Hi. Earlier today, the NHL tweeted out what would need to happen for the Capitals to clinch a playoff spot. Well, with the Capitals’ taking the Carolina Hurricanes to overtime, I’m happy to announce playoff hockey is returning to Washington DC.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 16, 2016
Excuse me while I…
Last night, the Washington Capitals found out that they had earned a playoff spot while flying back to DC from Detroit. According to the Caps’ Mike Vogel, there was a “loud cheer on the plane as [the] boys learned the news.”
If that wasn’t endearing enough, the Caps took a ridiculous celebration picture as Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Ovechkin emerged from the plane. They smiled for the camera flailing their arms like it was an R. Kelly video.
Ovechkin didn’t stop there. Not even a little.
The Washington Capitals are in the driver’s seat for the Southeast division crown. And even though tonight’s game against the Jets looms large, a loss won’t kill the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs — though it will make it much more difficult to win the division. If they lose tonight and manage to still win their final two games, they will be guaranteed a playoff spot.
As it stands right now, the Caps have a 91.1% chance of making the postseason and an 86.7% of winning the Southeast. The Winnipeg Jets have a steeper climb. Despite a big win over Buffalo on Monday, the Jets have just a 31.6% probability of making it to the Stanley Cup playoffs and a 13.3% of becoming division champs.
There are a lot of ways this could shake out, and a lot of possible tiebreakers to consider.
Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.
The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.
Photo credit: Rob Carr
Friday’s 6-0 drubbing by the Rangers was the ninth time the Capitals have been shutout this season. Washington is now well on their way to being shut out in double digit games for the first time since 1999. As you might expect, getting shutout is not a recipe for playoff success — if you’re fortunate enough to even make the playoffs.
Photo credit: Scott Cunningham
After the Capitals’ humiliating 7-0 loss to the Rangers in December, head coach Bruce Boudreau changed his defensive scheme to include the neutral-zone trap. I won’t go into the how and why this system works, but it essentially looks to keep small mistakes from turning into major breakdowns that lead to goals against.
Over the years, the trap has often been associated with teams that have a “defense first” mentality – you know, boring squads. That’s a far cry from last season’s “run ‘n’ gun” Caps team that lead the League in scoring by almost 50 goals while being merely average at keeping the puck out their own net. Most notably, it satisfies critics who feel the system employed by Boudreau over the past few seasons is incapable of winning in the playoffs. But is it?
This just happened.
(8:35:19 PM) Peter Hassett: we’re still gonna win
(8:35:21 PM) Peter Hassett: OMG
(8:35:25 PM) me: “we’re”
(8:35:27 PM) Peter Hassett: I said “we”
(8:35:29 PM) Peter Hassett: omg
It’s the last day of school at Kettler Capitals Iceplex today, and there’s a little bit of summer drama in the air. While his teammates were getting interviewed (and sometimes skewered) during the end-of-season press conferences, Canada’s Best Defenseman Mike Green quietly left without speaking to the media.
Mike was held goalless in the losing playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens and was a crucial ingredient in both Habs goals in game 7. What does his absence today mean? Peter Hassett and Neil Greenberg take sides and battle-rap it out below.
The Montreal Canadiens have made fools of us all, worshippers of a false idol, suckers swindled by snake oil salesmen. Jaroslav Halak and his Habs bested the Washington Capitals in these conference quarterfinals, and we now stare down the long, lonely hallway of the offseason.
Anger, despair, confusion; I know you’re feeling one of these. I am, too.
But let’s– just for a moment– try to fill the night with humility. The Montreal Canadiens are a wickedly savvy team, and they slayed the dragon tonight. Congratulations to the opponent.
And let us feel gratitude, too. Despite what you think of the last seven games (and you’re not alone), we must stand in admiration of the Capitals’ effort this season. They did the impossible so often, an average game became an aberration. For every high five and every chest bump, the human contact we direly miss tonight, we thank them.
So go shave, my friends. We’ll talk again soon.
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