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.


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