Magic Number: Washington Capitals

Scott ZweibelContributor IMarch 19, 2009

It's exactly four weeks until the NHL playoffs begin and the Washington Capitals stand atop the Southeast Division, with 94 points. Currently sitting in the third seed in the Eastern Conference, the Caps have 10 games to play. The Florida Panthers, who are seemingly sinking out of playoff contention, currently have 78 points and occupy ninth place in the conference.

So, what's the magic number? For the Washington Capitals to clinch at least a post-season berth, the number is four. Any combination of four wins or four losses by the Panthers, and the Caps should guarantee themselves postseason play.

The math is simple. Florida has 12 games left and can garner a total of 24 standing points, if they won all 12 games.

The Capitals currently own a 16 point lead on Florida, therefore any gain of eight points, or loss of eight points, or combination of the two, would result in Florida being mathematically eliminated from catching Washington. At that time, the Capitals, could lose all remaining games in the regular season and still not fall farther than eight place in the conference (though we wouldn't want that to happen).

In regards to winning the Southeast, the Capitals' magic numbers are: seven vs. Carolina (the Hurricanes have 10 games left and are 13 points behind Washington), four vs. Florida (above); both Tampa Bay and Atlanta are mathematically eliminated from winning the Southeast division.

With 10 games to go, it will be interesting to see how the East shakes out. Enjoy the games!