Antti Niemi, Nicklas Backstrom

Playoff bubble watch — Capitals edition


When the “bubble watch” last checked in on the Washington Capitals, more than two weeks ago, Sports Club Stats had their playoff chances at just 14.3 percent.

Today, after four wins in their last five — including a 2-0-1 record on a tough three-game trip to California, and combined with slides by Toronto and Columbus — those chances are up to 31.8 percent.

“We knew these were going to be some of the toughest games of the season coming out there with the way these guys were playing,” forward Eric Fehr said, per the Washington Post. “We did our job here (in California), but we can’t let ourselves down at home now. Got to play well at home and continue to play a playoff-style game. I think we’ve had a lot less turnovers and played a greasier style of hockey that has worked for us.”

The Caps’ remaining schedule isn’t an easy one. Upon returning home, they’ll be greeted with games against the Kings Tuesday and Bruins Saturday. Drop those and they’ll be right back to serious long shots to make the playoffs.

There’s also this, from the Post:

The Capitals’ top two lines are still struggling to score at even strength. Ovechkin has gone 12 games without a five-on-five goal. Of the team’s 22 even-strength tallies since the Olympic break, only five were scored by players on the first or second line, and that includes two by Brooks Laich, who is out four to six weeks after undergoing groin surgery March 17.

The team still goes through extended lulls with little to no offensive traction. They have relied heavily on Holtby and Jaroslav Halak to hold steady in goal, such as when they were outshot 16-6 by San Jose in the second period Saturday night.

In fact, the Caps were outshot in all three California games, by a combined total of 109-77. That very much mirrors Toronto’s trip a couple of weeks ago; since then, the Leafs have dropped five straight.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Washington will fall into a similar funk. Solid goaltending and special teams have a way of masking five-on-five deficiencies, and those two factors may well keep the Caps playing past the regular season.

Glencross released from another PTO, this time by Avs

Washington Capitals v Ottawa Senators
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Curtis Glencross’ hard-luck preseason continued on Monday, as the Avalanche announced they released him from his training camp tryout.

Glencross had previously been cut from Toronto’s camp, which he described as “kind of a shock” move. Following that release, the 32-year-old quickly shifted to Colorado but arrived fairly late in the overall process, and only got a bit of exposure before being let go.

While some thought yesterday’s trade of Freddie Hamilton to Calgary may have opened up a spot for Glencross, the Avs now appear to be going in a different direction.

A two-time 20-goal scorer that netted 13 in 71 games last year, it’s unclear what lies ahead for Glencross.

Slepyshev earns final Oilers roster spot; Draisaitl to AHL

Anton Slepyshev, Anton Lander
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The Edmonton Oilers have assigned center Leon Draisaitl to AHL Bakersfield.

The demotion of Draisaitl, 19, means 21-year-old rookie Anton Slepyshev has made the opening-day roster after scoring twice and adding two assists in exhibition action.

The Oilers experimented during the preseason with Draisaitl, a natural center, on the wing. He didn’t have a particularly poor camp, finishing with one goal and three assists in six games.

But Slepyshev apparently impressed more.

“He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before,” coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. “You can see it.”

Slepyshev played 58 games in the KHL last season, scoring 15 goals for Salavat Yulaev Ufa.