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From Grave Concern To Wait And See February 27, 2013

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I wrote in my last post that I was no longer in panic mode, but that I remained gravely concerned about where the Capitals are heading this season.

Well, time to upgrade the condition again, this time to Wait And See. The Caps were–let’s be honest–kinda sorta stinkeroo to start the season, but they seem to have been playing markedly better the last few games. Housing the reigning Eastern Conference Champions 5-1, and then shutting out the current leader of the Southeast Division, would seem to bode well for the Caps.

And yet, I cannot so easily dismiss the team’s early struggles. They do have some convincing wins as of late; but a 7-10-1 record and 5-5-0 Last 10 are still nothing to write home about.

Wednesday night’s game against the Flyers is going to be huge. If the Caps win that, they would climb up to 12th in the East. No small feat, that, especially for a team that not so long ago looked like it was dead, buried, and playing for ping pong balls. A win Wednesday night, and the Capitals’ season would suddenly get much, much more interesting. No, it’s not “must win.” But it is definitely a “really, really should win,” especially given the national stage the Caps will be on.

So, let’s look at the math. I normally don’t publish playoff math charts that I know up front need a lot of work, so take the below chart as a point of discussion only.

Rough chart: Guidance Only

Team Max
Pts
Curr
Pts
Magic
Nums
Which
Does
What?
Clinch Elim
BOS 90 26 +45
BUF
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4NE
   
MTL 85 27 +44
BUF
-59
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4NE
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
   
OTT 84 26 +45
BUF
-58
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4NE
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
   
PIT 82 26 +45
BUF
-56
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
NJD 82 24 +47
BUF
-56
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
TOR 80 24 +47
BUF
-54
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4NE
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
   
CAR 79 19 +52
BUF
-53
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
NYR 78 18 +53
BUF
-52
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
TBL 77 19 +52
BUF
-51
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
WPG 77 19 +52
BUF
-51
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
WSH 75 15 +56
BUF
-49
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
FLA 74 16 +55
BUF
-48
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
PHI 73 19 +52
BUF
-47
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
NYI 73 17 +54
BUF
-47
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
   
BUF 71 15 -45
BOS
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
   

Rough chart: Guidance Only

NOTES

  • This is a ROUGH CHART. Tie breaks are NOT being considered.
  • President’s Trophy and Top 5 Draft are NOT being considered.
  • This chart is for discussion purposes ONLY, and should not be construed as official.
  • Elimination from a Division 1 spot automatically eliminates a team from the Conference 3 spot.

I know what you’re going to ask: how are the Caps up in the 11 spot on this chart, when they’re 14th overall in the standings? To begin with, this chart ranks teams by how many points they have available, and THEN looks at how many points they have right now. The Caps have had a comparatively light schedule compared to the rest of the East: only Boston has played fewer games, which is part of the reason why the B’s top end number is so gaudy. The Caps still have another 60 points available to them; meanwhile, some of the teams just a few points ahead of them in the standings have bled a few more points off their top end, which means they have fewer total points available than the Caps do.

So based on that, there may actually be grounds for some extremely guarded optimism. But there is a “however” on that: the Capitals have to keep winning to hang on to those top end points. One loss here, one overtime there, and pretty soon that top end could be in tatters. The Capitals still need to win a lot of games, right now. The teams ahead of them are not likely to slow down, and any help the Caps get from the teams behind them is going to come at the expense of the trailing team gaining ground on the Caps. I would even go so far as to say that the Capitals can make the playoffs from where they are right now. However–there’s that word again–that will only happen if the Capitals take care of business on their own end. Too much “coulda, woulda, shoulda” in March may ultimately lead to “this out of town game hurts us either way” in April, and that usually spells trouble for a team’s playoff hopes.

The Caps aren’t quite at the point where they need to treat every game like a playoff game. At this point, one or two bad nights at the office won’t kill them; but the emphasis is on one or two. The Caps need to win, a lot, right away.

So why am I taking a wait and see attitude about that? Frankly, despite the Caps’ dominating performance in their last two games–and here I will praise with faint damns–I’m still not quite sure that they’re as good a hockey team as they can possibly be. Two home romps, however satisfying, do not a comeback make. The Caps need to win, consistently. They need to play all 200 feet for all 60 minutes, every single night they get on the ice. The $64,000 question is, can they do that, and will they?

Granted, the Caps looked like a well-oiled machine Tuesday night against the Hurricanes. Excellent job, to be sure; and plaudits up and down the roster for a job well done. But that’s just one game. And several of the players on this team were there for Game 7 against the Rangers last spring, a winner-take-all game in which they arguably got out-everythinged. So, what team is this? Is it the no-nonsense bunch that surgically shut down the Hurricanes Tuesday night? Or is it the gang that couldn’t shoot straight on Broadway when the stakes were win or go home?

So that’s what I’m waiting to see. I want to make sure these two most recent romps are the new normal for this Capitals team, and not merely an oasis of satisfaction in a heartbreaking desert of a losing season.

The rest of the season begins Wednesday night, in Philadelphia, on the national stage. How the Capitals perform under this coast to coast microscope may ultimately define where the rest of their season goes from here.

I hope to see more of what I saw on Tuesday, but given the history of some of the men on the roster, “wait and see” is the best I can manage at this time. I do not expect any certain outcome, but paradoxically, I do expect that I will not be surprised regardless of what happens.

I want to wish the Capitals all the best in Philadelphia. It’s a tough place to play, and the stakes are higher than they should be at this point in the season. If any team can rise to the challenge, it’s these Capitals. However–and there I go with that word again–if any team can royally disappoint, it’s these same Capitals.

We’ll find out which Capitals team this really is when the puck drops at 7:30 Wednesday night.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
NONCOMMITTAL

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