Just when it looked like the Neepawa Natives had put themselves out of playoff contention before even reaching the midseason point, December hit and the squad posted their first .500 points month of the season to pull itself back within reach of the playoff race. The Natives posted a 3-3-3 record in the month, gathering nine points in nine games. In the 26 games prior to December, Neepawa had only grabbed a total of 14 points. As of Tuesday, the Natives now only sit nine points out of the playoffs with 25 games left to play in the season. Possible playoff projections Let's have some fun and look at MJHL hypotheticals using some projections from the 2012 portion of the season using a points per game formula. As of Tuesday morning, the bottom-five teams battling for the final two playoff spots (teams must place fourth in either division to reach the playoffs; divisional crossovers are allowed) are the Steinbach Pistons (Addison Division 4th place; 32 points in 33 games), Virden Oil Capitals (Sher-Wood Division 4th; 32 points in 37 games), Waywayseecappo Wolverines (Sher-Wood 5th; 29 points in 33 games), Neepawa Natives (Sher-Wood 6th; 23 points in 35 games) and Winkler Flyers (Addison 5th; 23 points in 35 games). That leaves the Pistons averaging about 0.969 points per game (ppg); the Wolverines averaging about 0.878 ppg; the Oil Capitals about 0.865 ppg; and both Neepawa and Winkler about 0.657 ppg so far this season. If all teams were to keep the exact same pace to finish out their schedules, the Pistons would finish 4th in the Addison Division with 58 points while the Wolverines would claim the Sher-Wood's final playoff spot with 56 points. Meanwhile, Virden (52 points), Neepawa and Winkler (40 points) would all be pulling out the golf clubs early. What's this mean for Neepawa? If the Natives were to finish their last 25 games of the season playing at the same pace they did in December – an average of 1.0 ppg – they would still sit outside of the hypothetical playoff picture with 48 points. In order for Neepawa to reach the 'hypothetical 56-point playoff spot', they'd need to up the ante to finish those final 25 games of the season averaging 1.32 ppg, which would mean collecting 33 points over that period. That would leave the Natives needing to finish their schedule with a 17-win, 8-loss record, or the equivalent with overtime losses included (ie. 16-8-1, 15-7-3, 14-6-5, 13-5-7, etc.). It's quite likely teams will find themselves either exceeding or falling behind the pace they kept in the first half of the season, in part because some teams will likely see tougher opponent schedules than others, so, as the saying doesn't go: “The numbers may lie”. But, seeing as the 'hypothetical math' should prove somewhat accurate, a playoff team will likely need between 54-60 points at year's end. History would also support the 'math', as last season's final MJHL playoff spot went to the Swan Valley Stampeders who finished with 62 points in 62 games, which would be (somewhat) equivalent to 60 points in this season's reduced 60-game schedule. In 2010-11, the Winnipeg Saints got in to the playoffs with 63 points in 62 games. But in the meantime, we'll pretend this hypothetical ppg 'math' is accurate to within a few points and see how the playoff picture actually shapes up.