More Buses and Planes, Please

After six straight games on the road, it’s great to be home again. The Caps will close out the regular season with three straight at home, and the big house on F St. figures to be shaking pretty good on Tuesday when the Hurricanes visit with a chance to clinch the Southeast Division title in the Caps’ barn.

What the Caps want more than anything is to get back out on the road again. The reality of it is that Washington could win out and not make the playoffs. They could finish the season with a seven-game winning streak and wins in 11 of their last 12 games and be on the outside looking in. The Caps could finish in a tie for the Southeast Division title, and still not be playing when the Stanley Cup playoffs get underway next week.

It was hard to see this coming. You figure a 5-1 trip puts you into the top eight, and maybe even gives you enough room for error that you could finish 2-1 and still make the playoffs. At Saturday’s morning skate before the Caps blanked the Florida Panthers 3-0 in their regular season road finale, I mentioned to Caps coach Bruce Boudreau that if he was told before the trip he’d be going into the final game with a shot at a 5-1 trip, he probably would have expected his team to be among the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings, too.

“Yeah, I expected it,” he said. “I expected to be 5-1, but I definitely would have thought 88 points would have put us right there. Philly’s got 89, and they’ve got four games left, so we have to win two more games than they have to win to catch them. Boston has five games left. We’ll know a little bit more about their fate when they face Ottawa this afternoon by the time game time comes. Carolina just doesn’t lose two in a row. They spanked Atlanta pretty good last night. I just firmly believe if you get 94 points — boy, if it takes 95 points to make the playoffs with maybe two teams having 102 points when it’s all over, that says something about the parity even though it won’t make me feel any better.”

Since that conversation of course, Philly and Boston have both padded their totals by a pair, and the Hurricanes finally absorbed a regulation loss. Several teams ahead of Washington are mathematically catchable, but the Caps probably have to win all three remaining games to stay alive.

“It’s tough,” says Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. “Everybody is winning. There is so much character in this league. Everybody realizes it’s so tight and we’re not getting much help. But we can’t really concentrate on what other people do. We just have to keep winning. We have to win out just to have a chance to get in the playoffs.

“We put ourselves in this position and we realize that. Every game is so important, it’s like a playoff game. The guys have been great in here in battling back after being down a couple of goals. We’ve never out of it when we’ve got such great character and heart on this team.”

As the players boarded the bus for the airport after Saturday’s win in South Florida, almost all of them had their phones open, hitting the refresh button for a final score from Tampa. The Lightning obliged, as ex-Cap Jeff Halpern did his former teammates a solid with a third-period game-winner to take out the Canes. The Caps are hoping for more bus rides and plane rides in their very near future.

Washington will take Sunday off before re-convening for practice at Kettler tomorrow. The Caps will be playing their final three home games this week for a chance to go back on the road.

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6 Comments on “More Buses and Planes, Please”

  1. Tom in FL Says:

    Here are 6 teams pretty much fighting for five spots (I’m giving NJ a pass w/93 pts):

    OTT 92 pts – 4/1 MON; 4/3 @TOR; 4/4 BOS
    NYR 91 pts – 3/31 PIT; 4/3 @ NYI; 4/4 NYI; 4/6 @NJ
    PHI 91 pts – 4/2 @PIT; 4/4 NJ; 4/6 PIT
    BOS 90 pts – Now @BUF; 4/2 @NJ; 4/4 @OTT; 4/5 BUF
    CAR 90 pts – 4/1 @WAS; 4/2 TAM; 4/4 FLA
    WAS 88 pts – 4/1 CAR; 4/3 TAM; 4/5 FLA

    Ottawa has the most points but they are playing the worst. NYR has the game in hand. PHI has the toughest schedule remaining. BOS has the game now in hand plus relatively east schedule. WAS has the easiest overall schedule incl all games at home. WAS also holds tiebreaker over everyone but CAR (Ottawa by virtue of 4-0 reg season record and the other four due to likely more wins if they end up tied).

