Sunday, February 24, 2013

Small Reasons For Hope Continue After Caps Go 2-2-0 Over Last Ten Days But...

Okay Caps fans here's a dose of reality, the Caps are indeed playing better, at least in my view and I'm not just saying that because of yesterday's 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. I look back over the Caps last four games where they went 2-2-0 beating the SE Division leading Tampa Bay in Tampa; losing to the New York Rangers by one goal at MSG; and splitting two against a very solid and pretty hot New Jersey team at Verizon Center. Those three teams are all very solid teams and top teams so playing 0.500 hockey and playing them all very tight and tough, except for yesterday's 5-1 win by the Caps over the Devils has to be a reason for some hope.

However, the dose of reality is that 0.500 hockey - what the Caps have played over their past 10 games and over the past ten days is probably just not good enough. Looking at the last shortened season, a 48 game season without a third "loser’s point" available, it took 47 points to make the playoffs in the East (Rangers - 47) and 42 points to make the playoffs in the West (San Jose and Dallas). Because of the changes to the game and the implementation of the "looser" point or less pejoratively, the implementation of three point OT/SO games, I project it will take at least 48 points and possibly 50 points to make the playoffs in either conference this season. If you look at the standings right now the eight/ninth place team in either conference are basically at the 0.500 level - which will be a 48 point season and I think it bears out my projection. The season is now basically 35+% complete for every team in the league and that's certainly enough data to project the likely minimum point total likely required to make the playoffs. Another easy projection is how crowded and large "the bubble" will be at the end of the season - it's very unlikely the point spread between the 6th or 7th place team in each conference and the 13th or 14th team at the end of the season won't be more than six (6) points either. The Western Conference will likely be even tighter than the Eastern but if the Caps pick up their pace as we Caps fans hope and they need to do the spread between 7th and 12th almost can't be more than six points at the end of the season.

So as I say, that means you want to be on pace for 50 or more points at the end of this 48 game season come the last week of April. It's why last evening when Alexander Ovechkin was interviewed on the NHLN Arena Cam was dead nuts on when he said it's all about getting every possible point in every game for the Capitals now. The Caps have 13 points in 17 games and they'll likely need 50 in 48 come April 27th. To do that the Caps need to play 0.598 hockey or more accurately capture 59.8% of the points available to them in their remaining 31 games. Can the Caps do it, well if the play almost every game or every game like they played yesterday, there's clearly the possibility of the Caps doing it.

But let’s also be realistic as of this morning looking at every team in the league and their play in the last ten games and there are only six teams in the Eastern Conference who have played better than 0.600 hockey in their last 10 games and only six teams in the Western Conference who have played better than 0.600 hockey in their last 10 games.  My point is – it won’t be easy, the compressed schedule makes stringing winning streaks together harder than ever.  I like how the Caps are and have been playing these past two weeks and the issue they are dealing with is not the 5-5-0 mark they’ve attained so far in February.  The challenge the Caps have to deal with is recovering from the hole they found themselves in at the end of January after their 1-5-1 start.  With just 31 games left and at least three games to make up on the 7th and 8th place teams in the Conference or the SE Division leading Lightning and Hurricanes, it’s just not going to be an easy task.  However, at least if the Caps continue playing as they have been in their last four games they’ll have a chance at winning every game no matter who they play and watching them will continue to be awesome fun for we Caps fans.

 Next up is a “four point” game against division rival Carolina on Tuesday – this should be another good game.  The Hurricanes have lost their last three games and are four points ahead of the Capitals after dropping their third game in a row yesterday to Tampa Bay 5-3.  Carolina plays the Islanders in Uniondale, NY today before traveling to DC on Monday for Tuesday Night’s game.  The Caps truly need the points more and Tuesday’s game will be the first of five meetings between these two division rivals this season.  Truth be told as much as possible the Caps need all ten available points against Carolina and as always, Cam Ward and the hard working Hurricanes will work really hard to try and keep the Capitals from getting any of them.


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