With the NHL playoff race getting down to the wire, we’ll be providing regular updates on each bubble team’s postseason push.
On the bubble: Washington Capitals
Where they stand: 8th in the East, two points ahead of 9th-place Buffalo
Games remaining: 9
SportsClubStats.com says: 73.1% chance of making the playoffs
Why they’ll get in:
Like most things Caps-related, it starts with Alex Ovechkin – the captain has five goals in his last four games, including two in last night’s huge 5-3 win in Detroit.
It’s also worth noting that four of Washington’s five remaining home games are against teams that definitely won’t or probably won’t make the playoffs – Winnipeg, Minnesota, Buffalo, and Montreal. (The other is against Florida.) The Caps are 23-10-3 at the Verizon Center, one of the better home records in the NHL.
Why they won’t:
They’re not exactly the most clutch team in history. The Caps have fallen short too many times when the pressure’s on to trust them to get it done. Only yesterday Roman Hamrlik was imploring his teammates to stop “making the same mistakes over and over.” One win against a banged-up Detroit side doesn’t mean they’ve finally figured it out.
“That was probably the best period we’ve played all year. I thought after the first period, ‘That’s the Washington Capitals. That’s what we can play like.’” – forward Jason Chimera on the Caps’ first period against the Wings that ended with Washington leading 3-0.
Key game coming up:
Thursday at Philadelphia
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.