    I can really see Ottawa going 1-2 and ending up with 94 pts. MON is hot; TOR will be a pride game; and BOS is hot. I can also see Philly either winning all three, losing all three or any combo. WAS has a big schedule advantage playing both TAM and FLA at home when both teams played and travelled the night before. If Caps can beat CAR, they should win out for 94 pts. Boston is now 1-1 with BUF halfway thru the 2nd. I can see them beating OTT on 4/4 and Buff on 4/5 for at least 94 pts. They should lose to NJ 4/2. It’s going to be very, very close and, should the Caps win out, the big determining factor might be the number of three-point games. I hate those cursed three-point games except when your team wins the danged shootout. At least Buffalo is giving the B’s a tough go of it. As for Carolina, at least they don’t get to play Atlanta again. It certainly is nice that games in April mean something. I’m also remembering from too long ago what it’s like to root for teams you normally despise just because they are now playing a team you want to catch.

    Back to the TV! Let’s go Sabres!

  2. Tom in FL Says:

    Update: Buffalo wins in overtime. Another cursed three-point game. The Sabres are mathematically alive – if every team above them loses every single game except Caps-Canes when someone must win, and if Hillary endorses Obama while hell is freezing over, then the Sabres can get the 8th seed. They did put forth a tremendous effort though and I really thought the refs missed about five fouls on Boston in the last 22 mins or so.

    The only game of meaning tomorrow (3/31) is Rangers and Penguins. We want the Penguins. We also want Jagr to go scoreless, even though the chances now of his option kicking in (am I correct he must get 82 pts AND the Rangers must win one round of the playoffs?) are remote. The Caps can use that $4M on Huet.

    Malkin had his cheek sliced open in the early game. You couldn’t actually see how bad it was, but he was hurt. And, from my viewpoint, it looked intentional. If he doesn’t play tomorrow, the Pens’ chances suffer.

    I have been eating raw carrots before each Caps game and they keep winning. I suggest you all try this. Even if the raw carrots have absolutely no effect on the hockey outcome, the fiber and vitamin A are good for you. Let’s go Caps! Let’s go carrots!

    I wish I could say whether or not deep inside I had a conviction on the Caps making the playoffs. I believe though they will win their final three games. I believe however the Canes will defeat Tampa and Florida, and take the division. I believe Ottawa will keep choking but I’m not sure they’ll gag enough to only get two points in their last three games. I believe Boston will stumble to at least one more loss, but that might still give them 95 pts. And I really believe Filthydelphia will struggle with Pitt -NJ – Pitt.

    Final thought: If you had been in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving, what do you suppose the odds would have been that the Caps could end the season ahead of the Senators? About a million to one? Well, Caps win out and Sens go 1-2 and with the tiebreaker – Caps win. Why is it I’m so good at figuring out after the fact how I could have been a zillionaire? And this from someone who bought ENRON stock when it was near the bottom. Yes, I could use those three thousand dollars just like the Caps could use the lost points from that game in Boston. But, like the Caps, I hope to survive without it.

  3. Anthony Says:

    At least the caps have a small amount of thier destiny truly in hand on tuesday. A regulation win can increase their chances. They still need help, but I believe good things can happen if we win out.

  4. AJD Says:

    I posted a couple of weeks ago, when 15 games remained on the schedule, that the Caps needed to go 10-4-1 in order to make the playoffs.

    They’ve gone 9-3 since then, so I’m astounded to see them staring at 9th place right in the face.

    Those lost points in the Boston penalty debacle and the Pittsburgh own-goal meltdown are really looking like big factors right about now, eh?

  5. dumpnchase Says:

    AJD,
    Every win is worth two points, so you can go back and pick out any if you’re so inclined. If the Caps win tomorrow and finish in a tie for the division title but don’t make the playoffs, I’ll be thinking of all the “under review” goals in Caps-Canes games decided by one goal at Carolina this season. If just one of those goals goes the other way …

  6. Anthony Says:

    Mike,

    Have you talked to Nylander at all recently? I suppose in someways there isn’t much to say except yeah, it kinda sucks, but I was just wondering what his thoughts were. What is he up too besides practicing? Is he still with the team at all? Although I suppose you can’t just tell guys to talk to you. 😀


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