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A Few Random Notes Before A Flyers Game November 7, 2010

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

References: Games Remaining, Head To Head, Magic Numbers.

A couple of random notes before I have to start preparing for the Philadelphia game this afternoon.

First, anyone who says the Caps are having a bad season must be watching a different Caps team than I am. Right now, the Caps are in second place both officially, and in terms of points available. They trail the Bruins on the Magic Numbers chart by one point. Another loss by the suddenly vulnerable-looking Bruins would put the Caps at the top of the chart. That assumes, however, that the Caps can keep winning.

And last year’s Eastern Conference champions are going to want to have some say in the matter this afternoon at the Phone Booth. This is about as measuring-stick a game as it gets: not only is this last year’s Stanley Cup runner-up, it’s a team that the Caps aren’t supposed to like much. So motivation should not be an issue, and a full sixty-minute effort should be no problem whatsoever for the men in red. Anything less than a complete sixty-minute effort this afternoon should be so unacceptable that “unacceptable” is an unacceptable word, because it wouldn’t be strong enough.

Regarding effort, and some of the roller-coaster games we’ve been seeing of late: Results are what ultimately matter, and the Caps are getting good results despite some miscues, brain cramps, bad bounces, blown tires, injury problems, and inconsistent play. It being November, they can get away with all of that. In April, probably not so much.

Which brings me to a completely different point. In Catholicism–bear with me–there’s confession, which is something my Southern Baptist upbringing never could quite figure out. There are three elements to it: sorrow for your sin, admitting you’ve sinned, and penance–i.e., doing something to make amends for your sins. And it’s that last part that I’m not quite sure the Capitals have quite gotten to just yet. Sure, they had all the sorrow for losing to Montreal last spring. And they gave all the right quotes to the press, which I trust were sincerely meant when spoken. But the penance for a lack of effort, has to be giving an effort going forward.

It’s not enough to be upset that you lost (sorrow) and then “confessing”, so to speak, in the media. You have to make amends for what you did wrong. What the Caps did wrong last spring–their mortal sin, if you will–was take Montreal for granted, and not give enough effort. And these roller-coaster games and blown leads the Caps have been going through lately do not look, to me, like a team that’s trying to–for lack of a better word–repent from the lack of effort that got them excused last spring.

You don’t just walk into confession and say “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” and that’s it. More will be asked of you, and without that penance, there is no absolution. There was a lot of talk over the offseason that the Caps would now have to play 82 games to get another shot at the playoffs. Looked at another way, the regular season is their penance. Are they serious about being forgiven this spring? Or are they as unrepentant as some of their recent efforts suggest?

True enough, the team has been good enough to get by in October and November. But good enough for November is a long, LONG way from good enough for June.

That said, the Caps are still good enough for now, and that should stand them in good stead come April. But they have got to take this regular season–their penance–seriously. Or they can forget about being forgiven next spring.

There, got that off my chest. Elsewhere…

Looking at the East, there are a lot of teams whose playoff standing and actual standing is right on the money: they are where they should be. However, there are two oddities I need to mention. Boston is 4 spots above where they are officially, because of a light schedule. They still have the most points available, and until Tim Thomas starts doubting, they could stay put there for some time. Don’t let their low point total throw you: Boston is still a team to be respected. The other item is the Penguins, who are playing .500 hockey and in the 9 spot officially. But their heavy schedule–most games played of any Eastern team as of this writing–is taking a toll on their top-end score. .500 hockey may look good in the official standings right now, but if the Pens keep bleeding points off the top at this rate, it could be a long summer in the Steel City.

Out West, a couple of minor flips and flops, but look at the bottom of the Magic Numbers chart. Anaheim and Chicago are both falling victim to a heavy early schedule, with the Ducks at the back of the pack, right behind Chicago. The Hawks are a staggering NINE SPOTS below where their official standing is. They have played so many games already that they can’t afford to keep playing ho-hum hockey, or else they could fall right out of the playoffs. As with the Penguins, a mediocre record can look deceptively acceptable early on, but it doesn’t leave any room for error in March.

And finally, I’m going to be a bit relentless in plugging them at the end, too: please check out the charts I’ve linked to at the top of this post. I put a lot of work (and hand coding!) into those.

See you all at the rink.




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