With 28 days left in the 2006-07 season, the New York Islanders - the eventual eighth seed in the East - were in seventh place in the conference, and the top eight in the conference on that day (March 11) all made the playoffs.
Out West, the Calgary Flames - the eventual eighth seed in the conference - were in that eighth spot already and the top eight in the Western Conference on that day all made the playoffs.
With 28 days left in the 2005-06 season, the Tampa Basement Lightning - the eventual eighth seed in the East - were in sixth place in the conference, and seven of the top eight in the conference on that day (March 21) made the playoffs. The exception? The Thrashers, who fell from eight, allowing the Habs to make the post-season. And how far did Montreal come? From one point behind Atlanta with 28 days left.
In the West, eventual eighth seed Edmonton was in ninth place on March 21 and six of the top eight teams in the conference on that day made the playoffs, the only exceptions being Vancouver and Los Angeles who got replaced by San Jose and Edmonton. With 28 days left in the season, the Oilers had the same number of points as L.A. and the Sharks were only one point behind that pair and two behind the Canucks.
Point being, of the 32 playoff spots that have been claimed since the lockout, 29 were top-eight teams in their conference with four weeks left in the season, and, of the three others, no team was more than a single point out of a playoff spot at that point.
With 28 days left in this season, the Caps are seven points out of first in the Southeast Division.
With 28 days left in the 2006-07 season, four of the six eventual division winners were in first place. In the other two divisions, Atlanta, who on that day had the same number of points as Tampa but was in second by virtue of a tie-breaker, went on to win the Southeast and Detroit (with a game in hand) came from three points back of Nashville to win the Central.
With 28 days left in the 2005-06 season, five of the six eventual division winners were in first place. The exception was the Atlantic, where the Devils put together one of the great late season runs ever - 12-1-1 including an 11-0-0 streak to finish the season - to make up twelve points and pass both the Rangers and the Flyers and win the division by tie-breaker.
Point being, of the 12 division winners since the lockout, nine led their division with four weeks left and, of the other three, two had three or fewer points to make up. But there were those 2005-06 Devils...
- Hart: Ryan Kesler (Game-tying goal with 2:41 left, game-winning OT goal, +1, 76% faceoffs won in 2-1 win)
- Ross: Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Dion Phaneuf (3 points each)
- Norris: Dion Phaneuf (3A, +3, 4 SOG)
- Vezina: Roberto Luongo (17 saves on 18 shots against in OT win)
- Richard: Ryan Kesler, Brad Boyes, Alex Tanguay (2G each)
- Calder: Brandon Dubinsky (A, 5 hits)
- Aiken: Manny Legace (3 goals allowed on 11 shots against in 19:58 of work)