Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who would've thought?!?!

Well as you digested the last vestiges of your Thanksgiving turkey dinner back in November, what professional hockey fan could have imagined the events we no see unfolding during this last week of the NHL season. Back in late November could you have imagined Washington's own Capitals as the hottest team in the NHL as they enter the last week of the season. Before you hindsight is 20-20 guys chime in, remember on November 22nd the Caps were 6-14-1 on the season and had a 5 game losing streak going. Of course on Thanksgiving Day, the Caps ownership decided to make a coaching change. They "sat" Glen Hanlon down and brought up the coach of their minor league affiliate Hershey Bears - Bruce Boudreau. Initially, the choice of Boudreau wasn't universally acknowledged as a good decision. Today, Caps Fans are virtually unanimous in their praise for the results achieved, and the fun exciting to watch game and system that Boudreau has put in place. Changes to the Caps away from "the trap" to a fast paced, in your face, forecheck, forecheck, forecheck style has them on pace to end the season with over 90 points and on a 105 point pace since he took over. The Caps went 10-4-0 in March, 6-4-3 in February, 9-4-0 in January and 7-3-3 in the month of December; since the coaching change they are 18-8-3 at home and 16-9-4 on the road.

Who do you think the Montreal Canadeans or Pittsburgh Penguins would rather face in the first round of the playoffs - 9th place Washington (8-2-0 in their last 10 games) or the 8th place Boston Bruins (4-3-3) in their last 10 games. If the Caps do manage to squeak into the playoffs under the wire and end up facing Montreal, what's the chance a team coached by a guy with an attitude and confidence like this, led by this guy, and backstopped by this guy who wants to show all the fans here - it wasn't yet time to pass the reigns to this guy, doesn't make it really tough for the Canadeans with whom they split their season series 2-2?

Unfortunately for Washington DC area hockey fans another difficult to imagine story has unfolded since Thanksgiving. The Eastern Conference is likely to have a higher point cutoff for playoff eligibility than it's Western counterpart. Back in late November and even as short as 4 days ago some pundits were of the mind it might take as many as 3 points more for a Western Conference team to make the playoffs than those in the East. Now it seems that it will take 2 or more in the East than the West. In any case, teams from the so called "weaker" Southeastern Division have all raised their level of play since Thanksgiving, though none as much as the Washington Capitals. Additionally, Washington area hockey fans have also responded and as one would expect home game attendance is up. Games are usually a joy to watch, though there is that "rare exception"; there are also nights where fans can only marvel at the talent the Capitals now put on the ice. It'll be a hard push for the Caps to make it into the playoffs, but at this rate, few if any, are counting them out - LETS GO CAPS.

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