With five games to go in the season, the Caps have 26 wins and 65 points, three wins and five points behind their totals from a season ago. Whether or not they can best last year's point total will be of great importance to some onlookers, but wins and losses alone don't tell you everything about a team's progression (or lack thereof). Of course, neither do raw stats and rankings, but here are a handful anyway that probably better reflect where this team is now versus where they were at the end of last season:
- The power-play is up 2% to 16.7% (moving the Caps up four spots in the League rankings).
- The penalty kill is up 1.3% to 80.2% (a jump of four spots as well).
- Goals per game are up .14 to 2.94 (a nine-rank leap, up to 14th in the League).
- Goals against per game are better by .24 to 3.42 (a two-place bump).
Back to the here-and-now, while the Caps can perhaps still play the spoiler a bit in some of their five remaining games, fan attention is likely more focused on individual milestones, and none are bigger than these three:
- Alex Ovechkin has 43 goals and 87 points. 45 and 90 are nice round numbers and should be no problem (and no, I'm not counting him out for 50 quite yet).
- Alex Semin has 38 goals and 72 points. 40 and 75 would be huge and more than anyone could have realistically hoped for.
- Chris Clark has 29 goals. Raise your hand if you thought he could be a 30-goal guy.
In a season with more than its fair share of disappointment in the nation's capital, a trio of 30-goal scorers would be an impressive highlight. How many other teams will have three 30-goal guys by season's end, you ask? Well, Buffalo has four. Already. Calgary has three already. Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Carolina are all on the verge of having a hat trick of 30-goal getters and that's it by my count. Not a bad bunch of teams to be lumped in with, is it? And only two other teams - Tampa and perhaps Atlanta - have a shot at a pair of 40-goal scorers.
There's one more "magic number" I'd like to see before the year ends, and that's 2.99 - as in Olie Kolzig's goals against average. Currently, Olie's GAA stands at 3.05. If he plays sixty minutes in four of the final five games and gives up nine goals, he'll end up at 2.994, certainly respectable and certainly doable. By contrast, if Brent Johnson played every minute of the last five games and didn't give up a single goal, his GAA would finish up at a relatively-bloated 3.20 (and that's neither terribly respectable nor is it doable).But it all starts tonight, in Sunrise, against a Panthers team that has scored nearly at will against the Caps in the last four meetings, racking up 23 goals in those four wins. Hopefully the Caps can get back on track and finish up strong for themselves both as a team and as individuals with goals... and saves.
- Hart: Jarome Iginla (3G, +2, 4 SOG)
- Ross: Teemu Selanne (4 points)
- Norris: Chris Pronger (2G, A, +2, 7 SOG, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot)
- Vezina: Chris Osgood (W, 1 goal allowed on 25 shots against in 2-1 win at Nashville)
- Richard: Jarome Iginla (3G)
- Calder: Phil Kessel (G, A, +2, 2 SOG)
- Aiken: Niklas Backstrom (2 goals allowed on 2 shots against in just 1:20 of work)