A quick update on the ECHL’s playoff push with two weekends remaining in the 2014-15 regular season. Currently, it looks like Kalamazoo has the best spot, but also the toughest remaining schedule, while Wheeling, Cincinnati and Indy are all on their heels for the final playoff spot. As of now, the playoff picture is as it stood a week ago, with Kalamazoo and Wheeling holding down the final two spots in the North. Toledo and Fort Wayne are three points apart for the division lead, with Toledo having the overall ECHL lead with 99 points, and Fort Wayne in second with 96. This weekend will be critical, as the Fuel meet Cincinnati on Friday and Kalamazoo faces Wheeling on Saturday. We’ll know a lot more about the playoff chase after those results.
3rd: Kalamazoo Wings
- Record: 33-28-5, 71 points.
- ROW: 32
- Goal differential: -9 (203/212)
- Last week: 2-1-0
- Division record: 22-20-4
- Games remaining: 6
- Home opponents (4): Toledo (2); Wheeling, Fort Wayne
- Road opponents (2): Indy, Toledo
- Opponents’ avg. points percentage: .656
- Analysis: The K-Wings have looked like they had a spot all but sealed a week ago, and despite going 2-0-1 on a roadtrip to Colorado over the weekend, are just four points ahead of fifth-place Cincinnati and three ahead of fourth-place Wheeling. Kalamazoo has a tough remaining schedule, with a potential four-point swing against Wheeling on Friday night, and then the first of three remaining games against Toledo. The K-Wings’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 6 points over the 5th place team. With six games left for the Wings and five left for fifth-place Cincinnati, it’s looking good. The magic number to keep the Fuel out of reach is 5 points, as the Wings hold the ROW tiebreaker with all teams.
4th: Wheeling Nailers
- Record: 33-31-2, 68 points
- ROW: 29
- Goal differential: -2 (193/195)
- Last week: 3-2-0
- Division record: 12-13-1
- Games remaining: 6
- Home opponents (2): Evansville, Elmira
- Road opponents (4): Kalamazoo, Reading, Elmira, Brampton
- Opponents’ avg. points percentage: .485
- Analysis: The Nailers put themselves in a good spot despite Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Elmira. Wheeling has wins over Fort Wayne, Cincinnati and Reading in the last week, giving them 68 points and putting them on Kalamazoo’s heels, although the K-Wings currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Despite four of the last six games being on the road, the remaining schedule is favorable, with four of the six games left against teams currently out of playoff contention. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 10 points with respect to Cincinnati. The magic number to keep the Fuel out of reach is 8 points. Saturday’s game at Kalamazoo is key. A win brings the third spot within reach. A regulation loss, and one of Cincy or Indy is nipping at their heels.
5th: Cincinnati Cyclones
- Record: 29-29-9, 67 points.
- ROW: 28
- Goal differential: -18 (181/199)
- Last week: 2-1-2
- Division record: 24-13-5
- Games remaining: 5
- Home opponents (2): Indy, Evansville
- Road opponents (3): Fort Wayne (2), Toledo
- Opponents’ avg. points percentage: .585
- Analysis: After a 1-6-2 stretch, the Cyclones have caught a little bit of fire, getting six out of a possible 10 points in its last five games. This weekend is key for the Cyclones, who have home games against the Fuel – the team directly behind them – and an Evansville team that has been struggling. They’ll have to close the season with the two teams duking it out for the North Division title – Fort Wayne and Toledo. The rest of the field also has a game in hand on the Cyclones. It’s a one-point difference, and the first two tiebreakers (ROW and goal differential) currently tilt the way of both Wheeling and Kalamazoo. The elimination number for the Cyclones is 10 points for either Cincy or the 4th-place team (currently Wheeling).
6th: Indy Fuel
- Record: 27-29-10, 64 points
- ROW: 23
- Goal differential: -26 (180/206)
- Last week: 1-1-1
- Division record: 17-18-7
- Games remaining: 6
- Home opponents (3): Fort Wayne, Elmira, Kalamazoo
- Road opponents (3): Reading (2), Cincinnati
- Opponents’ avg. points percentage: .610
- Analysis: The Fuel went 1-1-1 in their last three home games, all against top teams, including ending South Carolina’s ECHL-record 23-game win streak. A late goal garnered a point against Toledo on Wednesday. Friday’s game at Cincinnati is critical to start the three-game weekend, as the Fuel could pull themselves onto the heels of Wheeling (and Cincy) with a win. The Fuel’s elimination number is 8 points out of a possible 24 to be gained/lost between Indy and Wheeling. Indy has been one of the strongest teams in the ECHL since mid-January, so the picture will be much clearer after this weekend.
In the other divisions
East: Florida (99), Reading (92) and South Carolina (91) are in and will likely be the top three teams. Florida essentially has the division clinched and is tied with Toledo for the top overall seed. Orlando (78) is in fourth, with a four-point lead and a game in hand over fifth-place Greenville.
Central: Defending CHL champion Allen has clinched the division made up of the seven teams that moved over from that league with 98 points. The Americans are one point back of the overall league lead. Rapid City (79) has clinched a playoff spot, with Quad City (75) in third and in pretty good shape to clinch a spot. Tulsa (73) has a three-point lead and a game-in hand over fifth-place Wichita and two games in hand over Quad City.
Pacific: Idaho (98) has an nine-point lead on Ontario (89) and has all but clinched the division, and is one point back of Florida and Toledo for the overall top spot in the league. Colorado and Ontario swapped spots, with the Reign moving into second and Colorado (86) into third. Things look good for the Reign with a game in hand over the Eagles for home ice in what appears to be an impending first-round series. Alaska (75) has won three games since last week and has vaulted Utah (74) for the last playoff spot, with each team having five games to play. This division has seen the most change in the structure.
If the playoffs started today (and they don’t), it would be:
East: (1) Florida vs. (4) Orlando; (2) Reading vs. (3) South Carolina
North: (1) Toledo vs. (4) Wheeling); (2) Fort Wayne vs. (3) Kalamazoo
Central: (1) Allen vs. (4) Tulsa; (2) Rapid City vs. (3) Quad City
Pacific: (1) Idaho vs. (4) Alaska; (2) Ontario vs. (3) Colorado
And for note: The ECHL’s tiebreakers. Listed below is for 2 teams, but if there are 3+ teams tied, the following is used until enough teams are eliminated to make the remaining two.
- Regulation/Overtime wins
- Goal differential
- Points in head-to-head games (if the two haven’t played the same number of home games, the first home game for the team that played more is excluded)
- Points percentage within the division (if in the same division)
- Points percentage within the conference
- Goals scored
- Goals against
- Coin flip