In blogging the Capitals, it is too difficult not to say it right up front: Washington has failed to make the playoffs twice in the three seasons since the Lockout. HOWEVER, they are famous at OGA for displaying the most prolific comeback against our Playoff Qualifying Curve (the PQC) during the 2007/8 season. Despite an overall average of –7.2 versus the PQC, last year the Caps finished with a +.5 – an average improvement of +11 against The Curve in each of the two previous seasons. This included a rebound from below The Curve for all but the final 12 games of the season that hit as low as –4 twice in 10-game periods. The new team chemistry found under Coach Boudreau, coupled with a return to the playoffs and a strong, team desire to get back on the ice this year, makes a prognosticator want to throw away all of his old oracles and start anew. But a strong, season-ending push that led to a playoff berth does not mean Capitals’ history must be chucked out with the trash. Instead, we must hold it up as a yard stick, measuring where the team is going to go this season.
In the past three seasons, OGA called Washington OUT of the playoffs every time by 1 JANUARY. In the 2007/8 season, that call came on 19 NOVEMBER when they slumped to a –3.5 versus the PQC. That call would not have been retracted until they clinched a playoff berth in their last game of the season, either. Here at OGA, we gloriously place the Caps in that 13% of all calls that made us eat crow because it represents the true ability of a team to earn the W and come back from adversity to secure a hard-fought playoff berth.
What did OGA see this past season and what is in store along the 2008/9 horizon?
The Capitals season-ending PQC average rating of –7.2 is misleading if we look at their capability to win this season. More specifically:
- Washington began the pre-Boudreau era with a 6 – 13 – 1 record. Bringing in Coach Boudreau and his influence to motivate this team could not have waited one game later as it took until the last game of the season’s victory to earn a playoff spot.
- Washington was a –3.5 below the PQC as the new regime took over, and the team never fell more than another –.5 lower during the course of the season.
- Displacing the long-time Cap favorite, Olaf Kolzig, team management surprised everyone and traded for Montreal netminder Cristobal Huet at the Trade Deadline. Huet backstopped the team to a 14 – 4 record beginning 29 FEBRUARY and then on through overtime in Game 7 of the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
The Capitals’ performance against the PQC over the last three years is summarized in the graph below. Washington traditionally starts right at, or below, the PQC in the first 10 games of the season. The Caps tend to have a mid-season peak near or above the PQC and experience one more slide in February before finishing the season strong. The indicators that the predictions for a much improved season are well-founded will be: beginning the season at or above the PQC in Games 1 – 10; spreading out those 14 wins in 18 games from the end of last year more evenly across the season; and sprinkling a few more Ws in there for good measure.
The Capitals’ first 10 games of the season are played 10 OCTOBER through 1 NOVEMBER. Our analysis indicates that in that time frame, Washington earns an average PQC rating of 4.3 which is below The Curve and good for around nine points in the NHL standings. They have won all three home openers and lost all three road openers over the last three seasons. Of note, the Capitals also play six of their opening 10 games on the road.
Some additional, critical statistics to keep in mind for the month of OCTOBER are:
- From 12 – 22 OCTOBER the Capitals lose 85.7% of games played. (This potentially affects four games.)
- On Thursdays and Fridays, Washington tends to lose 70.9% of their games played which has contributed negatively in their last three season outcomes. (This potentially affects another three games.)
- Washington tends to lose 64.8% in the second of back-to-back games. Look for them to play in the other 35.2% early on as the only time they have this scheduled is on 11 OCTOBER for their home opener against CHICAGO where all three Calder Trophy candidates will witness the raising of the Southeast Division Champion banner.
- And the Capitals play an average of 1.67 ‘Bonus Hockey’ games in OCTOBER. They tend to lose 63.6% of Shootouts, so look for them to bring the likes of Ovechkin, Semin, Nylander and Green multiple times in any Overtime period.
All of that said, it is difficult here at OGA to stay off of the bandwagon and not ask if, but when the Capitals will secure a playoff bid. During this season, OGA will carefully review team play against the trends and forward your Washington Capitals’ Game 10 Report to season subscribers by 2pm CST on 2 NOVEMBER and make it available for order from the On Goal Analysis web site by 2pm CST on 3 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)
Will Washington begin the 2008/9 season like they played it last year? Can Washington get to 1 JANUARY above the PQC and then hold on for rest of the season? OGA will be there to make the call and you can, too.
Tomorrow begins the NHL’s 2008/9 Regular Season in PRAGUE and STOCKHOLM. You can see the games on one of several stations on SATURDAY, and then the Game 2 rematches SUNDAY on Versus.
That’s right – It’s time to lace up the skates, strap on the attitude, take that short walk down the tunnel and leap out onto the ice. Game on! Game on!
This weekend, I will be at the computer and TV to begin my G10Rs for OTTAWA and TAMPA BAY. So more to follow. For now, this is The Colonel signing off…
TAKE ME BACK TO OGA