After a rough start to a year that saw the Washington Capitals begin 2-8-1, the boys from DC only sit four points back of the Southeast Division lead. The Capitals have finally adjusted to Adam Oates’ system, and the team seems poised to make a late season push to get into the postseason.
Granted, they play in quite possibly the leagues worst division, the Capitals have dominated play against divisional opponents. The Capitals are 9-3-0 against their divisional rivals, winning nine of the last ten against Southeast opponents overall. The Winnipeg Jets hold the lead in the division, whom the Capitals have beat three consecutive times this season.
Six of the Capitals remaining 13 games will come against Southeast opponents, while eight of the remaining 13 games will come on home ice at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, where the Capitals are 8-8-0 on the year.
Let’s take a look at their upcoming schedule:
|TUE APR 2, 2013||CAPITALS||HURRICANES|
|THU APR 4, 2013||ISLANDERS||CAPITALS|
|SAT APR 6, 2013||CAPITALS||PANTHERS|
|SUN APR 7, 2013||LIGHTNING||CAPITALS|
|TUE APR 9, 2013||CAPITALS||CANADIENS|
|THU APR 11, 2013||HURRICANES||CAPITALS|
|SAT APR 13, 2013||LIGHTNING||CAPITALS|
|TUE APR 16, 2013||MAPLE LEAFS||CAPITALS|
|THU APR 18, 2013||CAPITALS||SENATORS|
|SAT APR 20, 2013||CAPITALS||CANADIENS|
|TUE APR 23, 2013||JETS||CAPITALS|
|THU APR 25, 2013||SENATORS||CAPITALS|
|SAT APR 27, 2013||BRUINS||CAPITALS|
Seven of these remaining games will come against potential playoff hopefuls, but if the Capitals are playing their game, it’s safe to say that they can compete with anyone in the league. The two games in Montreal stand out as the toughest upcoming, but more than half the Capitals roster will be seeking revenge for what the Canadiens did to them back in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. The Capitals came in with a No. 1 seed and the President’s Trophy. The Canadiens barely snuck in the playoffs as an eight-seed. After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Canadiens had stellar goaltending from then-goaltender Jaroslav Halak, to come back and oust the Capitals in seven games.
Alexander Ovechkin’s play of late shows the Russian captain is getting hot at the right time. Ovechkin is currently on an eight game point streak, where he has tallied eight goals and four assists in that span. It’s a good sign for Ovechkin and the Capitals, after we saw Ovechkin struggle with five points in the season’s first ten games overall. 12 of Ovechkin’s 18 goals have come on the power play, good for tops in the NHL.
Now that the Capitals are nearly at full health with the exception on John Erskine missing time due to an upper body injury, it’s not too farfetched to say the Capitals control their own destiny. They only sit three points back of the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot, but if they can catch Winnipeg, they would jump up to the the three seed.
The road to the playoffs begins Tuesday night in Raleigh, where the Capitals look to win for the sixth time in its last eight tries against the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina, who also has 34 points in the standings, will be looking to avoid losing for the fourth consecutive time on home ice. The Capitals are 2-1-0 against Carolina this season.
The Capitals are coming off their best month of hockey in March, going 9-6-1.
Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.