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Panic Is Not Allowed December 16, 2011

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I read Stephen King’s “The Langoliers” several years ago, and I also own the DVD of the two-part miniseries they made of it. Stephen King isn’t my usual cup of coffee, but that story made an impression on me when I first read it, and I haven’t quite forgotten it.

I think I ended up buying the DVD for no other reason than that Patricia Wettig was in it. This would have been about the time when she was playing Dr. Barnett on Alias, who was a major side character for a couple of seasons. I miss Alias–I kind of enjoy having my intelligence overestimated by the boob tube–but that’s another post. Anyway, Patricia Wettig was in The Langoliers, and I’d enjoyed the novella, so I picked up the DVD.

In the story, a bunch of strangers on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston wake up to find the plane is mostly empty. One of the passengers, Brian Engle, is a pilot, and he assumes command of the plane (the flight crew having vanished along with most of the passengers). One of the passengers, a mysterious Brit named Nick Hopewell, is on the flight deck as Captain Engle tries to get someone, anyone, to answer the radio. No one answers, and Captain Engle starts panicking. Nick then tells him, very forcefully and in these exact words, “Panic is not allowed.”

The reason is pretty simple: if the pilot panics, the entire plane and all the remaining passengers are doomed.

Now, why am I leading off with that?

Okay. To say that the Capitals’ season so far hasn’t quite gone as we all had hoped, would be an understatement. Let’s be blunt: given the talent on the roster, the Capitals’ performance has not been as good as it should have been. This team, and these players, are too good to be doing such a mediocre job as we approach the Winter Classic.

As of this morning, in fact, the Capitals were actually standing in the 7 spot in a tightly bunched Eastern Conference. That’s unfamiliar territory for a team that has been the ne plus ultra of the East the past two regular seasons. The fans I talk to aren’t happy about how the Capitals are doing. I’ve even begun to hear some fatalistic comments in some quarters.

So let me say to Caps Nation what Nick Hopewell said to Brian Engle.


Here’s an interim look at the playoff math in the East as it stands as of this morning. Rather than code a bunch of redundant columns, I’ll just type it out: all the “plus” numbers are compared against Carolina for 14 East and 4 Southeast; all the “minus” numbers are compared against Philadelphia for President’s Trophy, 1 Atlantic, and 3 East. There have been no clinches or eliminations yet.



Team Max Poss Pts Curr Pts Magic Num
PHI 147 43 +80
BOS 145 41 +82
NYR 144 38 +85
FLA 140 38 +85
PIT 140 38 +85
TOR 139 35 +88
WSH 137 33 +90
BUF 137 33 +90
NJD 137 33 +90
WPG 134 32 +91
MTL 133 33 +90
OTT 132 32 +91
TBL 130 28 +95
NYI 130 24 +99
CAR 123 25 -80

Now, if you were to compare that to the official standings this morning, you would have seen a remarkable consistency. There are a couple of single-position differences where two adjacent teams trade places, but that’s it. Last season, there were a couple of occasions where some teams had an outlying number of games played, which REALLY messed with their intra-season playoff potential. That’s not happening here. For the most part, teams are positioned for the playoffs right where the standings say they are.

The Capitals are in 7th place in terms of playoff position, and their 14 clinch is a little bit closer than their 1 elimination. And when you see that you only have to clinch over seven teams to get in, but have to be eliminated by eight teams to get out, that’s not a horrible position to be in. Granted, part of the math here is due to Carolina more or less stinking up the joint so far. But the East has been remarkably tight so far this season, and one good solid run by the Capitals could have them rocketing up the standings in short order. And if there’s one thing this Capitals team knows how to do, it’s running off wins in bunches.

I believe that once the players are comfortable with their new systems, they will start winning, a lot. The Capitals, right now, are in transition; once that’s over, they’ll be better than they are right now. While they’ve got a ways to go before they can challenge for the top spot in the East, they are still well positioned. Right now, they are only ten Max Possible points out of the lead in the playoff math. At this point in the season, that’s doable. But the later it gets, the more mistakes the teams ahead of you have to make for you to move up–and teams that are doing better are doing better because they’re not making that many mistakes.

The bottom line is that the Capitals are still in a good–but not great–position to make the playoffs. I think they’ll ultimately do just fine.


We, the fans, have to do our part, so I’m going to say it again. Panic Is Not Allowed. Our Doubt, or our Belief–whichever it is that we choose–does matter, and it can influence what happens on the ice. This needs to be the part where we, the fans, dig down inside and tell ourselves that we’re not going to give up on our team. If we Believe this team will win, we’ll be right; if we Doubt this team will win, well, we’ll be right about that, too.

Although, I have found something interesting. Over the past few Caps home games, I’ve drawn a single card before the game and tweeted the card and my interpretation of it (I’m @capitalspirit on Twitter, if you want to give me a follow.) So far, the cards have been surprisingly (even to me!) accurate. I’d like to see a larger sample size before I make any sweeping generalizations about my deck, but consider this. The deck I’m doing these single-card readings from, is the same deck that predicted the Capitals would win the Stanley Cup this year. So far, the few single-game, single-card readings I’ve done, have been more or less spot-on. Again, I need to see several more where that came from, and not get overconfident off a small sample size. But if this deck keeps getting single games right, well…it did predict a celebration in the third week of June.

Hang in there, Caps Nation. It’s a long season, there’s lots of hockey left to play, and our team is well in the thick of the chase.

Now for another late start Saturday night…