With the Caps breathing down the necks of not one, not two, not three, but four teams right now it's safe to say that every single player in Philly, Carolina, Boston and yes, New York, are looking in the rearview mirror. Ouch. Rarely a mention of the Caps, but there is a hint of concern there. A sense that the Flyers are pretending they are better than they are - and forcing a shootout against an Islanders team that has been out of the race for weeks and is without their superstar goalie would seem like an area of concern for sure. And finally, how 'bout them Rangers? For a long time now Jagr's squad has seemed well out of reach and well on their way to a postseason berth. Too far ahead for the Caps to catch...or are they? They join the clusterfu-, er, the cluster of teams around 8th place with 91 points and a game in hand - against a surging Penguins team that beat them yesterday:
All you have to do is scan the sports pages from these cities to see exactly how much pressure the Caps are putting on everyone.
Boston, a team that has flip-flopped with the Flyers more times than Alexander Semin has fallen down this season, continues to rack up points - but the pace has slowed. They came out of yesterday's snoozefest with a point but still fell to a Buffalo squad clinging to visions of an all-encompassing Eastern Conference crash.
Of course, Caps fans everywhere were wondering why the Sabres needed that extra 39 seconds to score the damn goal...but that's another issue.
In the aftermath of an overtime loss that the Bruins really needed to win and win in regulation, the Boston Globe was particularly pointed when mentioning a certain scrappy bunch from the nation's capital:
The Capitals, let the record show, have gone 12-4-0 (.750) since their tradin'-day acquisitions of No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet and aged Russian magician Sergei Fedorov. They have traction, and they're just waiting for the Rangers, Flyers, or Bruins to look in the mirror, the one with the fine print warning, "Objects Are Closer Than They Appear." Got that right.Then there's the Hurricanes, a team that is certainly starting to feel the pressure (if they weren't before) after falling to the Lightning on Saturday - the same night the Caps were rolling over the Panthers. So sayeth the Raleigh News-Observer:
Oh, hey, and let's not forget the Hurricanes, who wrap up their regular season Friday vs. the Panthers in Raleigh. The Canes, in third place overall with 90 points, actually have 1 point fewer than the Rangers, Flyers, and Bruins in sixth. Why? Because they lead the Southeast Division, which is home to . . . you got it, the Capitals.
Readjust that slide rule, because the Caps could slip ahead of the Canes for the divisional crown and thus land the third seed overall. The Canes, no doubt all fitted for oxygen masks to survive the sudden drop, then would slide back into that NYR-Flyer-Bruin scrum for seeds 6-7-8. Misery just loves company.
The Canes went into the evening with a chance to clinch the Southeast Division title. Instead, they now face what may be a winner-take-all showdown with the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday.In Philly it seems more and more like people are losing faith that the Flyers can pull it off, despite their annoying insistence on scoring late and forcing shootouts. But that's Philly for you:
"We wanted this one but it didn't happen, and we've got to leave this one here and look forward to Tuesday in Washington," Hurricanes center Eric Staal said. "We have to play a complete game and get a win."
"That's a big game," Laviolette said. "We've got to come up with four points. It doesn't matter how we do it."
John Stevens called [Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders] "the gutsiest effort of the year," and said it showed the team's "resilience."
That's only true if the precursor to both characteristics are "listless" and "stupid" - the two words that recur when talking about how this team starts, and too often how it finishes.
The Rangers have found themselves perched so precariously in the Eastern Conference playoff race that they entered Sunday afternoon’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins eyeing the top of the standings and left it — after a 3-1 loss at Mellon Arena — warily eyeing the bottom.I know for many of us watching tonight's Rangers-Penguins game would be something akin to shoving red-hot pokers under our fingernails and diving face first into a pit of boiling lava. If you can get past that feeling, it's one to keep an eye on for sure. This race is no longer just a three-team race...but adding another team to the mix just improves the Caps' chances.
Of course, none of this compares to the truly sick part of this entire mess. If the Caps remain in the fight for 8th place, they will likely have to root for the Penguins to win out. Pittsburgh has three games remaining, one against the Rangers tonight and two against the Flyers.
If the Penguins win out they clinch the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference crown.
If the Penguins win out and the Caps do the same the Caps are in.
...and who could they face in the first round? Yup. Sick sick sick.
Ouch. Rarely a mention of the Caps, but there is a hint of concern there. A sense that the Flyers are pretending they are better than they are - and forcing a shootout against an Islanders team that has been out of the race for weeks and is without their superstar goalie would seem like an area of concern for sure.
And finally, how 'bout them Rangers? For a long time now Jagr's squad has seemed well out of reach and well on their way to a postseason berth. Too far ahead for the Caps to catch...or are they? They join the clusterfu-, er, the cluster of teams around 8th place with 91 points and a game in hand - against a surging Penguins team that beat them yesterday: