We are reaching the point in the season where teams start to become mathematically eligible for the postseason and the Portland Winterhawks are closing in fast on being the first team in the Western Conference to gain entry into the postseason (Saskatoon has already clinched a spot in the East). By the end of the weekend, Portland could put the magical ‘x’ next to their name in the standings, representing their spot in the playoffs.
So, just how close are the Hawks? Well, first, to understand magic numbers you have to put on a wizard hat, spin three times and spit, and then drink two shots of high-grade tequila to understand the formula. Actually, its not that complicated, but explaining it is.
Magic numbers are based on maximum points potential, instead of actual points earned. Case in point – the Kamloops Blazers are in the eighth and final playoff spot if the season ended today with 51 points, three points ahead of the Chilliwack Bruins and four points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. But, because Kamloops has played five more games than Chilliwack, the Blazers have actually fewer maximum points that they could earn in the regular season (81 for Kamloops, 88 for Chilliwack). So, to base magic numbers, you have to take the two lowest maximum points potential in the Conference (Seattle and Kamloops) and base the projections off of that.
Entering the weekend, Portland has 77 points after 55 games. Seattle has earned 47 points after 55 games and Kamloops has earned 51 points after 57 games. Doing the math, both Seattle and Kamloops could earn a maximum of 81 points if they won every game they have on their schedule in regulation.
Doing simple math, subtracting Portland’s 77 points from the 81 points possible for both Seattle and Kamloops, that gives you a difference of four points. Meaning the Hawks magic number to at least clinch a one-game playoff for a playoff spot at four points (meaning any combination of Portland wins, OT or SO losses and Seattle/Kamloops regulation, OT or SO losses that results in four points).
Portland hosts Tri City tonight and then plays in Seattle on Saturday. Winning both games gives the Hawks the four points they would need to get past Seattle. Neither Seattle nor Kamloops plays on Friday. Kamloops plays Vancouver in Whitehorse on Saturday, so if Portland wins both and Kamloops loses, the Hawks clinch the playoffs.
Clear as mud?
Entering the weekend, here are the remainder of the seven other Western Conference teams with a higher maximum points potential than Seattle and Kamloops and their respective magic numbers:
Spokane — 70 points — magic number is 11 points
Tri-City — 69 points — magic number is 12 points
Vancouver — 63 points — magic number is 18 points
Kelowna — 60 points — magic number is 21 points
Prince George — 55 points — magic number is 26 points
Everett — 54 points — magic number is 27 points
Chilliwack — 48 points — magic number is 33 points