I want to give the Capitals their due as they are a very good hockey team. They have so much talent all through their line-up. The only weakness that anyone might find is the goaltending, but Theodore has been playing well lately — maybe that problem is solved.
Are they really 17 points better than anyone else in the East? I decided to look a little deeper into their record and this is what I discovered. The Southeast Division that they play in is by far the worst in the Eastern Conference. They have taken advantage of that tremendously. The NHL has an unbalanced schedule. Teams play their Division foes six times a season. They play the rest of the Conference teams four times each. This has given the Capitals the easiest schedule in the East. They are 19-4 against their Division foes. The only other team over .500 in their Division is Atlanta – they are two games over. Atlanta’s remaining three games are against New Jersey, Washington, and Pittsburgh, so they might not be over .500 when the season ends. The teams in the Southeast Division are a combined nine games under .500. The Capitals have scored a ton of goals this year. The other teams in the Southeast Division have given up 968 goals – they are a combined -122. No other team in the Southeast will qualify for the playoffs, leaving the other two Divisions to supply seven of the eight teams that will be battling for Lord Stanley.
By comparison, the Penguins’ opponents in the Atlantic Division are a combined 26 games over .500 — they have given up 854 goals and their goal differential is +2, with the Islanders being the only minus team at -32. These are significant discrepancies in Divisions. Taking a look at some common results between the Capitals and the Penguins says that the teams are a little closer than the current point totals would indicate. The Penguins were 9-6 against the Southeast Division, the Capitals were 9-6 against the Atlantic Division. The Penguins are 14-6 against the Northeast Division, and the Capitals are only 10-8 with two games remaining against Boston. We know how the Penguins have fared against New Jersey this year – 0-6. The Capitals have not done much better — they are 1-3 against the Devils. Head-to-head, yes, the Capitals have won all three games, but two went beyond regulation, still pretty even by me. The Penguins get another shot at ‘Steroid Boy’ on Tuesday. Here’s hoping they answer the bell. That’s the view from E-11.
Note — I don’t want to run Goligoski out of town. I think he is going to be a very good player. He needs to contribute offensively or his value is greatly diminished. Saturday was his best game in a long time, even though he was -1. If he plays like that more often, the Penguins will be a much better team.
Note — Powerplay numbers without Malkin and Gonchar – 4.6% – not very good. With them — 20%. Enough said!
Note — I hope Poni shows up on the scoresheet again soon. The Penguins need help from everyone.