Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cool A Two Point Night Comeback Victory Against the Islanders; #Caps 3 #Isles 2 (OT)

So the Capitals won their third game in a row for the first time since January 15th. This is also only the fourth time this season the Capitals have won more than two games in a row. That felt good, to have two point night and stay only three points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead, as the FlaCats also won their third in a row against the Maple Leafs in Toronto tonight. Tonight's comeback victory in overtime kept the Capitals in eighth place, within reach of the post season, in the Eastern Conference. However the Caps sure had me worried there for a while. I came home late and turned the game on the TV and just as the TV picture pooped up "BOOM," Josh Bailey scores his seventh goal of the season to put the Islanders up 1-0 at 4:14 of the first period. Then it seemed to be a pretty even game even though the Capitals were outshooting the Islanders 20 - 15 by the end of the second period. The Caps had a few scoring chances by Islander goaltender Evgeni Nabokov held them scoreless.

The third period started with the Capitals continue to trail the Islanders by a score of 1-0 but Matt Moulson of the Islanders put his team up 2-0 with a solid effort that netted his 27th goal of the season. Even though I was watching from home, I could tell that hushed the crowd and took most of the energy out of Verizon Center. However, the Capitals did not give up and kept playing their game plan as they had all night but again Nabokov held them scoreless. That is until the Capitals got a bunch of traffic in front of the net and Troy Brouwer scored his 16th goal of the season at 16:31 of the final period of the game. Could it be? Were we in for an episode of "The Cardiac Kids?" Well at about the 18:00 mark, the Capitals pulled Michal Neuvirth in favor of a sixth skater. For a while though it looked like the Islanders once again had the Capitals number as they kept the Caps off balance and didn't allow them to force the play into the offensive zone for a while. However then the Caps forced an offensive zone face off and stacked up lots of traffic once again in front of Nabokov. At first to me it looked like Brooks Laich scored the tying goal but on the replay it was once again Troy Brouwer with his seventeenth goal of the season. How's that for getting off the schneid? Awesome night and game for Brouwer, he scored two goals tonight and his total combined distance from the net couldn't have been more than five feet. That tied the game at 2-2 setup the game to go into "Sudden Victory" overtime. I like probably very other Caps fan in the world was ecstatic at the time of the goal, even though at the time I had no idea how the game would turn out when it was over, the fact the Capitals scored to tie the game and they did so by once again "playing the game the right way" made me quite happy and restored my hope in the Capitals ability to pull something out of this up and down season.

Overtime, what can you say about it? Tonight overtime ended up being "Ovi-time" and that happened at just 1:35 into the extra period. The happy end to a two point night for the Capitals. This latest three game winning streak is important thing for the Capitals, hopefully they are the first three of several more. Tonight's result means the Caps finish the month of February with a 6-7-1 (0.464) record while the other two Southeast Division teams in the race for the playoffs Winnipeg and Florida finish the month with respective records of 7-5-2 (0.571) and 8-5-1 (0.607). Also, don't look now but the Tampa Bay Lightning are 6-4-0 in their last ten games and only one point behind the stumbling Maple Leafs with 64 points in 11th place in the conference. Things are getting interesting, crowded and interesting.

Next up New Jersey on Friday evening - LETSGOCAPS!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What If ... The NHL Season Started On 1/1/2012 and a Few other Random Musings About Hockey ...

After last night's Caps 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadians I started thinking ... what would things in the NHL look like if the season had started on New Year's Day? Why do I care you ask - well first off our Washington Capitals remain "on the bubble" even after what was another good game against Montreal, and I think that recent trends, records, etc should be weighted more heavily when trying to forecast near future performance. I wonder what a real statistician such as Neil Greenberg (see Twitter #fancystats or @ngreenberg) thinks of that line of thinking and if long term historical data backs that thinking up. In any case because I started wondering about that topic I compiled the following updated standings - the way the standings by Division would look if the season had started on January 1st vice the current 2011-2012 standings. NHL Records Since January 1st 2012 through Midnight Last Night (2/24/2012, 24:00 Local Time):

Southeast Division:
Carolina: 10-5-6 (26 points; 0.619)
Winnipeg: 11-12-2 (24 points; 0.480)
Washington: 10-11-3 (23 points; 0.479)
Tampa Bay: 9-10-3 (21 points; 0.477)
Florida: 7-8-5 (19 points; 0.475)

