As you may have heard, last night the Washington Capitals clinched the Southeast Division title and the third seed in the playoffs. They are returning to the playoffs for the sixth straight year. A month ago if you told me the Capitals would win the Southeast Division I would have called you crazy.
Quite frankly, I am absolutely astounded by the turnaround we have seen from the Caps. After their 5-3 win last night over the Jets, I was inspired look back on Washington’s wild season:
The Capitals struggled mightily out of the gate bottoming out after a 5-2 loss to the Penguins on February 7th. At that point, Washington was 2-8-1 and, according to Sports Club Stats, they had a minuscule 2.16% chance of making the playoffs. The Capitals bounced back with back to back wins against the Panthers (it seems the best antidote for struggling teams is playing Florida) with the wins marking the beginning of a minor resurgence.
The Capitals finally escaped from the Eastern Conference basement on March 7th with a resounding 7-1 defeat of the Panthers. However, they were not yet out of the woods. On March 19th the Capitals again lost to the Penguins and at this point of the season their chances of qualifying for the playoffs were 5.97%.
After the game Capitals forward Eric Fehrtalked about the team’s scoring struggles, “We just passed it around, maybe trying to get a little too fancy. We’ve got to find a way to maybe have some more shots and have some traffic”. Whatever scoring struggles Washington had in their 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh, they figured things out in a hurry as something clicked for the Capitals following this loss.
Since that loss the Capitals have gone an absurd 14-1-1 including an 8 game win streak on their way to a 10-1-0 April to date. It doesn’t take an expert to see that the Capitals have turned things around in a huge way, and I do not think it is coincidence that the team got hot right as superstar Alex Ovechkin rediscovered his scoring touch.
A quarter of the way into this season I charted out Alex Ovechkin’s scoring rate throughout his career. Thirteen games into the 2013 season Ovi was in line for yet another dip in scoring. Here is a look at that chart: