The Washington Capitals' 2009 -2010 NHL season is just a little more than half complete. In fact the Caps have completed 44 of 82 games so they have completed 53.65% of the season and they hatched the 60 point mark faster than any team in Capitals franchise history. Not too shabby, eh? Simple extrapolation would say the Caps are on pace to capture a total of 112 points, a more judicious analysis based on the strength of schedule and a look at the remaining 21 home and 17 away games of the season. The Caps have just 8 games remaining against Western Conference teams and five (5) of the eight (8) are at Verizon Center where so far this season the Caps are 14-3-3 (0.775). Assuming the Caps go 0.625 against the Western Conference teams for the remainder of the scheduled 8 games they would win 5 of the eight and get 10 more points. Of the 28 remaining games against Eastern Conference teams, seventeen(17) are at home in Verizon Center. In addition to being 0.775 to date at home, so far this season the Caps are 22-7-5 (0.721) overall against Eastern Conference foes; assuming for the remainder of the season the Caps go continue to go 0.720 against other Eastern Conference teams and they will capture at least 40 more points. Those 40 points combined with the 10 points captured against Western Conference teams along with the 60 points the Caps already have "in the bank" and the Caps will have a 110 point season. All of which seems entirely plausible and a conservative forecast, as long as the Capitals stay healthy.
Additionally so far this season, the Caps high-octane offense, including last evening's 8 - 1 win in Atlanta has scored a total of 162 goals so far this season as well. If you take a simple extrapolation forward, it is a very real possibility the Capitals will score over 300 goals this season. An accomplishment that has only been achieved by three other teams since the lockout: the 2005-2006 Red Wings (305 GF, 209 GA, 124 points); the 2005 -2006 Ottawa Senators (314 GF, 211 GA, 113 points); and the 2006 - 2007 Buffalo Sabres (308 GF, 242 GA, 113 points). The Caps alleged defensive "woes" and weaknesses you might ask how do they compare with these other teams who scored with the same proclivity the Caps have shown through 44 games? The Caps have yielded 121 goals against to date and are on track to yield 226 goals against for the season. In a goals against per game view the Caps are currently yielding an average of 2.75 goals per game compared to the 2.95 goals against per game of the 2006-2007 Sabres, 2.57 goals per game of the 2005 - 2006 Senators, and the 2.55 goals per game of the 2005 - 2006 Red Wings. However, keep in mind that despite yielding an average of 2.75 goals per game through 44 games; over the past 10 games the Caps have yielded an average of only 2.5 goals per game including two poor performance a 6-3 loss to Carolina and a 5 - 2 loss to San Jose.
What does all this mean? Well simple extrapolation is clearly in adequate to forecast future performance however, given the sample size (53% of the schedule for the year) and the fact that recent performance is better than the forecasted performance, as well as an analysis of the remaining 38 games indicates a probability that the Capitals performance in both points capture and strength of remaining schedule should improve, the use of simple extrapolation would be in this case both a Q&D (quick and dirty) way of forecasting future performance and doing so in a conservative fashion. Bottom line - based on these analyses it would seem:
1) The Caps are on track for 112+ points this season and could easily be the first team in the league to lock up their division championship this season.
2) The Caps could easily be the first team since the 2006 - 2007 Sabres to score more than 300 goals this season, and while they are doing that, they are also on or close to on track to having similar defensive capabilities and performance of any of the other teams who have also achieved the same level of goal production.
3) The media will continue to disparage the Caps defense and question the Caps team strength in such things like the weekly power rankings, however similar to the other three teams that have scored 300 more goals in a season since the lockout, the Caps will continue on track for 100+ points and may well capture over 115 points this season. As such the Caps will continue in the hunt for home ice advantage throughout the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
4) It's a great year to be a Caps fan...and that last one is basically a no brainer. Right now the Caps have: a) 11 players who have a fair chance at 20+ goal seasons; b) 4 players who could top 100 points; and c) are playing solid two way hockey backed by solid goaltending. It really doesn't get a whole lot better than this.
As I've mentioned before all of this must be accomplished one game at a time. One game at a time between now and April 11th and then one game at a time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. To get where they want to be the Caps need to stay focused and first deal with and dispense with the other "Beasts of The Easts" in the playoffs and then take it to whatever "Wizards of The West" that they would meet in the finals if they get that far. If they take it all one game at a time, stay focused and driven though to paraphrase the words of the immortal Herb Brooks "Now its their time." The journey to their goal continues next with the game on Tuesday night in Tampa the the Saint Pete Times Forum against the Lightning.
LETS GO CAPS!!!