Friday, March 4, 2016

2015-16 Washington Caps: Just How Good Is 98 Points in 63 Games, and What Do The Caps Need to Do Now To Reach Their Goal?

Wow, ... just wow.  That's how good 98 points in 63 games is - the Capitals have played 0.7778 hockey over the course of the season thus far; in the 77% of the season completed to date, the Capitals have basically amassed enough points so that they would have qualified for the playoffs in either conference last season.  That's pretty good in itself.  Then consider these items, the Caps:
  • Current Goal Differential (+63) is already better than last season's awesome +60 goal differential by the 2015 President's Trophy winning NY Rangers.
  • The Caps current GF/Game and GA/Game numbers are right up there with last season's league leaders numbers as well.
  • The Caps current record over the last 10 games 7-3-0 is the third best in the league behind only Anaheim's perfect 10-0-0 and Tampa Bay's 8-2-0 numbers despite the fact the league leading Capitals are 7 1/2 games ahead of the second place (for the league) Black Hawks and 9 1/2 games ahead of the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference.  Both the Ducks and the Lightning on the other hand are now in dogfights to win their division after relatively slow starts to their seasons.  To be clear the Caps have shown basically slow starts to their games over the last 10 plus games but have responded over the course of those games and shown their talent and compete levels are there and able to find ways to take control of most games and win against anyone and play in "heavy style and games."
Basically from a general perspective, the challenges now for the Caps between no and April 15th is integrating their trade deadline pickups to the lineup, which shouldn't be overly difficult since GMBM's pickups were for depth vice addressing any key position needs.  The other thing they need to do is to stay interested and get or stay healthy. That means continuing to play the right way and make sure they don't develop any bad habits over the last 19 games of the season.

What do the Caps need to do to reach their goal - which is to still be playing and winning in June? That's a harder question, if the season ended today I think their road to that goal would be through: Pittsburgh; Madison Square Garden (NYR); Tampa Bay; and either Chicago, LA, or Anaheim.  Think about that and you can clearly see why the Stanley Cup really is the most difficult Professional Sports Championship to win.  Despite likely winning the league regular season by 5 or more games, to win the Championship the Caps will have to win 16 of what will likely be 22+ games against other teams who now have average records of 0.620 and are all very solid, accomplished teams of prideful, professionals.  That's a long row to hoe for anyone who wants to win "The Cup."  To do so will, as with prior years, take complete teams playing complete 200' hockey for sixty or sixty plus minutes per game.  Thankfully the Capitals are a deeper and stronger on the puck hockey team then they've been, possibly ever, but certainly for any time over the past decade.  They now have eight (8) NHL quality defensemen capable of playing in basically any situation - yes I'm assuming that John Carlson will end the regular season back in the lineup and in awesome playing shape for the start of the playoffs.  They have two (2) NHL quality goalies, on having a season clearly worthy of Vezina Trophy consideration, and I predict assuming they have a deep playoff run the way he's been playing Holtby is likely to be in consideration for the Conn Smythe as well.  Then there's the Caps depth on the forward lines, the Caps are clearly a four line team with threats on all four lines from Rocket Richard leading Alex Ovechkin to late season pickup fourth line Center Mike Richards.  As long as they continue to play the right way and play a 200' game generating their scoring chances from sound defense and solid breakouts from their own zone, the Caps at times appear unstoppable.  That said the road to Lord Stanley's Cup will be through four other teams whose fans and Bloggers will likely be justifiably writing similar comments and accolades.  One things for sure, the next two months we Capital's fans will be again treated to some excellent hockey contests and I am as optimistic as I've ever been that will continue into June.


- starting with tonight's game against the Rangers at Verizon Center.