Friday Morning Coming Down
Today is Friday, but I awoke with thoughts of Kris Kristofferson’s brilliant “Sunday Morning Coming Down” in my head. I didn’t drink anything stronger than milk last night, but that first line rings hard on this dreary Friday:
“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt …”
Anyone else think the Caps need to run the table on their next five games to stay even on the perimeter of the playoff hunt? Well, for starters, the ever eloquent Japers over at the aptly named Japers’ Rink. While the Caps are tumbling from playoff contention, he is ramping up into playoff form with some witty, insightful and incisive commentary (and graphics). Keep up the nice work there, J.P.
Three losses by three or more goals to the mediocre Florida Panthers in a span of 20 days. Doesn’t look like the pedigree of a playoff team. Winning two or three of those games against the Panthers would have put a bit of a different paint job on it, but the reality is the Caps lost all three and are now nine points out with 30 games to go and a handful of teams to climb over. Before administering the last rites, I’ll wait and see what happens in the next half dozen games. But there is very little (if any) margin for error here.
On the morning of Oct. 18, the Caps prepared to play the Panthers for the first of eight times this season. On that same day, these two paragraphs appeared in a Game Day Preview on washingtoncaps.com:
“You can’t make the playoffs with a losing record in your own division,” declares Caps coach Glen Hanlon. “You play so many games [against divisional opponents]. If you’re under .500 in your own division, it’s too hard to make up. So we emphasize that. These are the things we didn’t [emphasize] last year. These are the subtle little ways of saying, ‘Look, if it’s not just lip service about wanting to make the playoffs, you’ve got to [step] up. These are important games.’”
The numbers buttress Hanlon’s point. No team with a losing record against its divisional opponents managed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. Three teams that did play above .500 in their division (Atlanta, Florida and Vancouver) missed the playoffs in spite of their divisional success.
The Caps pummeled Florida that night, getting five first-period goals on their way to a 5-2 win. They beat Florida again in November, but they’ve turned in three straight dismal and lackluster performances against the Panthers since. Washington is 8-11-2 against Southeast Division opponents this season. The Capitals were 11-14-7 against divisional foes in 2005-06. Had they won two of the last three games against Florida (and we’re not talking about a team that routinely gets mentioned in the same breath as the 1983-84 Oilers) they’d be 10-9-2 against the Southeast and still within a short cab ride of the playoff chase.
In other Caps-related tidbits, espn.com’s E.J. Hradek has a nice bit on the late Lorne “Gump” Worsley, one of my personal faves from the Original Six era. Hradek goes on to anoint the six goaltenders from the modern game that would still be gainfully employed if the league were still a six-team, six-goaltender outfit. Washington’s own Olie Kolzig makes the cut.
About nine years ago, I joined with a group of five other hockey-mad folks (people I had never met) from various corners of the world to hold what we dubbed an “Original Six” draft. We all drafted GMs and coaches from among those then employed in the league, and then drafted a team of two goaltenders, seven defensemen and 14 forwards, just to see which modern players would make the cut if the league were still a six-team circuit. The outcome would likely be quite different now, with the game having changed quite a bit since then. It was a fun exercise that took about a month to complete (we did it online, via email). It would be a great way to pass a month or so during the summer ahead.
Finally, Caps Nation can now let out a collective exhale. Newly acquired Milan Jurcina will sport #23 in the Blue, Black and Bronze.