Friday, November 21, 2014

Capitals Hockey 23.2% Into the 2014 -15 NHL Season: Life On The Bubble Exemplified

Well Caps fans our Washington Capitals completed their 19th game of the 2014-15 Season in Denver, CO last evening and achieved a two (2) point regulation win over the Colorado Avalanche.  It was their eighth (8) ROW (Regulation/Overtime Win) of the season.  they are now on pace for a total of  90+ points and notable 34+ ROW.  If this were last season that would place them again "just" on the wrong side of the bubble as they finished last season with 90 points as well but only 28 ROW due to having earned 14 "looser" points which so far this season they've only gotten 3 and are on track for just 12 loser points.  That's the bad news, the good news is "the trend is our friend" and while living life on the bubble trends are everything When last season ended the two "wild Card" teams aka "Winning Bubble Teams" were Columbus with 93 points of which 38 of their 43 wins were "ROW" and they had only 7 "loser points" and Detroit who also had 93 points of which they had 34 ROW and 15 loser points.  That means that in Columbus' case 92+% of their 93 points were "2 point games" while in Detroit's case ~84% of their points were "2 point games."

 For the Capitals thus far this season , 85.7 of the 21 points they've accrued to date are a result of "two point nights."  Additionally, they find themselves in third place in the Division and "on the right side" of the bubble right now because with the exception of the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators they've played no more games than the other Eastern Conference "bubble teams".  Additionally 0.550 (4-3-3) at home and 0.5556 (5-4-0) on the road thus far this season.  The Caps, surprisingly find themselves in need of making Verizon Center a harder place for opposing team's to play when for the majority of the past 5 seasons Verizon has earned a reputation of being a hard place to play and beat them and last season the Caps had a 0.598 record.  if the Caps stay on track for a 0.550 road record and raise their game at Verizon back to 0.598, they will end the season with 94 points and at least 35 ROW which should put them "on the right side of the bubble."  Given the trends and what we've been seeing from the Capitals the 5-4-1 record they have thus far in November, should they string a couple more wins together before the end of November, of the remaining four (4) games this month, clearly the "home and home" against the New York Islanders are most important.  However as long as the Capitals win three of the next four games (6 of 8 available standings points) they should close the gap with either the NY Islanders or Pittsburgh Penguins by at least two points before the month of  December starts.  That will give the Capitals 27 points in 23 games - on a 0.587 pace for the season, on pace for a 96 point season and securely in third place in the Metropolitan Division - avoiding the "Wild Card Sweepstakes" altogether.

The Islanders have six more games to play the remaining 10 days this month - including back to back home and home against Pittsburgh this weekend and a home and home against the Capitals bracketing Thanksgiving Day.  In addition to those four games against Division Rivals, the Islanders face the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday (11/24) and the Devils on Saturday the 29th. Truly this last week of November is a key time for the Islanders fortunes and a groups of tough games stacked together, the only break in it is that four of those six games will be home games for them.

The Penguins have also have six games over the last 10 days of November, the back to back home and home against the Islanders this weekend, followed by the Bruins in Boston on Monday and hosting the Maple Leafs on Wednesday before having another back to back home and home against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Pens last six games of November are evenly split between 3 home games and 3 away games though four of the six are played on back to back evenings.

Those are the guys in the Division ahead of the Capitals, but the Devils, Rangers Bruins, Senators, Maple Leafs, Panthers and even the Flyers are all likely to end the season on the bubble with the Capitals.  Looking at the rest of the Metropolitan Division Teams who are on or around the bubble and their schedule the rest of November here's how thing look.  The Rangers have 20 points in 19 games played as of tonight.  They have four more games in November: Montreal at MSG on Sunday, the Lightning on Wed. the 26th in Tampa, the Flyers in Philadelphia on the Friday 28th and then the Flyers again 24 hours later at MSG on Saturday the 29th.  So that's not going to be an easy road for the Blue Shirts.

The Devils start  three game road trip through Western Canada tonight in Edmonton, followed by a back to back tomorrow night in Calgary against the Flames before facing off against the Canucks in Vancouver on Tuesday on the 25th.  They then come back to Newark and play the Detroit Red Wings on Friday the 28th and then finish the month playing the Islanders in Uniondale on Saturday the 29th.  Another bubble team with five tough games to finish the second month of the 2014-15 season.

The Flyers have five more games to play in the month of November starting tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets at home in Philly.  They then travel to Long Island to face the Islanders on Monday evening, then host the Red Wings at Wachovia Center on Wednesday the 26th before finish the month with a back to back/home and home against the Rangers on the 28th and 29th.

Columbus has been struggling recently but as they get healthier they too could threaten other bubble teams.  They have four more games in November, only one of which tomorrow against the Flyers is against a Metropolitan Division opponent. Their other games in November are against Winnipeg, Vancouver and Nashville.

So as you can see the final week of November features a lot of Metropolitan Division games for every team in the  division with the exception of Columbus plays at least as many games against Division rivals as they do against teams in other divisions during the rest of this month.  That might put a little separation between teams in the division (given either Pittsburgh or the Islanders could finish the month with 35+ points and on track for 110+ point seasons) but it could also bunch things up even more.  For the Capitals the key will be winning at least three out of four and not giving any "loser points" to the Islanders in those two games, assuming they can win them.  If the Caps continue to find their grove and capture all eight points available to them in November they'll also be on track for a 100+ point season, that would be a significant step off the "right side" of the bubble compared to where they were just two weeks ago.

All that said you have to play the games on the ice, one game at a time.  The only thing certain about all this is it's going to be an exciting final week of November for fans of NHL Teams in the Metropolitan Division.

For the Caps, next up are the Sabres tomorrow night at Verizon Center.


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