It’s hard to believe that the All-Star break is behind us and for the Washington Capitals, every remaining game is critical if they have any chance of scooping up a wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Caps are in good shape right now but a quick losing streak, combined with hot streaks from other Eastern Conference teams chomping at the bit to overtake the Capitals could spell disaster come this spring. The Capitals currently sit at 27-20-6 with 60 points total and a .566 win percentage (important when comparing teams who’ve played different game totals so far.) No, I’m not forecasting doom and gloom for the Caps and they seem to be healthy right now and on a winning roll – as long as they continue to take care of business. Let the “real” season begin.
Who are the Caps’ wild card competitors?
Pittsburgh Penguins: 25-16-9 record, 59 points, .590 win percentage. If the Caps worry about any other team, it’s going to be the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens are right on the heels of Washington and only one point behind while actually having a better win percentage this season. The Caps-Pens rivalry means even more this season as both teams seek to claim wild card spots. Watching Alex Ovechkin with Sidney Crosby during the All-Star competitions will have even more meaning as these two future Hall of Famers will battle it out for the remainder of this season for wild card seedings (the second seed will likely have to face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.)
New York Islanders: 27-16-9, 59 points, .546 win percentage. The Islanders started out on fire early this season but have settled into a routine that’s well, very Islander in nature. However, let’s see if the recent trade acquisition of Vancouver Canucks’ team captain Bo Horvat makes a major impact on the team- my bet is that he’ll be a difference maker down the stretch since Horvat’s having a career season so far.
Buffalo Sabres: 26-20-4, 56 points, .560 win percentage. The young Sabres are a team to be reckoned with-in the near future. With the recent contract extension of Dylan Cozens and having a hot sniper like Tage Thompson (currently working off an injury just before the All-Star break), the Sabres are still a young but good team. Will they make a playoff run or are their fortunes tied more into the 2023-24 season? Stay tuned for this story to continually unfold.
Other Teams: The Florida Panthers and even Ottawa Senators have winning records (Florida is 25-22-6 and Ottawa is 24-23-3) could be fired up because of one factor: the Tkachuk brothers. With Matthew in Florida and Brady in Ottawa, these two could be the X-factors each team is looking for. I certainly wouldn’t count out either team at this point and they could also act as spoilers for other teams in the Eastern Conference.