Photo Credit: Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets

Here’s How the Comets Could Still Make the Playoffs

It’s right down to the wire. The Utica Comets have just one game remaining in their 2016-17 season, and they’re currently sitting outside of a playoff – but that doesn’t mean their season has to end tomorrow after completing their 76th game.

There are a few different scenarios in which they can still make it, and unfortunately they need help in each one of them. With some inconsistent play of late, the Comets have put themselves in a position where they will not only need to gain at least a point in their final game, but they’ll need other teams to lose as well.

Here’s the situation as it stands now:

In case you weren’t aware, the AHL (unknowingly) did the Comets a huge favour in the offseason by changing the Calder Cup Playoff qualification rules so that the top four teams in each division make the cut, rather the wild card/crossover rules that determined the lower seeds in previous years.

This has turned out to hilariously foolish this season, as the top team in the North Division of the Eastern Conference (the Toronto Marlies) have fewer points (89) than the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division (currently the Bridgeport Sound Tigers), who will thus miss the playoffs despite having three more points than the Atlantic’s best team. They’re not going to be happy about that.

Anyway, today’s 5-4 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack, in conjunction with St. John’s losing 5-3 to Toronto, and Albany losing 5-4 to Rochester, the Comets are now one point back of St. John’s and two points back of Albany, with all three teams set to play their final games tomorrow.

Both Albany and St. John’s will play rematches of the games they played (and lost) tonight, while Utica will play their final game on the road against Syracuse. The tie breaking procedure between a pair of teams works like this:

Between two teams:
a) percentage of games won (excluding shootout wins)
b) points in season series between teams
c) goal differential
d) goals scored in season series between teams
e) intra-conference points percentage

Looking at the first rule, we’ll see that catching Albany is already out of the question. Albany currently has 35 Regulation-or-Overtime-Wins (ROW’s), while the Comets got their 33rd tonight. Even if they win tomorrow, tying Albany in points, they’ll still be behind in ROW’s.  So whatever Albany does tomorrow doesn’t matter to us.

The St. John’s Ice Caps however, despite being one point up on Utica, has one fewer ROW. That means that Utica only has to tie them in points to pass them in the standings. That opens up a few more possibilities.

First, if St. John’s loses their game tomorrow against the superior Marlies in regulation, the Comets need only one point to lock in the final playoff spot. Winning would certainly be ideal, but keeping the game going past 60 minutes of regulation time would also do the trick.

Alternatively, if St. John’s losing in overtime or a shootout and gains one point against the Marlies, the Comets can still make the playoffs by winning their game against Syracuse tomorrow – regulation, overtime, or shootout wins would all suffice, as they’re already covered in the ROW department.

The long and short of it is this: Utica will make the playoffs as long as they get at least one more point than St. John’s tomorrow.

As for the Comets’ matchup tomorrow, it won’t be an easy game. The Crunch have taken seven of the 11 games in the season series, with all but one game ending in regulation (a shootout win for Syracuse being the outlier). During the most recent game between the two clubs (just last Wednesday), Utica got lit up, losing 7-2 on home ice.

The addition of Nikolay Goldobin has proved highly beneficial, as Goldy put up two goals today in the season’s penultimate contest, playing on a line with Utica’s two leading scorers, Curtis Valk and Darren Archibald. Valk and Archibald each assisted on Goldobin’s two goals, while Archibald also added a goal of his own.

It would stand to reason that the Comets could have used Goldobin’s offence earlier, considering that they’ve put a premium on having Utica make the playoffs, to the extent that they wouldn’t call anyone up even when tasked with playing with 11 (or even 10) forwards for the last couple of weeks.

On the flip side, seeing what Goldobin could do at the NHL level was probably the smarter play, and he’s likely better off with the boost of confidence gained by scoring in each of his last two NHL games, both with playing with the Sedin twins.

The Comets will be hoping that Goldobin has more to add tomorrow – and they’ll also be needing a little luck in the way of a St. John’s loss, which leads me to one last note: The Crunch are a single point behind the Marlies in the standings, which means that the conditions that would lead to Utica making the playoffs (a Toronto win and the Comets taking at least a point from the Crunch) would also guarantee a first round matchup between Toronto and Utica, which could prove very interesting.

If everything falls their way, they’ll be headed to the playoffs, which should be of great benefit to the likes of Goldobin and other Canucks prospects like Thatcher Demko, Jake Virtanen, Jordan Subban, and Evan McEneny.

  • KCasey

    Jeremy….you need more posts and content. I do enjoy most of the material from the staff but for some reason your style is the most consistant and is always well rounded and respectable in its approach. No negetivity or rose colored glasses. Just stats and facts. Keep up the good work my friend.

      • RoCkFaThEr

        You have a three coiler on the body of an official and your user name is oilbucket.
        Not sure if you know what the slang term for an oil bucket is but either way, it’s hard to take your comments seriously…

    • DJ_44

      Goldobin scored two goals yesterday for Utica. He will be eligible for their playoff run (optimist here) since he was actually trade (or may more appropriately when he was trade) he was a member of the SJ Baracuda, and actually went to the Utica Comets (paper only) and then was called up by the Canucks.

      Boeser cannot play for Utica this season by CBA rules.

  • Holmes

    Every time I hear Virtanten’s name, I get this tinge of regret and anger that the Canucks used the #6 pick on him. Brutal. BTW – love the content on this site but all these ads make it one of the slowest websites out there.

    • DJ_44

      I have watched a few Utica games recently. Jake looks pretty good. He is not getting the ice time I would have thought he should (lots of effort on the shifts). Part of the lack of points is because he is not with any calibre players. I think his number would be much better with playmaking centre and some minutes.

      • How

        Yeah, if Virtanen plays with a Crosby or a McDavid he’ll get 40 points a season. It’s because he plays with terrible linemates he can’t score! Virtanen was the right pick, he’s definitely better than Nylander and Ehlers!

        • DJ_44

          If Virtanen played with McDavid or Crosby, he would get 40 points a season, but that is not the point.

          Virtanen probably will not produce like Nylander or Ehlers; unfortunately you cannot go back and draft two years and re-draft….but imagine the possibilities if you could. You sound like the classic (ex)wife that constantly complains about the past. Have you watched Utica or are you looking at the numbers?

          Virtanen will score off the rush, using speed, size and his shot. He will not dazzle with moves. Sounds like the player who performs well with a playmaking centre.

          Goldobin is a different type of player; he is a proven scorer at the AHL level (19 goals in 46 games this season); but has yet to translate to the NHL. Hopefully he can do that, but it is not a given (see Shinkaruk, Hunter).

  • Sandpaper

    Thanks for the article and the breakdown of the scenarios that apply.
    With all the young kids in Utica, the battle to get into a playoff will provide valuable experience.
    Next season could be pretty interesting on the farm with plenty of youth from the last 3 years of drafting being added.
    Interesting times ahead for the organization.

  • Rodeobill

    I am not saying Green should not be considered for the head coaching job, but in light of these new postseason rules we probably shouldn’t be holding the “he got this team to the playoffs” as a reason in his favor. It looks like under last years rules they would be way out of contention.

    Now… if they get in and win the cup however…

  • wojohowitz

    Utica loses 5-2 and Goldobin scores both goals. What does Travis Green think. That Goldie can`t defend if his life depended on it or we could win with a natural goal scorer in the lineup.

  • How

    Goldobin scores 4 goals in 3 games.
    Virtanen scores 9 goals in 65 games.

    People said Virtanen can’t score because the Comets was bad. What’s his excuse now? How much longer does he need to develop? Will he finally be good when he’s 30 years old?