Saturday, January 14, 2012

Caps Edge To The Positive Side Of The Bubble While FlaCats Continue to Stumble

When I last posted a blog post two weeks ago I mentioned the Capitals needed to rev things up and drive towards at least a 95 point season to be confident of making the playoffs. So how's that looking for us Caps fans now two weeks later? Let's take a look in at the Caps record since the New Year, that would be 3-2-0 (0.600), how about their last 10 games, that would be 6-3-1 (0.650). So far so good though they didn't put anything in the bank and we all had high hopes they would win at least one of two during their last swing out west and they did not do so.

So while things are looking better for the Capitals and they are at times looking like the team we all thought they could be at the beginning of this season (congratulations to Troy Brouwer on the hat trick and to Alexander Ovechkin for "getting his mojo back" and scoring 6 goals in the past 10 games), they aren't "out of the woods" yet. That said when you look at the Capitals recent record as well as comparing them to their opponents for the remaining schedule you can see a clear path to 95+ points, that really wasn't the way things were just 3 weeks ago. So here's another take on things and some musings.

Since Thanksgiving the Caps and their Southeast Division rivals have records as follow:

Overall Last 10 Games Last 5 Games
Florida: 9-8-5 (0.523) 3-5-2 (0.400) 2-2-1 (0.550) Caps play 4 more times (2 Home, 2 Away)
Washington: 11-10-1 (0.500) 6-3-1 (0.650) 3-2-0 (0.600) 48 pts in 42 Games Played (0.571)
Winnipeg: 13-9-1 (0.587) 5-5-0 (0.500) 2-3-0 (0.400) Caps play 3 more times (1 Home, 2 Away)
Tampa Bay: 8-13-2 (0.391) 3-5-2 (0.400) 0-4-1 (0.050) Caps play 4 more times (1 Home, 3 Away)
Carolina: 7-12-3 (0.386) 5-4-1 (0.550) 2-2-1 (0.550) Caps play 4 more times (2 Home, 2 Away).

The other Eastern Conference "Bubble Teams" records since Thanksgiving:
Overall Last 10 Games Last 5 Games
New Jersey: 13-9-1 (0.587) 6-3-1 (0.650) 3-2-0 (0.600) Caps play 1 more time at home
Toronto: 10-8-3 (0.548) 6-3-1 (0.650) 4-1-0 (0.800) Caps play 2 more times (1 Home, 1 Away)
Pittsburgh: 10-11-0 (0.476) 4-6-0 (0.400) 1-4-0 (0.200) Caps play 1 more time at Pittsburgh
Buffalo: 7-11-4 (0.409) 3-5-2 (0.400) 2-2-1 (0.500) Caps play 1 more time at home.

Other eastern conference foes on the Caps remaining schedule:
Montreal 4 games (2 home, 2 away)
Boston 4 games (2 home, 2 away)
Islanders 3 games (2 home, 1 away)
Rangers 2 games (2 away)
Flyers 2 games (1 home, 1 away)
Islanders 3 games (2 home, 1 away)
Ottawa 1 game (away)

Western conference foes the Caps will play in their last 40 games of the season:
San Jose 1 game (home)
Chicago 1 game (away)
Detroit 1 game (away)
Minnesota 1 game (home)

The Caps have 48 points as of today and 40 games remaining. To finish with 95 points they need to play 0.588 hockey the rest of the way and win 47 of 80 available points. Of their remaining 40 games they have an even split of 20 home games and 20 away games and they only have 4 games against Western Conference teams. So after reviewing the Caps recent results as well as the remaining schedule I'm now projecting the Caps to finish with a total of between 94 and 98 points, and they should make the playoffs. If Winnipeg and Florida continue on their recent trajectories, then it could be a three way battle for the Southeast Division Championship until the end of the season. It would also mean the Caps would indeed need 95+ points to make the playoffs and they could still fall off the backside of the "bubble" if they don't win at least a couple of "tough" road games as well finding a way to grab at least 8 points in their 8 games against the Bruins, Flyers and Rangers. It also means their remaining 7 games against the Jets and Panthers have added importance.

