With 95 points in 68 games, the Capitals currently sit atop the Metropolitan Division and the entire league. They are on a four-game losing streak, while the Metro division rival Pittsburgh Penguins have won five of their last six (with a shootout loss last night), tying the Caps in points with exactly the same number of games played.
Regular season success for the Caps has become a punchline. It’s hard to get excited about this final 14-game stretch when all that we really care about is what the team does come April, May, and hopefully June. Which is entirely fair.
But there is a lot left to play for right now, and the stakes are high. The Caps have snuck back into a dogfight for what is a genuinely important number one seed in the Metro. Forget the Presidents’ Trophy, they need to take this division — for the reasons you’ll see below.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
If you’ve yet to come across it, I highly recommend giving Tom Haberstroh’s recent splendid piece of reporting for ESPN The Magazine a read. It sinks its teeth into the grisly nature of the NBA’s 82-game schedule, putting a spotlight on the immense physical toll it puts on its players. The story itself isn’t necessarily a revelation, but is important nonetheless because it gets to the root of the issue stemming from systemic flaws the league willingly inflicts upon itself.
The comparison between the NBA and NHL isn’t seamless. There are fundamental differences between the two sports. In basketball significantly fewer players are relied upon to carry the load. The tread on the tires can accumulate particularly quickly for those guys given how much they’re asked to do on a nightly basis. Regardless, the idea that performance dips under fatigued conditions holds true in hockey just the same. The ability to control territorial play, generate more goals than the opposition, and ultimately win games all precipitously declines with decreased rest, lending credence to the phenomenon of “schedule losses.”
The Stanley Cup playoffs start today, and the Washington Capitals aren’t a part of it. While that sucks, life must go on. The good news is that the quarterfinal round is the best week or two of hockey all year, and there’s a bunch of good match-ups to watch. There’s also a couple of garbage match-ups too, but what are you gonna do?
I’ve asked the RMNB crew to share their brackets, and they did, and they’re all really bad. Even mine is bad. Not as bad as theirs, but still really, really bad. Making predictions is a sucker’s game.
Come read our stupid predictions and share your own in the comments!
Oh, is this still happening? Is hockey still a thing? I was too busy having barbecues and drinking Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter and wearing flip-flops and liberally smearing SPF 250 all over myself to notice. Who even made the finals? It was the Pens and the Kings, right?
Ahh, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. The #2 and #4 best possession teams in the league. The regular-season dominating Hawks and some jackholes from a city we’d normally be allowed to call a cesspit but some ultra-jackholes spoiled that, so now we have to pretend to be nice. Yay for Boston. Their accents are endearing, and Ben Affleck totally didn’t ham up Daredevil.
Now we dance. One last time, Ian and I will offer our predictions for the winner of the Stanley Cup. The winner will bask in infinite glory until the dawn of the Second Age. The loser will have to eat 100 pennies.
Each of the four remaining playoff teams has won a championship in the last four years. We’re just recycling winners at this point. There’s no point in watching anymore. There’s no point in anything. Our Capitals have been eliminated, and I can’ t think of any good reason to get out of bed in the morning except for summer weather, two good regional baseball teams, bathing suits, watermelons, Joss Whedon’s commentary track for Avengers, and a new Janelle Monae album.
Other than that, life is a wasteland.
Nonetheless, Ian and I made a promise to publish our awful, hastily assembled predictions on who would win each round of the playoffs. As you remember, I got smacked down in the quarterfinal round, but I’m feeling a little better about the enterprise right now….
…cause last round I went 4 for 4, baby!
Welp, this is less than fun now, but we’re freaking obligated. The thing about making public predictions is that when you (and by you, I mean me) get ’em wrong, it’s really embarrassing. I picked just 3 winners out of 8, so basically I’m worse than a coin-toss. I’m having self-worth issues right now. Meanwhile, Ian, used some blind freaking luck to get 5 out of 8. And we’re both emotionally unstable right now.
Let’s do it!
Tuesday night begins the best part of the entire year. Eight best-of-seven series start today– with all the rivalries and drama and bad blood that come along with ’em. Expect big games every night and fresh fallout every morning. Playoffs, baby.
As RMNB’s creators, Ian and I thought we’d ramble on about our predictions for the first round and put our necks on the line. I do not recommend you take any of our guesses to #thebank.
No team has given the Washington Capitals more trouble this season than the New York Rangers. Those 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts pushed some Caps fans into spiritual desolation, broke up several marriages, and probably killed a house cat or two. Fitting then that the Caps and Rags should meet in this first round of the playoffs. You know that old Klingon proverb, right? Revenge is a dish best served by two guys from Russia named Alex.
We were scoreless through two periods when Rangers newbie Matt Gilroy caught a pass from Brandon Prust and beat Michal Neuvirth. With only six minutes and change left in regulation, Alex Ovechkin’s repeated swats forced the puck past Henrik Lundqvist’s pads. And then, after nearly nineteen minutes of overtime hockey and with fatigue setting in, Jason Arnott intercepted a bad clear from Marc Staal and set up Alex Semin for the game-winner. It took damn near eighty minutes, but the good guys pulled it out: the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1 (OT) and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Springtime was magical. Puck fans watched with rapt attention as the Capitals overcame a 3-game deficit to beat the Rangers, and we felt like we were living in charmed times. “Could this be the year the Caps actually do it?”, we would whisper to ourselves in quiet corners. The team never looked better than it did during those last four games against New York, and we wondered how far it could go.
We would gather at our friends’ houses, donned in red, and we would cheer the team from afar. Tickets were just too darn expensive, so we’d need to pick our game well. Not attending wasn’t an option. The team was too good to miss. Semyon Varlamov had risen from obscurity to become the Kerri Strug of goalies (that is, lithe and successful). The trifecta of Semin, Ovechkin, and Backstrom had turned D.C. into a veritable hero city. Mike Green and his ever-shrinking mohawk was weaponeering his defense. And a young team rallied around its senior Russian, Sergei Federov.
So when the Caps moved up two games over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference playoffs, we knew it was our time. We would secure tickets to the Caps Stanley Cup finals. But everything started to go pear-shaped, and we began to worry if such a series would arrive at all. The Pens snatched the next two games, and we were in a pickle. My friends and I advanced our schedule and procured tickets to the tentative game seven of the Pens-Caps series.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.