances with clutch wins last night, with Carolina's playoff probability jumping 4.4 percent according to Sports Club Stats' matrix.

This was not good news, however, for the New York Islanders. SCS has them out. has them out. Zorak's Tragic Number for the Islanders is actually '1'; the Islanders can still finish ahead of Buffalo is they win out and the Sabres lose out.

Or they could be eliminated tonight if they lose to the Flyers or the Sabres get a point against the Devils.

Coming up, the playoff pictures for the East and West, as we shift the focus to playoff seeding. The full NHL standings and schedules can be found on Y! Sports.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; the Tragic Number is from NHL Standings and Magic Numbers. The former is an industry standard; the latter is a site we discovered last year. Also: For the Percentage Chance of Making the Playoffs, we've included the figures from (HR), which is crunching its own numbers. It's listed with the percentage from Sports Club Stats (SCS).

Since many of you have asked, we went to Zorak for an explanation of the "Tragic Number." Again, you asked for it:

Well, the thing is that there isn't a single tragic number. Here's the 60-second explanation on how to read the tables:

- If a team wins (whether in regulation, OT, or SO) all the numbers in its row get decreased by 2. The numbers in its column do not change.

- If a team loses in OT or SO, all the numbers in its row get decreased by 1, AND all the numbers in its column also get decreased by 1.

- If a team loses in regulation, all the numbers in its column get decreased by 2. The numbers in its row do not change.

- When any number in the grid reaches zero, the "row" team is mathematically guaranteed to finish ahead of the "column" team, and the number gets replaced with ***.

- If a team has 7 *** in its row, it will necessarily finish 8th or higher and has therefore clinched a playoff spot. (footnote, a playoff spot can also be guaranteed by clinching your division)

- If a team has 8 *** in its column, it will necessarily finish 9th or lower, and is therefore mathematically eliminated.

With that in mind, let's look at NJ on Friday. For tragic numbers we are interested in columns, and NJ's column already has four *** (so NJ can finish no higher than 5th). The remaining numbers are

BUF 10

If New Jersey squanders points, it affects all four of these numbers in their column. But if, say, Buffalo wins, it only affects the BUF/NJD number.

So we can say that NJ's tragic number is 10, and that would be approximately correct. It is certainly true that if NJ squanders 10 points (for example by losing 5 games in regulation, or 4 regulation losses and two OT/SO losses, etc.) then they are definitely out.

But even if Buffalo wins 5 games, that only affects the BUF/NJD number, and does not by itself change the TBL/NJD, MTL/NJD, or NYR/NJD numbers. So if the Sabres win 5 games, NJ is not automatically eliminated -- it would still matter what TBL, MTL, and NYR do.

Everybody got that?

Here's the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference:

Team (Games) Place/Record/Pts. Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
New York Rangers (75) 7th/40-30-5/85 -- 91.7 (SCS)

92.7 (HR)

37 30
Buffalo Sabres (74) 8th/37-28-9/83 -- 80.4 (SCS)

80.7 (HR)

27 38
Carolina Hurricanes (74) 9th/35-29-10/80 14 27.9 (SCS)

26.9 (HR)

6 20
Toronto Maple Leafs (75) 10th/34-31-10/78 10 1.7 (SCS)

4.2 (HR)

0 2
Atlanta Thrashers (74) 11th/31-31-12/74 8 0.0 (SCS)

2.1 (HR)

0 0
New Jersey Devils (74) 12th/34-35-5/73 7 0.0 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

0 0
New York Islanders (75) 13th/29-34-12/70 1 OUT (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

-- 0

The Hurricanes face a Lightning team again tonight that has now lost six of seven games. Meanwhile, the Sabres take on a Devils team that Ilya Kovalchuk said was "done" after last night's shootout loss to the Penguins.

The Leafs battle the Red Wings, with the Sabres and Hurricanes both owning a game in-hand.

Here's the Western Conference:

Team (Games) Place/Record/Pts. Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Phoenix Coyotes (76) 4th/41-24-11/93 -- 97.8 (SCS)

96.5 (HR)

13 6
Los Angeles Kings (74) 5th/42-26-6/90 -- 93.1 (SCS)

94.9 (HR)

16 11
Nashville Predators (75) 6th/40-25-10/90 -- 91.4 (SCS)

90.4 (HR)

21 15
Chicago Blackhawks (73) 7th/39-25-10/88 -- 92.0 (SCS)

90.6 (HR)

17 12
Anaheim Ducks (74) 8th/41-28-5/87 -- 59.0 (SCS)

64.5 (HR)

15 24
Dallas Stars (73) 9th/38-25-10/86 -- 60.8 (SCS)

58.1 (HR)

15 25
Calgary Flames (76) 10th/37-28-11/85 10 6.1 (SCS)

5.0 (HR)

1 5
Minnesota Wild (74) 11th/35-31-8/78 8 0.1 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

0 0
Columbus Blue Jackets (74) 12th/33-30-11/77 6 0.0 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

0 0

The game of the night has to be the Anaheim Ducks at the Chicago Blackhawks, but the 'Hawks won't fall any lower than 8th tonight because they own an advantage in regulation or OT wins (35) over the Stars (33), even if they tie them in points with a win over Nashville.

Also, the Blues can be officially eliminated tonight with a loss and a win by the No. 8 seed.

If the playoffs started today, they'd look like this.