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Irrational Exuberance, Live from Panera

(Svrluga, have you noticed that I'm totally ripping off your schtick? But it's true, I've been blogging from Panera all afternoon. It seemed fated, somehow. For those who don't know what I'm talking about...ah, let's be honest, anyone who's reading my blog already knows about Barry Svrluga and Panera, with the possible exception of my dad, and I'm gonna talk to him later on tonight.)

Anyhow, if you're a Caps fan and you want to dream the impossible dream, these next couple days ought to be sweeter than a Panera Pecan Roll. Team Freedom is currently tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference in points-per-game. That's playoff talk. (Post editors, adjust next year's travel budget accordingly.)

More interestingly, if you include the last month of the 2005-'06 season, the Caps have notched 29 points in their past 24 games. That's an average of about 1.21 points-per-game, which translates to 99 points over 82 games, which would have been good for the seventh seed in the East last year. (Post editors, adjust next year's travel budget accordingly.)

Now, fine, this might not be a playoff team yet, but as one lonely voice in a sea of Caps-haters predicted last month, this does not appear to be a 14th or 15th place team.

So I took today's practice-facility-naming as an opportunity to ask some of the Caps whether they had seen the abysmal preseason projections.

"I mean, you hear about 'em," Olie Kolzig said. "I don't go out of my way to read different publications, but you'll come across them and read them. That's everybody's perception. Being in the locker room, knowing what kind of personnel you have, seeing the additions [we] made and the way we finished the season last year, really, that's why I came to the conclusion that we'd surprise a lot of people. I wasn't seeing the future, I was just basically reading off what we have in the dressing room and how we finished last year. And we're continuing to work hard. There's still some areas, obviously, we need to clean up, but 11 games in, being above .500 is a pretty good showing so far....And so, realistically, I don't see any reason why we couldn't make the playoffs."

(Olie also said he's currently "in The Zone," which must be nice. This is what it's like to be a goalie in The Zone: "You just feel big," Olie said. Nicole Richie is apparently always in The Zone.

Olie also said that the new practice facility could help the franchise lure free agents to D.C. "There's a lot of things that attract free agents, money obviously being first and foremost," he said. "But next to that, it's community, a place to raise a family, a training facility, and this is obviously first-class. And like I said, I think D.C. is a very underrated city. This being a lot closer to D.C. than our old facility was, I think it'll have a big effect on bringing in some free agents.")

Anyhow, Brian Sutherby said he hadn't read any of the preseason predictions, so I asked if he knew approximately what they had predicted.

"No," he said. "Well, I can imagine. I don't know, it doesn't really matter to us. I mean, we're gonna go out there and play our game. I don't really need to read what other people are writing about us. I mean, people expect us to be rebuilding, and maybe sort of be like last year, and not have very high expectations for us. So far I think we've done a pretty good job. We're right there, we're right in the hunt. I think right now we're in, or if not, very close to a playoff spot. And last year, after the first 10 games you could have almost counted us out already."

Chris Clark also said he hadn't read the predictions, but, while smiling broadly, he said he'd heard about them from enough people.

"All that stuff is just great," he said, "because we know we have a good team. I know we have a good team. So if everybody else doesn't, we're just gonna surprise them in games....There's lots of teams that do this, they have upswings and then all of the sudden the bottom falls out. So that's something we know could happen, and we're not gonna let it happen. We have the players who compete all the time. We don't have guys that are up and down; we have steady players. If teams are gonna beat us, they're gonna have to work really hard to beat us. They're gonna know it. They're gonna come out with a win, but they're gonna be hurtin'."

Take that, world! I mean, deep down, we all know that this is Rutgers--fun while it lasts--but whatever. It's November 1, the Wizards are undefeated, United's in the Eastern Conference finals, Maryland football is 6-2, the Caps are in playoff position, and the Ballston Panera is jumping. Might as well enjoy it.

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 1, 2006; 5:59 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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