Photo: Mitchell Layton

With eight games left to play, the Capitals are two points out of a wild card spot. Columbus (reminder: apparently now they’re good a team) and Detroit have 82 points to Washington’s 80. In the final two weeks of the regular season, the Caps must close the gap.

They’re not going to do it playing like they have been. According to Sports Club Stats, the Caps have a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs right now. That’s a fun coincidence, because they also have just one forward line out of four that doesn’t look like hot garbage.

In this week’s snapshot, we take another look at the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs and suggest one painfully obvious way to improve them. (Hint: it’s in the headline.)

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Week 23 Snapshot: Victory in California!

Don Smith

Check out all the sad faces in the stands (Photo: Don Smith)

Alright, now it’s getting interesting. If you predicted the Caps would go winless in California, you would not have been unreasonable. Those were three tough teams on a big road trip at a crucial juncture in the schedule. Instead of sinking, the Caps took five of six available points and now have a real chance of making the playoffs again.

Sportsclubstats had the Caps at 8.1% last week. Right now they’re at 26.4%. If today’s games go right, the Caps could peek over 30% for the first time since January.

Now we enter into a period of rapt scoreboard watching. From here on out, we’ll be watching Detroit, Toronto, and Lumbus with wide eyes. But that shouldn’t mean the team’s fate is entirely out of its hands. If they can fix their top two lines and stay out of the penalty box, these guys really could pull it off. More on that in this week’s snapshot!

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Week 22 Snapshot: Wagons West!

Nick Wass

Photo: Nick Wass

For the second week in a row, the Capitals took just two standings points out of a possible six. The Caps are three points behind Philly for the wild-card spot, but Philly has two extra games holstered. Sports Club Stats puts the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs at 8.1%. For them to have a chance, they’d basically have to play like the best team in the league from here on out.

It doesn’t look good.

And then there’s the small matter of California. After Sunday’s date with the Leafs, the Caps go west. The way of Horatio Alger, Davy Crockett, the Donner Party for games against the Ducks, the Kings, and the Sharks. Wuh oh.

I’m trying over here to find a positive spin to put on the numbers, but I’m thinking if you’re looking for solace you might want to look elsewhere. I promise to keep this short and mildly interesting.

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What will Kuzya’s usage tell us about Adam Oates as a coach? (Photo: Chris Gordon)

The Capitals got two out of six points this week. They’re currently 18 points behind the division-leading Penguins and two points out of third place, behind the Rangers, who have a game in hand. While the team’s distance from first illustrates how far they are from challenging for the Cup, their proximity to the playoffs might be a bit misleading.

The Caps haven’t won a lot of games in rego or overtime this season (just 22), which is the basis for tiebreakers in the standings. Finishing the 82-game season with the same number of points as the last wild card team would mean the Caps are bound for the golf course, so they’re gonna have to leapfrog a team– or hope someone else melts down.

In this week’s snapshot, we’ll look at which teams might helpfully implode to make way for the Caps!

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Ovi looking up - Rob Carr

Photo: Rob Carr

By Wednesday afternoon, I expect the roster of the Washington Capitals roster to be drastically different.

I’ve been saying some version of that since 2012, but I really mean it this time. With a plural number of players having requested trades, a solid week of blown two-goal leads, and rumors of George McPhee’s contract expiring at the end of the season, you gotta think the Caps are motivated to make changes.

I’m no good at guessing trades and I’m not any kind of insider, but I really do think multi-player trades are coming down the pike. Keeping the playoff streak in tact, negotiating a new contract from a point of strength, striving for results while Ovi is in a renaissance– these all seem like good reasons to be active this week.  I’ve got a bunch more of those reasons in this week’s snapshot, which, despite two wins and five points, isn’t all that sunny.

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Week 19 Snapshot: Hold That Thought

Evan Vucci

Photo: Evan Vucci

Everyone sees how tough the Caps schedule will be after the Olympic break. It’s not pretty. Fortunately, the team won three of its four games this week. Those six points are going to matter, big time, come April.

But now we’re at a moment of reflection. With no games until Thursday the 27th, we’ve got an abundance of data to pore over before we see any more actual Caps hockey. Looking at the ledger this morning, I find myself surprisingly optimistic for the team’s future. Not because the Capitals have a strong roster or winning corpus of tactics; they don’t. But because the distance from here to there isn’t that far.

