The Washington Capitals play six more games before the break for the All Star Game in Ottawa. These games present an opportunity for the Caps to jump several place in the Eastern Conference standings, for their opponents are not among the most formidable they could face (with current records):
Team shaded in green are below the Caps in the standings. Four of them lie at the bottom of their respective divisions (Carolina counted twice), and the other – Pittsburgh – is struggling with injuries that have contributed to what is at the moment a stretch of six losses in their last seven games. Even mighty Boston, a club that has only 11 losses in regulation this season, has suffered four of those at the hands of teams in the Southeast Division, against which they are only 4-4-0.
You could argue that here on the schedule is where the Caps must make their stand. And you would be half right. Because on the other side of the All Star Game break, the Caps will have a six-game stretch that resembles the one leading them into the break:
The difference here is essentially that the two games against Carolina leading into the break are replaced with two against the team immediately ahead of them in the Southeast Division standings – the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are struggling. They have not won consecutive games in regulation in more than a month and are 5-6-4 in their last 15 contests.
For the Caps to match their standings points mark after 54 games last season (68 points on a record of 29-15-10), they would need 20 points in these 12 games. That is a very tall order, but given the opposition, not impossible for this team (at least this team “on paper”). Boiled down, whether they make the playoffs or not is likely to be a product of what they do in these 12 games straddling the All Star Game break – six of one, half a dozen of another.