It’s 26 games out of the Playoffs and for the first time in years, the Washington Capitols aren’t geared to win the East.
In fact, they aren’t even set to MAKE the playoffs. And now, to make matters even worse, it looks like Nick Backstrom won’t be lacing up for a very long time.
After a vicious elbow to the head on January 3rd vs. Calgary, Backstrom still hasn’t played. He has openly stated the severity of his concussion and that he is hoping to be ready for the playoffs. IF the Cap’s make them that is. Here is the hit:
Prior to Backstrom’s injury, he was pretty much the only good thing happening in Washington (42 points, 18 of which are PP). Backstrom managed this in spite of Boudreau, who was trying to make his team more defensively responsible so that they were capable of adapting to playoff hockey. Instead, he turned a run-and-gun scoring machine into a team that couldn’t seem to do anything right. For a nice non-hockey analogy, he had all the parts for an airplane, and he decided to build a tank.
Not to mention he angered Ovechkin one too many times, the end result of him being fired and getting picked up by Anaheim (who he has since dragged out of the basement in the West. They are now 6-2-2 in their past 10 games).
In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick snippet of Ovi cussing out Bruce when he is benched in a must-score end of game situation:
But even with Boudreau off the bench, the Caps still aren’t looking any better. And now, in what feels like a final nail in the coffin, Backstrom is gone. And not just Giroux “6 game concussion gone”. He is Crosby “sitting in a dark room and trying not to pass out” finished. Backstrom’s importance to this team cannot be understated; prior to his injury, Washington was sporting a winning percentage of .553%. But now, sans Backstrom, they have fallen into a funk and sport a .389%, which certainly isn’t going to make their life easy over the next 26 games. In layman’s terms, they have lost 11 of their past 18 games.
Their poor performance is best measured by how “incredible” of a season Florida is having. I say that with utmost sarcasm because Florida is scraping by, being being held in 3rd in the East by a miserable division. without the division system (the top team from each division gets 1 of the top 3 slots in each conference), Florida would be in 6th. Washington is only 4 points behind Florida for the division title, and Winnipeg another 3 behind them. This is not a situation that Washington is familiar with, nor comfortable with for that matter.
The next few weeks will be some of the most difficult hockey Washington has played since putting its core line-up together – Backstrom, Ovechkin, Green and Semin. All of these guys now resemble more of a hodgepodge of injury and write off seasons than their collective 28 million dollar cap hit.
Regardless, it is still fully possible for Washington to make it into the playoffs. But, without Backstrom and having shown an inability* (read: “refusal”) to adapt to a more responsible style of hockey, they are once again set to make an early exit. The unstoppable force that once was the Capitals, featuring the biggest names in the league, is dissipating into a team that will have to think about making some serious moves this off-season.
The Caps are traveling to Florida on Friday and will be looking not just to tie the series up between the two teams (Florida leads 2-1) but to drag themselves back into playoff contention.