I’m not saying it’ll happen and I’m not even saying I’m confident it will. All I’m saying is a combination of not-all-that-major trades, some deployment adjustments, evidence-based lineup decisions, a few prudent scratches, smart goalie management, and one massive defensive systems overhaul could put this team back where we thought they’d be at the end of last summer.

Well, now that I type it all out, it seems like a lot.

Shucks. Oh well. Let’s take stock of the team one last time before we go crazy with Olympic fever. (Go USA!)

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Week 18 Snapshot: Thinning the Herd

Greg Fiume

Photo: Greg Fiume

The Capitals managed to earn half the points available to them this week, a good reversal from the last month, but not enough to put them back on pace for a postseason just yet. To make matters worse, a slew of injuries now imperil the team’s ability to even maintain their middling performance. Top-four defenceman Mike Green went down with an injury this week (he may or may not return on Sunday), as did top possession center Mikhail Grabovski, whose leg injury has him “a ways away” from returning. Brooks Laich is struggling with an injury of his own that he says is unrelated to his nagging groin problems and will be a game-time decision as well.

Those injuries will result in diminished team play for sure, but they’ll also lead to some new lineups and pairings. Players who haven’t gotten a lot of ice so far are about to get promoted in a Grabo-less, Green-less, Laich-less world. How those players will fare in their bigger roles may go a long way to determining this team’s life after April 13th.

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Francois Lacasse

Photo: Francois Lacasse

Finally. The Caps got positively crushed over the past few weeks, but it’s over now. Before they lost that game to Buffalo on the 12th, the Caps had a 60% chance of making the playoffs. It got as low as 12% before they finally won on Saturday. That losing streak hurt badly, but as we’ve seen from the last two weeks it has been driven by bad shooting and save percentages, not overall awful play (unlike the Habs, who really are eroding).

The streak ended in spectacular fashion, a five-goal shutout that typified everything we’ve learned about this team: their puck possession is getting better, their shooting percentage couldn’t possibly stay so low, their opponents’ shooting percentage couldn’t possibly stay so high. Saturday was a perfect metaphorical storm of regression and solid underlying play asserting itself.

None of that means the Caps won’t get ice cold again, but it should help us remember a simple truth: no team is as bad as it looks during a seven-game losing streak.

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Week 16 Snapshot: Waiting Out the Percentages

columbus-goal

Photo credit: Jamie Sabau

I’m writing this late on Friday night after the Capitals have lost their fourth game in a row. My process for putting these stats together usually starts with scraping data from ExtraSkater.com and then reviewing the previous weeks’ reports. I noticed the title I chose for last week was “Need Points Now.” The Capitals got two of eight points this week.

So that’s bad. I’m tempted to be plucky, to point out again how the team’s underlying play– as measured by its shot-attempt differential– predicts future success. The team truly is improving, but at this point in the season it also matters what the rate of that improvement is, and what is its expected ceiling, and how much time they have left, and how likely they are to reverse the trend.

My guesses: not fast enough, not high enough, not long enough, and kinda likely.

The Capitals aren’t a good team right now. It’s fatuous and unfactual to put it another way. I have maintained and still maintain that they can be better. What I no longer know is if it matters.

That was fun. Let’s do the numbers.

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Week 15 Snapshot: Need Points Now

buds Patrick McDermott

Photo: Patrick McDermott

The Washington Capitals had four days off this week, during which the rest of the Metro started raking in standings points. Now the Caps are back in action, and they’re about to play one of the busiest parts of their schedule with nine games in the back half of January. That’s gonna be tough, and it’s only gonna get worse. After the Olympics, in March, the Caps’ opponents are almost all great teams. The end of the regular season will be a meatgrinder, so the team would be wise to grab every point they can now. Starting with Sunday. Starting with Buffalo.

Do the team’s lineup choices reflect a “win now” attitude? I’m leaning towards hell no, dude. With Connor Carrick getting some experimental shifts with John Erskine, a reconstituted Laich-Brouwer singularity, and the Aaron Volpatti > Martin Erat fiasco, there’s a whole lot of inefficiency on this Caps roster. You can interpret that as bitter criticism, but I think of it another way: this team can get better. That’s not so bleak, right?

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