Atlantic Division:
New York Rangers: 15-5-2 (32 points; 0.727)
New Jersey: 14-6-3 (31 points; 0.674)
New York Islanders: 13-10-2 (28 points; 0.560)
Pittsburgh: 13-8-1 (27 points; 0.614)
Philadelphia: 11-10-3 (25 points; 0.521)

Northeast Division:
Ottawa: 13-7-3 (29 points; 0.630)
Boston: 12-9-2 (26 points; 0.565)
Toronto: 11-10-2 (24 points; 0.522)
Buffalo: 10-10-3 (23 points; 0.500)
Montreal: 10-10-3 (23 points; 0.500)

Central Division:
Detroit: 17-5-2 (36 points; 0.783)
Saint Louis: 16-5-2 (34 points; 0.739)
Nashville: 15-5-2 (32 points; 0.727)
Chicago: 9-12-3 (21 points; 0.438)
Columbus: 7-13-2 (16 points; 0.364)

Northwest Division:
Vancouver: 16-3-4 (36 points; 0.783)
Calgary: 10-7-4 (24 points; 0.571)
Colorado: 10-9-3 (23 points; 0.523)
Edmonton: 9-11-3 (21 points; 0.457)
Minnesota: 6-12-3 (15 points; 0.357)

Pacific Division:
Anaheim: 16-4-4 (36 points; 0.750)
Phoenix: 12-5-5 (29 points; 0.659)
San Jose: 13-9-3 (29 points; 0.580)
Dallas: 11-11-3 (25 points; 0.500)
Los Angeles: 8-8-6 (22 points; 0.500).

Interesting to note that looking at the Southeast Division it's definitely a race to the bottom per say. In the 55 days this year the team in the Southeast with the most points is the Carolina Hurricanes with 26 out of a possible 42 and a 0.619 record. The Hurricanes are the only team in the Southeast with a record that's better than 0.500 since New Years Day. Ironically, they started the season so badly, they are the one team in the division who are most certainly "sellers" in the short time before the trade deadline as they are on track for a season point total that likely will end up with 86 points at best. In other words, the best they can likely hope for is to find themselves 2 points on the back side (wrong side) of the forecasted 88 point peak of the bubble. However, they can certainly play the role of spoilers for their Southeast Division rivals who they will play in 9 of their 21 remaining games. Also in case you are wondering they play the Capitals in only one of those 21 remaining games: March 6th at Verizon Center. Only 6 of the Capitals remaining 21 games are against Southeast Division foes: Carolina, once on March 6th at Verizon; Tampa Bay once in DC on March 9th and once in Tampa on April 2nd; Winnipeg once in Alberta on March 16th and once in DC on March 23rd; and Florida once at Verizon Center on April 5th the Caps final home game of the 2011-2012 regular season. Given the Caps records so far this season against their division rivals (10-6-2) it's kind of a shame they don't have more games left against those division foes, of course it's also a shame the Caps can't play the 2011-2012 Montreal Canadians at least 14 of their remaining 21 games as well.

Looking at the Northeast Division team's play since 1/1/2012 you can see the "hottest" team in the Division has been the Ottawa Senators who are playing very well after getting the season off to a relatively slow start. Also of note, eight (8) of the Senators remaining 20 regular season games are against Northeast Division rivals, including two against the Bruins who they are battling for first in the Division. If the Senators are able to win all four of their remaining games against the Maple Leafs and Bruins (three are against the boys from beantown) they could well overtake Boston and finish the season with the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Also, despite dealing with a spate of injuries this past month, Boston is still playing solid hockey and thanks to Tim Thomas and Tukka Rask never a team to give up points easily to opponents. If recent past efforts are solid predictors of future performance then Toronto will continue to struggle with getting off the bubble and end the season with between 85 and 90 points. That means tonight's game in Toronto is going to be an important one for both the Capitals and the Maple Leafs.

The Atlantic Division has been the toughest division in the Eastern Conference all season and the last eight weeks have not been any different in that regard then the first three months of the NHL season. That said the last eight weeks have seen the Philadelphia Flyers struggle while the New York Rangers continued to soar and the New jersey Devils came alive. To be clear even though the Flyers have the worst record since January 1 in the Division - EVERY team in the Atlantic has a record that is greater than 0.500, they are the only division in the NHL that can make that claim though the Pacific has two teams who are at 0.500 even since New Years Day and no one below 0.500 as well. It's pretty much a toss up in my view as to which division is the toughest in the NHL right now between the Atlantic or the Pacific. I guess that's a good thing if you like the beach. As for the battle to win this division, despite the resurgence of the Devils, the Rangers looked pretty unstoppable until their last two games, it will be interesting to see what they do in Buffalo tonight.

