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Instant Reaction: versus Montreal, 2/1/11 February 2, 2011

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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They came out like a team on a mission,
And then lost in the skills competition.
Not sure what that’s about,
But I hope they throw out
What they drank at the first intermission.

Okay, first things first: Blowing a two-nothing lead after twenty sucks, losing sucks, mistakes were made, we should have won this game, and leaving points on the table could very well come back to bite us in April.

And I’m also going to wonder in print why the Blues-Avalanche game got postponed because of a blizzard, while two Caps games last year went down as scheduled during one of the worst blizzards in the history of the District. Do NOT get me started on THAT one. Just DON’T.

*deep breath*

All that having been said, tonight was a decent night for the Caps, especially when you look around the Eastern Conference and see who else was doing the winning and losing. There were a couple of double-edged games that were going to both help and hurt the Caps no matter who won, but the rest of the slate broke almost entirely the Caps’ way.

Take a look at the Magic Numbers Chart, and note the Caps’ position. Mathematically, they’re fifth overall, and would have stayed put even if they had lost tonight’s game in regulation. Montreal is breathing right down their necks in 6th, the Rangers are a couple of points behind them and within striking distance, and Carolina’s 6-point margin with the Caps (I’m looking at Max Possible Points, not Current Points) is stalking-horse territory given both teams’ play of late. Up ahead, the Caps have a shot against every team except the Flyers. The way the Flyers are playing, I cannot see them losing nine more points while the Caps keep winning to stay put. Philly would have to play very badly, or the Caps would have to play better than they’ve played all season, to have a shot at the 1 East spot. (Although I’d be happy to be proven wrong here.)

Now, I know some readers are going to want to know what the Caps’ numbers are to make the playoffs. Buffalo has the 9 spot in terms of Max Possible Points, and if the Caps pass that, they’re in. Buffalo’s Max Possible number is 117; the Caps currently have 64. That means their magic number to clinch the playoffs is 53. On the other hand, we also have to consider their elimination number. The Caps would have to have their Max Possible number fall below the Current Points total of the team with 9th most Current Points. (They’re in the top 8, and they can’t eliminate themselves, which is why you look at the Current 9, not the Current 8.) That’s Carolina, with 56 points. The Caps’ Max Possible is 124, which leaves them a magic number of 68 for playoff elimination. So the Caps are 15 points closer to being in, than they are to being out.

Also, mathematically, there is no way that the Caps could be eliminated just by other teams winning out–even in theory. No team in the East has enough games remaining to overcome that 68. So, right now, even as a certain groundhog gets ready to deliver the bad news, the Caps control their own fate. I predicted as much in my preseason reading, and now the math is bearing me out with two months of hockey to go. The Caps control their own destiny, and will earn their postseason fate at this point.

Here’s how it all played out tonight in the East, and how the games affected the Caps.

TORONTO 4, FLORIDA 3 (SO). Toronto isn’t likely to make the playoffs–their elimination number is 52–so it did help the Caps a bit that they could chip one point off the Panthers’ Max Possible number. Every little bit helps. That this turned into a 3-point game wasn’t ideal, but the higher team lost, so that’s not a bad result for the Caps.

NEW JERSEY 2, OTTAWA 1. This was tonight’s Battle Of Who Could Care Less, and the Devils pulled the standings upset. Not that that’s a surprise: the Devils have suddenly gone on a tear, while the Senators appear to have gotten filibustered, having only won one of their last ten. Neither team is going to the playoffs–the Devils’ elimination number is a paltry 44, the Senators’, 47–but any lower team’s victory helps.

BOSTON 3, CAROLINA 2. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to see the Caps move into the 4 spot had the Bruins lost this game. However, the Bruins did us a favor by beating the Canes, because a Carolina win would have had elimination number consequences for the Caps. As it stands, the Hurricanes stay put, and Boston is still within reach.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS 4, ATLANTA 1. This is another one which could have had elimination number consequences for the Caps, and the Islanders gave us the win we needed from them. The Islanders aren’t likely to make the playoffs, so for them to take down a playoff contender–on the road, no less–was big. It was big for the Islanders, but it also helped the Caps a bit.

PITTSBURGH 4, NEW YORK RANGERS 3 (SO). Well, it wasn’t a perfect night out of town–this was probably the worst possible result for the Caps–but the Penguins remain within striking distance, and the Caps still have two games to play against them (the first being this Sunday). New York did lose one Max Possible point, which could prove crucial down the stretch.

TAMPA BAY 4, PHILADELPHIA 0. Well, paint my crease and call me a goalie, the Flyers got upset. That it was Tampa Bay doing to the upsetting doesn’t help the Caps nearly as much as would an upset by, say, a Western Conference team or something. Oh, wait–3 of the Flyers’ next 4 are against Western Conference contenders (Dallas, Nashville, Los Angeles). Sweet! Anyway, at this point, any Flyers loss is a good result for the Caps, and the Caps are going to be playing Tampa Bay later this week, so they’ve got a chance to make up some ground on this one.

Overall, this was not the result we wanted to see at the Phone Booth tonight, and not the way we wanted to see that result transpire. But a point is a point, and on balance, tonight was actually a pretty good night for the Caps. Not great, not very good–just pretty good. Let’s not get too down on the team for this result: they need all the emotional and spiritual support they can get from us heading into a tough weekend.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
IT WASN’T THAT BAD, REALLY

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