Sorry for the now almost six weeks since my last blogpost fellow musers. I had some work related travel and a few other distractions with life in the meantime and lets face it, this blog isn't really a priority with me like it was several years ago. Also I really didn't have all that much to write about
. At the time of my last blogpost on February 12th, our Washington Capitals were pretty much in the same place, standings-wise as they are now, well on their way to a playoff spot but not a shoe-in by any means. In the ensuing almost six weeks and 22 games the Capitals have gathered 8 more ROW than they had on 2/12 and an 11-7-0 record (22 more standings points). That's not as good by any means as the Ottawa Senators who now basically trail the Caps by just 1 game in the Eastern Conference standings (since 2/12 the Senators have been the hottest team in hockey with a blistering 16-2-1 record). I mention the Senators just to illustrate why I believe the Capitals while on the right track are not shoe-ins for the playoffs. Six weeks ago did anyone in the Hockey world think the then 10th place (in the Conference) Senators would be in control of their own destiny right now as far as making the playoffs. I doubt it - at least other than the Senators themselves maybe.
Right now to me it looks like to be sure your team makes the playoffs in the East, they're going to need 98+ points and at least 39 ROW. Are the Caps on track for that - simply put if they keep playing just under 0.600 hockey between now and tax day, yes; if they backslide to 0.500 they will find themselves in the dogfight for the top spot on the bubble with Boston, Ottawa (can any team keep up the pace they are on - that remains to be seen), and to a lesser degree, Florida if the Panthers stay on their current 0.650 pace or pick it up a little. So here's how I see the Eastern Conference regular season ending. The current top three teams: Rangers, Canadians, and Lightning will be the top three teams; in the Metropolitan Division I just don't see anyone who is within striking distance (Islanders, Penguins, or our Capitals) playing that much better than 0.600 the rest of the way - the schedules are too tough for all three teams and right now the Islanders are 0.400 in their last 10 games while the Penguins are 0.450. Additionally all three of the teams chasing the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division are 4.5 - 6 games behind the Rangers and have less than 10 games left in their seasons and even if the Senators basically "win out" they end up with 105 points, so assuming the Rangers who've been 8-1-1 in their last 10 games regress to 0.500 hockey in their last 11 games of the season and finish with 110 points they still likely win the Division and are one of the top 3 seeds in the Conference. Nope the scoreboard watcher's excitement here in the East is the battles for seeding between the Red Wings, Islanders, Penguins and Capitals; and the battle between Ottawa, Boston and at least for a few more games, Florida for the final available playoff spot in the Conference.
As far as the battle between the Red Wings, Islanders, Penguins and Capitals for seeding, I'll note that while all three of their rivals have games in hand on the Caps, only the Capitals have a better than 0.500 in their last 10 games. Additionally in my view while Detroit and the Islanders may have a slightly easier schedule but I subjectively feel the Caps remaining schedule is the toughest of those four while the Penguins is the weakest/easiest. All that said I don't think it matters that much. The Conference beyond 1, 2, and 3 is wide open and once the second season starts any of the eight teams that get in after the next three weeks could win the Conference and make it deep to the Stanley Cup finals as far as I can tell.
Out West while Dallas is trying to make it interesting playing to an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games they basically have to win out in their last 9 games and finish with 98 points to be sure of making the playoffs, maybe they could loose one and finish with 96 if both Minnesota and Winnipeg somehow choke/tank but given both of those teams are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games the odds of that happening are miniscule, IMO. It's even doubtful to me that the LA Kings who are now 1 1/2 games behind the Jets and 1 game behind Calgary with 10 games to play get in though it will be a few more games before on can "call that ball." Otherwise it's all just a battle for seeding for 1-3 between Anaheim, Nashville, and Saint Louis and for 4-8 between Chicago, Vancouver, Calgary, Minnesota, Winnipeg *and/or, if they somehow make it, LA. The only team in that mix NOT playing 0.600+ hockey in their last ten games are the Predators though and they already have 96 points and 36 ROW so they'd finish with 100+ and ~40 ROW even on their current (last 10 games) 0.350 pace.
So Caps fans next up those pesky Devils from Newark on Thursday evening here at Verizon Center and I say....