The Central Division led by the Detroit Red Wings and Saint Louis Blues have been the standard of consistency. Their standings remain the same wether you are looking at the entire season or just that stretch of it since January 1. Both the Red Wings and the Blues are battling each other for the Division, as well with the Canucks for as the Western Conference title. Ironically only two of the remaining 61 regular season contests the Blues, Red Wings and Canucks play are between each other so their performance against other Division and Conference foes will determine who wins the Central Division and the Conference. the most important team in that mix is likely to be the Nashville Predators who play the Blues once in Saint Louis on March 27th; the Red Wings twice more (3/10 and 3/30). Another interesting team likely to play a factor in the mix is also the Anaheim Ducks who have the third best record in the NHL since New Years Day, of the Ducks remaining 21 games, they play the Blues twice, the Red Wings twice, the Predators once and the Canucks once...

In the Northwest Division, here too the standings remain unchanged if the season had started on 1/1 instead of the first week of October. Additionally, just like the actual full season standings, the Vancouver Canucks are poised to pretty much lap their division foes. In fact Vancouver's relative between themselves and their division rivals is even great since January 1st as it has been over the full season. Since January 1st the Canucks are 6 games ahead of the Flames and since October they are 10 games (20 points) ahead of Calgary. The one difference is a likely bright spot for Calgary, they could finish the season with as few as 85 and as many as 95 points, but since New Years they are playing better and better hockey, since January they are 0.571 but over their las ten games they are playing 0.700 hockey. In short, the trend is the Flame's friend right now and thirteen of their remaining 21 games are at home in Calgary where they have they have a season long 0.625 record and where they have a 6-3-1 record in the last 10 games played in the Saddledome. As important as Calgary's own play in their remaining games is to whether or not they make the playoffs, so too is the play of the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes. The Blackhawks are 4-6-0 in their last ten games and have the worst record in that stretch of any team in the Western Conference Playoff battle not named San Jose who are 3-6-1, but again more on the Pacific Division shortly. If Calgary and Chicago continue the play they've each had over the last ten games through the next ten games, they will find themselves within a point of each other and battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. In the case of Calgary that's not bad for a team who finds themselves training their division leaders by 10 complete games with just 21 games remaining in the season. In short unless something like the roof blowing off Vancouver's arena, there's pretty much no other way Calgary will be playing hockey this post season.

That all brings us to what is shaping up to be the most interesting Division in the NHL to follow for the remaining six weeks of this regular season - the Pacific. How bad was the Anaheim Ducks first three months of the 2011-2012 season, well they've played 0.750 hockey since january 1st, the third best record in the league and they are still: i) in last place in their division and ii) at best going to finish on the bubble and likely needing some help to make the playoffs. that said, for any #Caps fans, if you needed proof that bruce Boudreau knows how to coach in the NHL, well the Anaheim Ducks record since January 1 of 16-4-4 ought to be it. Further, the Ducks team goal differential over their opponents during that 24 game span is +11 also their GAA over those 24 games is only 2.04 vs a GFA of 2.92, in other words this is a team that is playing and winning stingy hockey, "the right way." As you can imagine if there's a possibility that the way things are going the team at the bottom of the division could end up on the right side of the bubble and in the playoffs, AND the rest of the division is also playing 0.500 hockey or better over the past eight weeks things could be getting pretty interesting "on the left coast" of the NHL. They are. Anaheim could finish with as many as 94 points and in the playoff race. San Jose is trending the other way, the Division leaders are 0.580 since 1/1/2012 and just 0.350 in their last ten games. It's entirely possible if San Jose doesn't turn things around they too could finish with as few as 88 points and out of the playoffs. Meanwhile the rest of the division is trending as follows. Phoenix is on fire they are 9-0-1 in their last ten games and 0.659 since New Years, they will likely win the division with between 98 and 103 points, though they could finish with as few as 94 points I just don't see that happening unless some key parts of this team gets hurt. Dallas will likely finish with between 85 and 92 points; they are in a dog fight. The Stars remaining 21 games includes playing the Vancouver Canucks four times; additionally they play the Calgary Flames, another "bubble team" three more times. As far as "four point games" against division rivals, the Stars play San Jose three times, and Anaheim once, so at least eleven of their remaining 21 games are shaping up to be potentially battle royales. That leaves us with the enigmatic, at least this season, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are 0.500 since January 1 and 0.540 over the entire season; LA is likely to finish the season with between 83 and 90 points. How's that for a bubble team? The Kings remaining schedule involves 12 road games and 9 home games, since the Kings are 12-9-8 (0.552) on the road, vice 15-13-4 (0.531) at home that's likely not a factor in how they finish the season. The Kings' remaining schedule involves playing a pretty balanced schedule against predominately higher quality opponents, they only have 6 of their remaining 21 games against opponents who are under 0.500 since January 1. They likely need to raise their game "a little" above the 2-6-2 level they've displayed over their past ten outings to come close to being on the top, let alone the "right side" of the bubble; but that's why they actually play the games on the ice.

