A fun thing to keep an eye on throughout the season is how many points it could possibly take to make the playoffs. With the Washington Capitals getting off to a poor start this season we may need to keep an eye on that number more this year than in previous seasons. It seems very likely the Capitals will have to battle for a playoff spot.
With that being the case it might be useful to take a look at some other teams in the eastern conference and see what they are on pace for. We will compare those teams to the Capitals and then we can see how many points Washington will have to make up as a result of their slow start.
You mostly want to make the playoffs in your own division. That means you will be playing a “weaker” team because you won your division, or you will have avoided a division winner which you would have to play if you qualify via the wild card. The Capitals are going to have their work cut out for them if they want to make the playoffs in the metropolitan division.
The New Jersey Devils could come back down to earth, or would they come back up to earth being devils? Anywho, they lead the division currently and as of right now, we won’t factor them into this discussion. We will talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the other metro teams the Rangers and Islanders.
First we will show what the Capitals are on pace for.
Washington has recently increased their pace. Just a few games ago they were on pace finish the season with under eighty points. With their current four game winning streak they are now back on pace for about 87 points. Still not very good, but keep putting wins together and that will go up, obviously. So how does that compare to other teams, and how much ground will the Caps need to make up?
The Penguins have 38 points in 29 games. My math tells me that puts them on pace for 107 points. The Penguins will really need to slow down and the Caps will have to pick it up to catch them. Twenty points is a lot of ground to make up.
Currently third in the division is the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina has played in two fewer games than the Penguins and are just two points behind Pittsburgh. As a result the Hurricanes are on pace for more points and could possibly end up with somewhere around 109 points.
Up next in the standings is the current number one wild card team and that team is the New York Rangers. The blueshirts had a ton of expectations coming into this season. I think it’s fair to say they have yet to live up to the hype, but at least they are in a wild card spot. With 35 points in 30 games that puts them on pace for about 95 points at seasons end.
Now lets talk about the other New York team. I am sure they loved to be called that, the Islanders. They are off to a much better start than last season and thanks to that find themselves in a playoff spot nearing Christmas time. They currently sit with 34 points in 29 games. That means when the seasons finishes they could see themselves with about 96 points.
Another much improved team this season is the Detroit Red Wings. I know we all care about the Washington Capitals here, but it is nice to see the winged wheel back and somewhat relevant once again. That team has 32 points in 27 games played. While they are tied with the Caps as of right now they have played three less games. Meaning when their season is over, on their current pace they could have around 97 points when it’s all said and done.
Lets just talk about one more team. That team by reputation could be the scariest of them all, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks to the Red Wings having a better year the Lightning may find themselves in a fight for that last divisional playoff spot and therefore may have to make the playoffs via the wild card and as a result could have to battle Washington for said spot.
The Bolts currently have 35 points in 27 games played. That puts them on a 106 point pace. Easily enough to fend off the Red Wings, but It seems Boston and Toronto will be one and two in that division with Detroit and Tampa battling for the third spot.
We aren’t going to talk about Boston who has a ten point lead on Tampa. We won’t talk about the Leafs who have a seven point lead on the Lightning. As of right now, we won’t talk about the Devils who have a ten point lead on the second wild card team.
We also will not be talking about the Montreal Canadiens who are just two points back of the Washington Capitals with two games in hand. We have also left out the Florida Panthers who are having a disappointing season having 30 points in 29 games.
These teams that are below the Capitals could easily find themselves in the conversation, but for now we will leave that conversation for another time. As for the teams that are above Washington that we didn’t talk about, I’d be pretty surprised if the Capitals find themselves up in that discussion, but you never know.
Here is a more simple way to look at where the Capitals are compared to their competitors.
Hurricanes – 109 points
Penguins – 107 points
Islanders – 96 points
Rangers – 95 points
Lightning – 106 points
Red Wings – 97 points
Capitals – 87 points
The Washington Capitals have some space to make up. They will have to keep winning and need a little help from one of these teams. Washington is currently on a four game heater though. Maybe they are on their way to catching these teams.