Just thinking it sure would be nice to start that quest for those 47+ points with an eight game winning streak and a win against the Bruins who are on a different level from the rest of the league right now.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Capitals 4 - Blue Jackets 2 after Capitals 3 - Sabres 1; Nice Weekend Signaling The Return of the Caps To NHL Relevance


Okay, here we go C-A-P-S! I've never made any pretense that my hockey musings are anything but a fan blogging about his own thoughts and passions here at Mark's Musings on Blogger. So it's probably no wonder to other #Caps fans as to why my blog posts have fallen off markedly this season. Between a busier "day to day" life and the fact there really hasn't been a lot of Caps hockey thoughts that have been pleasurable to muse about for a while, I just haven't felt too enthusiastic about blogging much. That is until recently, lie the past week. However, I decided to as they say "keep my powder dry" until there was more evidence to point to the start of a recovery to where they should be.

Over their last 10 games the Capitals have been playing 0.650 hockey with a 6-3-1 record; over the past 5 games the Capitals are 3-1-1 and are also 0.650. Maybe more importantly during the month of December the Capitals are 3-3-1 or 0.550 on the road, as opposed to their road record this season through November of 4-6-0 (0.400). For the Capitals to definitely make the playoffs regardless of whether or not they win the Southeast Division, I believe they need to finish the season with 95 points and that means they need to win 53 more points in their remaining 45 games, that's 0.589 hockey. Given they have 23 more road games and 22 more home games this season, it's very important the Caps continue to play 0.500 or better on the road while also keeping Verizon Center one of the toughest buildings in the NHL to get a point on the road for their opponents. So far this season the Caps are 0.710 at Verizon Center so it's not unreasonable to continue to believe they will be at least 0.650 at home. Playing at least 0.650 hockey at home the rest of the way gets the Caps 29 of the needed 53 points. To get those additional need 24 points, the Caps need to play 0.522 hockey or better in their remaining 23 road games. The past two weeks the Capitals have proven themselves more than able to "make the grade" the rest of the season. They and the Winnipeg Jets also got the best records in their Division (6-3-1) over the last 10 games., and they are showing themselves as capable of confident play, resilience and being willing to work hard to win. This is the team we Caps fans have been looking for since the beginning of November, and I for one am quite glad we are seeing them now, before it's too late to make the playoffs.

More evidence that this is the Caps team I've been looking for and was expecting this season can be seen in the performances of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Roman Hamrlik these past two weeks. While Backstrom, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Karl Alzner have all generally been playing at levels most of us Caps fans expected to see throughout the majority of the season, the productivity and effectiveness of Ovi, Semin and Hammer has until these past two weeks been less than justifiably expected. However in these last two weeks we've seen our Captain return to form and score 6 goals and 3 assists while going +5 in the 6 games played since December 18th. Alexander Semin has also had a run that fantasy hockey players with him on their rosters are happy about with 4 goals, 3 assists and +5 over the same six game stretch; while "the Hammer" has notched 3 assists, gone +6 and over the past three games been one of, if not the best, Caps penalty killer. Additionally he's shown that when necessary he can still find a way to find 1/4 to 1/2 of the step he may have lost over his 18 NHL season career when it comes time to join the rush. So while the Caps aren't "out of the woods yet" - this morning they arose to the New Year finding themselves in 9th place in the Eastern Conference and still just barely on the "back side" of the bubble - they are showing real signs of life and they seem to now be starting to perform with more comfort and ease after having adjusted to the changes made by Coach Dale Hunter. There have been two unanticipated bright spots so far this season too that should continue to help the Capitals the rest of the way: Marcus Johannson and Dmitri Orlov and it is nice to see Jay Beagle back on the ice as well.

All this means I am once again looking forward to attending home games at Verizon Center and watching road games on CSN HD. It also means I'll be there when the Caps faceoff on Tuesday evening when the Caps take on the Calgary Flames.