As for prognostications about "my team" the Washington Capitals, I am steadfastly avoiding doing that. It's clear by the fact that Alexander Ovechkin is playing through an injury, the team knows they need to play to win every one of their remaining 21 games and they are ready to try and do that. Last night's 4-1 win over a pretty hapless, or at least a Hal Gill-less, Montreal was a solid outing. Tonight's second of back to back nights, away game against a much more solid playing Toronto Maple Leafs team will be a real test. I'm hoping for another solid performance and will be watching here at home and cheering for the boys. Some things I liked about last night's game at Verizon:
1) A solid leadership performance by @Ovi8;
2) Great game and two way hockey by Sasha Semin;
3) Joel Ward - off the schneid;
4) Mike Green well on the way to getting his game and timing back;
5) Nuevy made all the saves he should have made and more than enough of the really tough ones the team needed him to make;
6) Blue liners looked pretty solid all night.

Of course it's a lot easier to be positive after a W and two points but you have to take things one game at a time. As for tonight in Ottawa:


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Week That Was 2/12 - 2/18/2012; Caps Go 1-3-0, Now 3-4-1 So Far In February

Well good morning fellow Capitals fans, and that's what I've decided I am for sure. Yesterday my season ticket renewal package arrived in the mail and with no hesitation, I know I'm in for another season (2012 - 2013). Yep, I'm in despite the fact the Capitals continue to flirt with not making the playoffs for the first time in five seasons this coming spring, that's pretty much why I know for sure I'm a fan and not a "band wagoner." That said it also meant that once again I have to admit this is not a blog written by an objective online journalist, though I don't think I've ever alluded to or contended that, rather the blog of a fan about "his team" and his feelings about that team when it comes to NHL hockey.

So without further ado lets face it this is a confounding year for us Capitals fans. Take this past week for instance: 1-3-0 and you'd think I should or would be really just plain disappointed and upset. Yet that's really not the case because of the one victory of the week, a 2-1 comeback victory over the Division leading Florida Panthers. Never mind the Panthers should not be leading the Southeast Division, they are and they are proving to the league they are "for real" as they pretty much have been since the end of October. Why are they for real, simple - they are the only team in the Southeast Division who is playing better than 0.500 on the road (13-12-4). They are also a team that is "ripe for the picking" with an overall goal differential of -16 and a team GAA of 2.80. The problem for us Caps fans is that right now, our team isn't looking like the team it needs to look like to be the one who "pick off" the Florida Cats, despite beating them 2 out of 3 contests so far this month. The team that looks like it could pick off the Panthers this morning is the Winnipeg Jets who are 6-4-0 in their last ten games, have won their last two games including a 4-2 victory over the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins on Friday night in Winnipeg where the Jets have a great 17-9-2 record so far this season. Simply put the Caps needed a win last night against the Tampa Bay Lighting and they didn't get it, that's going to be a problem. So why am I not needing to be talked off the ledge this Sunday morning? Well probably because A) it's (NHL Hockey) just a nice diversion and entertainment for me; and B) the win in Sunrise was perhaps the best game the Capitals have played since Dale Hunter took the reins from Bruce Boudreau. Alan May summed up the game in Sunrise best, in my opinion, during the pre-game show before the Tampa Bay game: "no passengers." Yep, no passengers, in other words everyone played the system and played it hard for all sixty minutes. That's what it takes, even when your a team or a player with an amazing talent level. Oh and lets face it, that's what frustrates we Caps fans, and I'd suspect Majority Owner Ted Leonsis, most - we know this team has an amazing talent level and several plyers with truly amazing talent levels. Sure there's Mr. Ovechkin, and the other three young guns: Backstrom, Semin, and Green; but there's also Vokoun, Wideman, Johanson, Knuble, Laich, Ward, Brouwer, Alzner, Carlson, and Chimera - all guys who are "no slouches" as well. Pound for pound and dollar for dollar the Capitals who have the second highest payroll in the NHL, are "well stocked" so yes playing 0.500 hockey which is what they've pretty much done so far this season, is disappointing and frustrating, but life does or should go on, at least for those of us who are not NHL professionals.

