The Washington Capitals slipped to the second Wild Card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after the Boston Bruins won on February 26. That means as of right now the Capitals would be playing the East’s best team in the first round of the playoffs which is currently the Carolina Hurricanes.
According to Tankathon, the Caps also have the fifth strongest remaining schedule in the entire NHL. So, that begs the question. Could the Caps actually get caught and miss the playoffs?
Since the calendar flipped over to 2022, the Caps have the 26th best point percentage in the league with their 8-12-2 record. That puts them among a group of teams like the Blackhawks, Coyotes, Sabres, and Canadiens. Not exactly the hottest group in town. In that same span of games, the team has seen quite a downturn in key five-on-five statistical categories. Those metrics are based on shot attempts, expected goals, scoring chances, and high danger chances with above 50-percent being good and below being not so good.
October – December: 53.1 CF%, 53.6 xGF%, 52.4 SCF%, 51.4 HDCF%
January – February: 48.7 CF%, 47.9 xGF%, 48.7 SCF%, 48.3 HDCF%
Washington dropped from being elite defensively early in the season to right around bottom ten. pic.twitter.com/m9LAjt38Ha
— Good Tweet Pete 🌮 (@peterhassett) March 2, 2022
Due to that recent stretch of bad play, Micah Blake McCurdy, the creator of hockeyviz.com, has the Caps at an 82.5-percent chance of making the playoffs. That is down almost eight percentage points just from two weeks ago.
The only two teams left in the East that could play spoiler to the Capitals come in the form of familiar Metro Division foes.
Firstly, the New York Islanders who MoneyPuck still gives a 7.6-percent chance of making the playoffs. The Islanders have the most remaining games left in the league and more importantly, have five games in hand on the Capitals. The good news for the Caps is that the Isles haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire in 2022 either with their 11-10-2 record. They are also one of only four teams with a harder strength of schedule remaining.
The second team that could still have its eyes on that second Wild Card spot is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who MoneyPuck gives a 4.8-percent chance of sneaking in. The Blue Jackets have been hot lately, winning seven out of their last ten thanks to Patrik Laine. Their remaining strength of schedule also comes more in the middle of the pack in the league at twelfth.
So, in summary, it’s still a long shot that the Capitals end up missing the playoffs this season but it’s clear they need to start turning their play around immediately. If they don’t, that long shot can turn into a coin flip in the final weeks of the season.
Headline photo: @GChernack/Twitter
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