It’s tough to get away from Olympic hockey on a day like today but we’ve decided to take a look at five important topics facing the Caps after the break and into the playoffs. They are listed in no particular order of importance.
1) The Deadline.
GMGM only has a couple days to make a move if he so pleases before the March 3rd deadline. Will he make a move or will he stay put? The rumors have been flying about the Caps being involved in what seems like every player available. Whether it be a veteran goaltender, a 2nd or 3rd line center, or a veteran D-man, we’ve heard it all. It’s all going to come down to price. If the team feels like they can make a move at the right cost, they’ll do it. But GMGM is not one to overpay at the deadline. It doesn’t appear like there’s an overwhelming amount of talent out there right now. A center would help with the struggles Flash has had in the faceoff circle. He was even switched back to wing before the break. Another D-man would help because rolling guys like Erskine and Sloan out there just won’t cut it come playoff time. As much as I hate him, Andy Sutton from the Islanders seems to really fit the teams needs. A big, mean veteran D-man playing some good hockey right now. Is the price right? We’ll see.
2) Ovi’s pursuit of a 3rd straight MVP.
Ovi is arguably having his best season ever this year pacing the league in points with 89, plus/minus at +43, and goals tied with 87 from the Penguins with 42. What makes this all the more impressive is that he missed eight games due to injury or suspension. He’s played seven less games than Crosby and Henrik Sedin who currently is 2nd in the points race with 80. He’s also become a more well-rounded player with an increased role in the defensive zone. He’s on pace to easily pass his career high in assists with 54 set in 05-06 and 08-09. He currently has 47 with twenty games to play. Oh yeah, not to mention he’s now the Captain of a team that sits first in the NHL which brings me to my next point….
3) The Caps pursuit of the President’s Trophy
The Caps currently are first in the NHL with 90 points, one ahead of the San Jose Sharks. Chicago is another team fighting for the honor with 87 points and a game in-hand on both the Caps and Sharks. The Caps as a franchise have never finished with the most points in the league so it would be quite the honor. Even more important is what comes with the trophy and that’s home-ice throughout the playoffs. The Caps are currently 23-3-3 at home good for best in the league. Now we know home-ice doesn’t mean everything but ask yourself if you’d like to be on the road or at home for a Game 7. Yeah, that’s what we thought. And knock on wood, but if the Caps are able to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, having that home-ice would be extremely important for a still young team.
4) Who’s the goalie for the stretch run and into the playoffs.
Cmon, you knew this one was coming. We here at The Caps Lock touched on this a bit not too long ago so I’ll make it short. Varly gave up six goals on only 28 shots against Ottawa in his first start in the NHL since Dec right before the break. That’s not very good. Lets hope it was just rust. Theo wasn’t great leading up to the break but his last 33 save effort against the Blues wasn’t anything to scoff at. Money here is on Bruce letting the boys fight it out. Not exactly the best feeling.
5) The Caps remaining schedule.
This is important in a variety of ways. With the Olympic break, how will twenty games in less than a month and a half wear on the boys? There have been a lot of complaints from players and coaches about the high amount of games in such a small time period. Some say it’s caused more injuries. The travel has also been plentiful and guys may be wearing down. It’s times like these the Caps enjoy having a young team. The Caps do however have one of the more favorable schedules in the league. Nine of their final twenty contests are against Southeast division opponents. Furthermore, twelve of them are at home, including four of the final six. None of these factors should be overlooked when considering locking up home-ice throughout the playoffs.
It’s certainly going to be a great rest of the season. Hopefully the boys come up big when it counts.
– Dominic Toretto