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Whew! March 8, 2013

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Back in 1979, CBS rolled out a game show called, “Whew!” (I know that sounds like an extremely odd opening for a hockey post, but bear with me.) The main game worked like this: the challenger selected whether to start as the “blocker” or the “charger.” The charger was put in a soundproof booth while the blocker set up “blocks” on the game board. The board consisted of 5 rows of clues worth 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 dollars, plus a sixth row at the top with clues of 200, 300, and 500 dollars. The blocker got to place 6 blocks: no more than 3 in any row of 5, and no more than 1 in the top row. The charger was then brought back onstage, and had 60 seconds to get to the top of the board. Each clue had an error that was underlined; the “answer” was the correct word or phrase. For instance, if the clue was, “John Erskine had his #4 retired by the Boston Bruins,” the correct answer would be “Bobby Orr.” If the charger landed on a block, they were given a 5-second penalty. If the charger thought they didn’t have enough time to finish, they could take a “Long Shot”, stop the clock, and go straight to the top row. The blocker was then given one additional block to secretly place on the top row. If the charger made it all the way up the board in 60 seconds, or successfully answered a Long Shot, they won; if the charger ran out of time, picked a block on the Long Shot, or got the Long Shot answer wrong, the blocker won the game. Players traded roles for the second round of three; if a third round was necessary, the defending champion chose which role to play for Game 3. Best 2 out of 3 won the match; and if the winner could solve ten clues in the bonus round, they won $25,000. That may not sound like much today, but $25,000 in 1979 would be almost $79,000 in 2012 dollars.

As you have no doubt figured out from that long-winded description, my theme for this post is going to be “blocking” and “charging” with respect to where the Capitals are situated in the standings.

Okay, first, let’s look at where the Caps stand right now. The Caps are now at 21 points, which is the same total as Tampa Bay and Buffalo. However, because the Caps have played fewer games than either of those two teams, they’ve just charged to the 12 spot in the Eastern Conference.

But when you look at the number of points each team has available, the Caps are actually in even better shape than that. Here’s the raw list:

(Format: TEAM, Max Pts/Current Pts)

BOS 87/33
MTL 82/34
PIT 80/32
NYR 78/26
CAR 77/27
TOR 76/30
OTT 76/28
NJD 75/27
WPG 73/23
WSH 73/21
NYI 71/23
PHI 69/23
TBL 69/21
BUF 67/21
FLA 67/19

So in terms of playoff potential, the Caps are in a position right now where they have more control of their playoff fate than they did even a few weeks ago. Being one of the hottest teams in the conference over the last 10 games, while some of the teams nearby have been struggling, has been good medicine.

I’m looking at the Caps’ next few games, and what I see is the potential for either a whole lot of charging, or some very, very big blocks.

First up is the Islanders this Saturday, at the Vet. If the Caps win that game in regulation, they will charge one spot in the Eastern Conference standings for sure. If Philadelphia loses in regulation on Saturday, you can make that a 2-spot charge.

But even before that happens, watch the Panthers-Jets game Friday night. If the Panthers beat the Jets in regulation on Friday night, the Caps could pick that spot up on Saturday, as well.

In other words, if the Capitals take care of business on Long Island on Saturday, and they get some help from out of town, they could theoretically be standing–you sitting down, Caps Nation?–NINTH when they come home to face the Rangers on Sunday.

Speaking of the Rangers, they host Ottawa on Friday night. Now, if you look at the standings, it’s easy to favor the Rangers going into that game. The Rangers are 9-4-1 at home, while the Senators are 3-7-2 on the road; the Rangers are coming in on a 4-game streak, the Senators, on a 1-game skid. However, the Senators win with defense. It’s technically accurate to say that only Boston has allowed fewer goals than Ottawa in the Eastern Conference. But it’s only 1 goal, and the Bruins have played 3 fewer games. The Senators are actually giving the Chicago Blackhawks a serious run for the Jennings Trophy right now, and the Rangers aren’t exactly shooting the lights out on Broadway. That game could easily go any number of different ways on Friday night. A regulation win by the Senators would be a HUGE help to the Capitals.

That would set up quite a showdown at the Phone Booth on Sunday morning.

(And pardon the rant, but it is a morning game in my book: thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it’s going to feel like an 11:30 start, meaning it’s going to feel like 10:30 doors at Verizon Center, and oh by the way, Metro is going to be a mess this weekend. Caps Nation, what do you think: maybe we should all show up for the game on Sunday in our pajamas?)

Ahem–as I was saying–quite a showdown at the Phone Booth on Sunday morning.

If the Senators beat the Rangers in regulation, and the Caps take care of both teams from New York over the weekend, the Caps could, with a little help, quite possibly charge all the way to–would you believe this?–ONE POINT out of playoff position.

However…

If the Caps lose both games this weekend, and the out of town scoreboard piles on the insults, the Caps could conceivably be all the way back in 14th by the time the Hurricanes arrive to kick off a home-and-home Tuesday night–two quick games that could decide if the Caps are going to be charging in the Southeast, or staring down a very, very serious block.

Reasons to hope this weekend: the Islanders have been HORRIBLE at home this season, which may play to the Caps’ favor on Saturday; and the Rangers have not been very good on the road coming into Verizon Center on Sunday, where the Caps are now 7-5-0.

What worries me about Saturday is the Caps’ road record, a very pedestrian 3-6-1 so far. That road record has GOT to improve this month if the Caps are to have any chance of–yes, I’m going there–charging all the way into the playoffs. That said, the Islanders aren’t much better at home than the Caps have been on the road, so even this may be worrying too much.

So, keep an eye on the scoreboard Friday night, Caps faithful. If the Panthers win in regulation, the Caps could jump two spots, and possibly three, with a win at the Vet on Saturday. And don’t neglect to look in on the Rangers-Sens game, as that game could set the table for Sunday’s game here in the District.

All in all, this is going to be a whirlwind weekend for hockey in DC…and that’s before we play the Hurricanes.

This season is suddenly getting very, very interesting. Step away from the ping pong balls, folks: these Capitals just might be able to pull this Long Shot off, after all.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
INTRIGUED

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