It took a miraculous stretch of wins for the Washington Capitals to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, after beginning the 2012-13 short campaign sluggishly, and under the guidance of first time head coach Adam Oates. But the Caps came through – they recorded a 15-2-2 record in their final nineteen games of the season, and I guess you could say that had it been a full 82-game schedule they’d have just been heating up, then.
This season has been similar, although longer, and this time around the Caps aren’t in need of a flawless run, but they will need to play well over the next few weeks if they hope to make the playoffs.
The Caps and four other teams are currently tied with 80 points – all four clubs vying for the two available wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Washington will lose a tiebreaker to any of the Red Wings, Blue Jackets or Maple Leafs, so they need to qualify by having more points than the pack after 82.
The Wings and Jackets have a game in hand on the Caps, to make things even tighter, but Detroit is banged up and the Jackets have had trouble scoring recently. The Leafs, on the other hand, they’ve lost six straight and seem to be free-falling uncontrollably.
The door is open for Washington to make the playoffs, if they continue piling up the points: Washington’s record in its last ten games is 5-3-2, which is the best of the wild card chasing quartet.
The Capitals can take solace in the fact that they’re a capable goal scoring club. Last night Washington put four past the stingy defence of the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout loss that earned them one-point in the standings. As the final few games of the season transpire the Caps’ offence has the potential to carry them into the post-season for the seventh straight season.
Between the pipes, deadline deal acquisition Jaroslav Halak has played well enough to win more than he’s lost. Halak, you’ll recall, was the Habs netminder in 2010 when the Canadiens upset the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. The Slovak was a difference maker then – he could be one now, too, this time for the good guys.
If the Capitals do qualify for the post-season this year there is a realistic chance they’ll draw the Boston Bruins first, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The B’s are notorious slow starters – they’ve extended their past three first round series’ to Game Seven overtime, winning twice; losing once to you guessed it, the Washington Capitals.