Saturday, January 3, 2009

Eight down...14 to go

As I mentioned in the pre-Cap, the Capitals have an impressive record when facing teams in other Eastern Conference divisions. Also, the Capitals are a combined 14-2-3 against opponents in the Atlantic and Northeast divisions.

Without much argument, the Capitals play in one of the NHL's weakest divisions. Atlanta and Tampa Bay look destined to be part of the "John Tavares" sweepstakes, and the Caps currently hold a 10-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes.

What might catch you off-guard is that the Capitals are only 5-3 in their own Southeast Division. Not a terribly impressive number considering how well they are playing elsewhere and the talent level in the Southeast.

With eight of their divisional games completed and 14 left to play, the Capitals have a good chance of chasing down the Boston Bruins for first in the conference and possibly even the San Jose Sharks (if they trip up) for the league lead.

Here's why.

If their current level of play continues, the Capitals could easily take 21 to 25 points of the 28 points left to earn in their division. They are also beating tough competition with a lineup full of AHL call-ups, which speaks volumes about Bruce Boudreau.

On top of all that, you have the fact that the Bruins will be playing more Atlantic Division teams in the second half of the year. They are currently 4-0-2 against the Atlantic, which features the Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Penguins, all playoff contenders. I think we can agree the Atlantic Division is tougher to steal a win from than the Southeast Division.

First in the Eastern Conference is an attainable goal but, knowing Ovechkin and Boudreau, "good isn't good enough."

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