(PDF) Tyrel Russell and Peter van Beek. A Hybrid Constraint Programming and Enumeration Approach for Solving NHL Playoff Qualification and Elimination Problems. European Journal of Operational Research, 218(3):819-828, 2011.
Many sports fans invest a great deal of time into watching and analyzing the performance of their favorite team. However, the tools at their disposal are primarily heuristic or based on folk wisdom. We provide a concrete mechanism for calculating the minimum number of points needed to guarantee a playoff spot and the minimum number of points needed to possibly qualify for a playoff spot in the National Hockey League (NHL). Our approach uses a combination of constraint programming, enumeration, network flows and decomposition to solve the problem efficiently. The technique can successfully be applied to any team at any point of the season to determine how well a team must do to make the playoffs.