That’s how much separates the Adirondack Phantoms from the final playoff spot. A measly five points.
Doesn’t sound like much. That’s one good weekend, right?
Before you start putting down the playoff deposit and clearing your plans for late April, I have some bad news: It ain’t gonna be that easy.
Over the last five years in the Eastern Conference, the eighth and final playoff team averaged 87.6 points.
That average came from an 80-game season. Pro-rate that number to the current 76-game season and it comes to 83.22. Let’s be generous and round down to 83.
So history tells us that the team that earns the final playoff spot this season will have about 83 points. Could be a few more, could be a couple less.
This is where it gets tough. The Phantoms have 55 points with 21 games remaining.
In order to get to 83 points, they need to pick up 28 points over their final 21 games. That works out to 14-7 or 13-6-2.
While that seems doable on paper, the Phantoms haven’t had a 21-game stretch all season when they were seven games above .500. They’ve never been seven games over .500 all season or at any time since moving to Glens Falls.
The closest they came was the first 21 of this season, when they went 13-7-0-1.
So even if the Phantoms were to replicate their best hockey of the season, precedent says there’s still a chance they’d fall one point short.
Does anyone think this Phantoms team is about ready to play better than it has all season?
There are a few reasons for optimism. Matt Ford is the closest thing to Michael Ryan the Phantoms have had since last season. The forward depth is the best it’s been since before Christmas. And as soon as the college season ends, the Flyers are likely to go on their annual binge of signing undrafted talent.
And there’s always Michael Leighton, who at any time is capable of being the best goalie in this league and the ultimate difference maker.
So I’m not counting them out. But the numbers aren’t friendly. The problem isn’t so much the five points, it’s the four teams they need to leap.
If the Phantoms are finally going to be a playoff team, they’re going to have to be better than they’ve ever been. And it has to start tonight.
Tim McManus covers the Adirondack Phantoms. He may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter (@PSPhantoms) and read his daily updates online at the Phantoms Forum blog.