Over the last three weeks, I've shown two things with various numbers, 1) Why I think to make sure you get into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference of the NHL you should be shooting for 95 points, and B) how the Caps need to play much better on the road and continue to play very well at Verizon Center to ensure they make the playoffs (basically resulting in an overall record of 0.600 the rest of the way this season). Last week the Caps neither played great at Verizon Center, especially against the San Jose Sharks or great on the road consistently. You can't and shouldn't candy coat that just because of the excellent comeback game in Sunrise on Friday evening. You also can't wish for 0.600 hockey when since January 1st the Caps have played 3-5-1 so far in February after a 6-4-2 January for an overall record of 9-9-3 or exactly 0.500 since the New Year. The problem/challenge with managing or coaching a team that is playing 0.500 is with every contemplated move or change there's as much downside as there is upside. I believe we saw that last night in spades when in order to get Mike Green in the line-up Dale Hunter, wisely opted to have 7 defensemen on the bench and only three full lines + 2 extra forwards in the game against Tampa Bay. The odd man out from the prior evening's fourth line ended up being Jay Beagle. Beagle was in the press box despite having played a very good game, IMO, against the Panthers on Thursday evening and the fourth or energy line being one of the best in that game. Was that the right thing to do? I think it was but it certainly changed the game plan and made coaching the game as well as managing the overall flow of the game very different and again IMO harder than things were the night before in South Florida. As for the stats for yesterday's Tampa Bay game, well to me they are the opposite of the stats for the Panthers game on Thursday. Statistics in my view never tell the entire story. In Sunrise on Thursday, the Capitals actually played even better than the games final statistics say they played. At the Saint Pete Times Forum last night, the Caps didn't play badly but they didn't play as well as the statistics say they did. Both Lightning goals last night came off of Capital miscues that should not have happened. Sure Mathieu Garon played very well and the Caps had opportunities and Tampa Bay limited the Caps shots on goal pretty well but there were too many times where the Capitals let the Lightning dictate the pace and tempo of the game and that's why I think the Caps didn't play as well as the stat lines indicate. As for the offensive zone slashing penalty by Marcus Johansson at 16:41 of the third period, well it was sort of a 21 year old rookie mistake and you have to believe those things can and will happen. Of course while they will, we really need MoJo to step up his game and it will be nice to have Backstrom back which I hope happens within the next week or two. As for last nights effort at rolling 7 defensemen, that went okay from what I could see and was well managed, Mike Green played just over 14:00 in his return and is indeed shaking a fe cobwebs out relative to timing, etc. Most of his time on ice came at the "expense" of Roman Hamrlik and let's face it, at 37 years of age only playing ~10:00 TOI the second night of a back to back isn't the end of the world though I felt "Hammer" looked very solid last night and his three blocked shots led the team. The other D-Man whose minutes were down was Dmitry Orlov, though there may have been another reason besides Mike Green being back in the lineup. As I often get down on Jeff Schultz who had 15:49 TOI last night and two blocked against the Bolts - I just wanted to say I thought last night he played very well, in fact better than his stat line indicates. Getting chippy with the Bolts after they hit Green a few times was exactly the kind of play I hoped the Caps would adopt when Dale Hunter was named head coach; also I thought Schultz looked very solid on the PK last evening. "Good on ya, Jeff."

As for my overall feelings about the Caps playoff chances and "life on the bubble"; I'll revise my needed point total down to somewhere between 91 and 93 points to MAKE SURE you are in in the East. I'll also say the 8th seed might squeak in with as few as 88 points, but if they do, they will need to rely on the ROW tiebreak to do so. For the Capitals to finish with 93 points they need another 30 points in their remaining 24 games, that's still 0.625 hockey. For the Capitals to remain firmly on the bubble and finish with 88 points, they need to play 0.521 hockey. There's really not much else to say about it. They need a spar and they need a winning streak, something they haven't had this season since their 7 game explosion to start the season. The talent is there, the drive seems there - at least it did in Sunrise on Thursday. Another, bigger Center would be a nice trade deadline pickup for sure but really who is out there and with the team firmly on the bubble should they be buyers this season or just go with what they've got since they really have no Cap space? Who knows, certainly not me.

