The expectation going into the 2008-2009 National Hockey League season was that the Capitals should win the Southeast Division.
Barring any catastrophic failure, the Capitals' 10-point lead should earn them a top-three seed in the conference.
What no one expected, though, was that the Capitals' would grow into a NHL powerhouse in such a short amount of time.
Washington started the season with a decent October (5-3-1), followed by an above-average November (8-5-2).
Over the past few seasons, December has been a "make-or-break" month for the Caps. This year, December was outstanding as Washington went 11-3 in the final month of 2008.
Unfortunately, January has been a roller coaster, as the team is 6-4-1 with one game to play.
Currently the Capitals find themselves as a NHL top-five team in standings points, goals scored, and they boast the second-best home record in the league.
With 33 games remaining (18 home, 15 road), and no games outside the eastern time zone, the Capitals seem poised to make a run at some team records.
- Remaining games versus Eastern Conference: 29 (15 home/14 road)
- Remaining games versus Western Conference: 4 (3 home/1 road)
- Remaining games versus Southeast Division: 16 (7 home/9 road)
The Capitals are 24-7-4 against Eastern Conference teams—only trailing Boston and New Jersey in points garnered within their conference. However, the Caps have played fewer games within the conference than the Bruins and Devils.
The Caps are 5-3-0 against divisional rivals, and with the bulk of their remaining games in the division, it is going to be very important to improve upon that mark.
The Caps begin the stretch run Jan 31 against Detroit. The game will be a strong team test following the overtime loss to Boston. With very few opportunities left to face Western Conference teams, it is obvious that the Caps need to make a statement.
Hopefully for Capitals fans, the months ahead will play out as a precursor to a lengthy playoff run.
Enjoy the game!