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Halfway Mark

The season reaches its midpoint for the Caps tomorrow night against the visiting Canadiens.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the first 40 games zoomed past?

Perhaps that's because the first half, at times, was just flat out crazy.

Let's review: There was a six game losing streak (0-4-2).

Which was followed by an unbelievable hot stretch (7-1-1).

Which was followed by yet another brutal lull (1-7-0) that includes the five-game losing streak they bring into tomorrow's game.

I gotta say, I'm still not sure what to expect from this team on a nightly basis. I'm not sure they know what to expect. As one team official told me the other day, they are still "trying to figure out who they are."

Well, they better figure it out. And quickly, if they are going to make a run at the playoffs. At the moment, they are three points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. But they are also two points out of 14th. Think about that.

In my opinion, we'll know exactly where these Caps are headed by the All-Star break, which is about three weeks away. They've got eight games (all against Eastern Conference teams, five against Southeast Division opponents) to get things turned around. If they don't win five of them it's probably time to start thinking about next year.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 3, 2007; 3:12 PM ET
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Tomorrow is a must win. We have played 2 more games then some of the other teams, we can't drop back to far with competing teams holding games in hand.

Posted by: CapCrazy | January 3, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

As of late Caps have revealed themselves to be a determined but thin team. At "full-force" they are to be reckoned with, but with 2-3 skaters from Hershey they are not. Caps plan is working. If they miss playoffs it would be disappointing, but knowing the team, and it's call-ups from Hershey have a good year under their belt holds much promise for next season.

Posted by: Steve in Jersey | January 3, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The recent slide certainly has to do with injuries and illness more than anything else. I see a winning streak in the near future, because big lows followed by big highs seems to be the MO for a young team like the Caps. And with the exception of the Coyotes game and the first period in Buffalo, I think they've played admirably given this recent perfect storm of tough scheduling and medical issues.

16 points in the next 8 would put them at 55 pts in 48 games, on pace for 94 points and almost exactly what Hanlon feels necessary ensure a playoff berth.

I think the biggest question to be answered is if (i) Eminger can continue to improve and (ii) Nycholat can continue to fill in adequately in these next two to three weeks until, probably, Muir is able to go.

Also interesting that it seems the All-Star break might be about the time we see a return of Zednik, which may be a bit like acquiring a scoring forward close to the trading deadline.

Posted by: pepper | January 3, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Dead on pepper,,,,but I dont think 16 points over the next 8 is gonna happen. I'll take 10 points and a good THRASHING of Atlanta this sat.

Posted by: Livinit | January 3, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who expects the Caps to make the playoffs this season is being unrealistic. This season is about improvement and growth over last season. Next season is the playoff season

Posted by: Joe | January 3, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Joe about expectations for this year. When you look at overall team depth, they are going to have to seriously overperform to beat the likes of Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. That said, as long as the team finishes with a lower GAA, a higher GFA and more points I consider it a good year. In short, progress.

Posted by: JLO | January 3, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

we'll see what this team is all about in the coming month. I agree with Tarik. They might be able to hang around in the cluster that is the eastern playoff race but what is important is that they improve their woeful play of late. I don't want to give much cred to "hershey call ups" and "journeymen sidelined". Adversity is everywhere and within. I don't expect anything, and so I'm rarely dissapointed (except for games vs the Pens, @#$@%$@*&%@!) but if they can squeek into the 8th spot and get a little Stanley Cup experience i will be very happy. I don't expect them to beat a 1st or 2nd place team like Buffalo but I want them to get that extra step ahead for a number of reasons. Consider this: a gutsy display will raise the stock of anyone we wish to inculde in a trade. Low Performance = Low Return.

Posted by: Kerplunk | January 3, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

You can blame it on injuries and illness, but that happens to all teams. They still have some offensive superstars, but are still losing because of defensive breakdowns. They need more depth in two-way forwards and BETTER DEFENSE.

Posted by: Erik | January 4, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

My son and I went to our first game of the year last night--good timing! I wanted to comment on Brian Pothier, as it was my first time seeing him in person.

Pothier is quiet--no big slapshots, no big hits, not much expression. But watch him play--he is skilled, superb positionally, and plays great strategic defense. He is the number one reason this team is doing better than expectations.

Whoever scouted and signed him should get a bonus.

The Caps are 2 Pothier clones away from being a very good hockey team---and if Backstrom or others can score, watch out in 2007-2008.

Posted by: HockeyDad | January 5, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The Caps have lost 100 or so mangames to injury. Is that a lot for this time of year? It seems like they tend to be one of the more injury prone teams, which exposes the depth problems that Erik and JLO mentioned. I remember like 8 or 10 years ago they lost almost 400 mangames to injury. They Caps fired their trainer then and hired some new young guy to work on this new concept called the core. I wonder what the issue is now, and what the Caps are going to do about it. Tariq, if you read these comments, I'd love to know what the Caps training and rehab setup is, what they focus on, whether they are happy with it, and what they think about the injuries they have had.

Posted by: PlugNPlay | January 5, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

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