Another oh by the way, since January 1st, Bruce Boudreau's Anaheim Ducks have played 19 games; in January they went 9-2-1 and so far in February they are 5-1-3 - that's 14-3-4 or 0.842 hockey overall so far in 2012. The Ducks are also 6-1-3 on the road in 2012 and 17-11-6 (0.571) since "Gabby" took the Ducks' helm on December 1st. I don't mention it to draw any comparisons - really I do not. I only mention it because a) I am keeping track because I really think Boudreau is a very good coach and I hope that he succeeds in leading an NHL team to a Stanley Cup since I find watching teams he coaches really entertaining and exciting; and b) while I do think he had lost the Caps as a team and they needed a change, he really wasn't 'the problem." I think with the Ducks playing 0.841 hockey since his system has really taken hold, even though this morning the Ducks are in 13th in the Western Conference, they could make the playoffs. Oh and did I mention that today the Ducks play the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida at 3:00. Can I have at least one loud "LETS GO DUCKS!!!!" from "all" 17 or so of my loyal followers please.

Now back to Musings about the Capitals. This coming week the Caps again have four games - three of which are on the road: Carolina tomorrow night, Ottawa on Wednesday, Montreal here at Verizon Center on Friday, and Toronto in Toronto next Saturday. All four games which come April 7th, the last the Capitals season, could end up in retrospect having been "four point" games. If ever there was a better time than any other in the 2011-2012 season for the Caps to have a four game winning streak, now would likely be it. That's really all there is to say about that. Oh and remember kids, especially those of you who are Washington Capitals fans this season, if you like me are finding yourself confused while thinking about the Capitals this season and it's causing you to at times be "flumoxed" there are a few simple rules to ground your life that may help in these times:

1) Always, but especially if you are befuddled and confused, look bot ways BEFORE crossing that street, even if it doesn't seem that busy.

2) At really disappointing times and junctures in life, The Prayer of Saint Francis, is often your best option and it can help.

and whatever else remember number three:

3) Life is like a box of chocolates, your usually just never know what you're gonna get, so sit back and savor the ones you really like.

In the meantime, as we look at this upcoming week of NHL hockey:


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Caps Month by Month So Far 2011 - 2012 and What The Caps Need to Do Between Now and April 7th.

Will the Washington Capitals make the 2012 playoffs? What was once a question some of us would have found ludicrous is becoming more and more real as every game of the 2011 - 2012 NHL season becomes a "postgamer." Overall this season the Capitals are now 28 - 21 - 5 with 61 points and 54 games played (0.565). This morning the Capitals wake up to once again find themselves on the wrong side of "the bubble" in ninth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference. How does that happening? Well it's pretty simple actually so far this season the Capitals are 19 - 7 - 2 (0.714) at Verizon Center and only 9 - 14 - 3 (0.403) on the road. The Capitals road record is one of the worst in the league this season; because of their lack of victory and points on the road, the Caps find themselves with a record that is only slightly over 0.500 whereas if the Caps were 0.500 on the road they would be waking up this morning with 66 points and leading the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division by 3 points (1.5 games) instead of trailing them by 3 points.

The bottom line is that for the Capitals to "get off the bubble) they need to play more consistently on the road. The last time this season the Caps had a good string of games on the road was in October. That's why on a month by month basis the Caps performance in this years regular season look like this:

October: 7-2-0 overall (0.778) and 2-2-0 (0.500) on the road;
November: 5-8-1 (0.393) overall and 2-5-0 (0.286) on the road;
December: 8-6-1 (0.567) overall and 3-3-1 (0.500) on the road;
January: 6-4-2 (0.583) overall and 1-3-2 (0.333) on the road;
so far in February: 2-2-1 (0.500) overall and 1-1-1 (0.500) on the road.

The Caps have just 28 games remaining to play of which 15 are on the road and 13 are at Verizon Center. To finish the season with the 95+ points I have and continue to forecast it will take to make sure a team in the Eastern Conference makes the playoffs the Caps need another 34 points; so overall they will need to up their game and play 0.607 hockey. That means they need to continue to play as tough as ever here in DC and play at least 0.550 on the road. If they do that they will finish the season with between 95 and 98 points. That should put them into the playoffs regardless of what either Florida or Winnipeg do the rest of the way until April.

The best place and way to start that journey is to play the Rangers hard and bring 2 points home from MSG this afternoon on the NHL on NBC.