The Washington Capitals sit atop the Southeast Division with a 16 point lead over nearest division rival Florida Panthers by 16 points. They are 30-12-6, an impressive beginning for this franchise. Outside some stunning twist of fate, there is little doubt the Caps will win the Southeast, and therefore, enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, the little thing inside that makes you wonder about these Caps is more of, can they play with the big boys? Are they just a pure regular season roster or can they play and win playoff hockey? They are dazzling. They are entertaining. They are a great show to watch. They are the most prolific offense on ice. BUT, are they playoff hardened? When push comes to shove and they faceoff against battle hardened, playoff effective teams like Pittsburgh, will the Caps rise to that level? They looked like it last year, battling out a 7 game win over the Ranger, but then after winning two straight, they buckled to Pittsburgh dropping 4 in a row and being ousted from the playoffs.
This week the Caps face off against Detroit (tonight), Pittsburgh (Thur), and Phoenix (Sun). These three games are big tests for Washington. Although Detroit is having a bit of a down year, they still provide a nice barometer for Washington. Follow up that up against two teams destined for the playoffs, this close together, will likely serve as an opportunity for GM George McPhee to watch and see what may possibly be needed at the trade deadline to harden and better this team for the Stanley Cup playoffs. What it boils down to, this week will be a great week of hockey for the Caps and their fans.
One thing is for sure, the face off tonight against Detroit will be a nice barometer for Washington. Washington is looking for long term success and Detroit is a team the Caps would love to model themselves after.
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