With two games left in the regular season, the Washington Capitals currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 49-23-8 for 106 points. Since the playoffs are just around the corner, we decided to look back over the last decade to see exactly what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. Here’s what we found:
2007-08 Detroit Red Wings, 54-21-7 record for 115 points, best record in hockey
2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, 48-20-14 record for 110 points, second seed in West
2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes, 52-22-8 record for 112 points, second seed in East
2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning, 46-22-8-6 record for 106 points, top seed in East
2002-03 New Jersey Devils, 46-20-10-6 record for 108 points, second seed in East
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings, 51-17-10-4 record for 116 points, best record in hockey
2000-01 Colorado Avalanche, 52-16-10-4 record for 118 points, best record in hockey
1999-00 New Jersey Devils, 45-24-8-5 record for 103 points, fourth seed in East*
1998-99 Dallas Stars, 51-19-12 record for 114 points, best record in hockey
Right out the gate one thing stands out – every team who went on to win it all over the last decade had at least 100 points and all but one finished as one of the top two seeds in their respective conference. The lone exception was the 1999-2000 New Jersey Devils, who had the second-most points in the Eastern Conference but dropped to fourth because the Caps and Maple Leafs each won their divisions (the Devils finished behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division). Therefore recent history would seem to indicate that only four teams have a legit chance this upcoming postseason: Detroit, San Jose, Boston and, as of today, Washington.
While fans know that the Capitals are in a fight with the New Jersey Devils (the Caps lead by four points with two games remaining for each franchise) for that second slot, we don’t think folks truly understand how vital it is that the Caps lock down one of the top two seeds. If they fail to hold on to the second seed, history suggests that the Caps might as well pack their bag and start reserving their tee times now.
Next up we wanted to gauge how the eventual Stanley Cup champions looked heading into the playoffs, so we went back and tracked their record over the last 22 games of the regular season. Here’s what we found:
2007-08 Detroit Red Wings went 13-7-2 for 28 out of 44 points
2006-07 Anaheim Ducks went 13-4-5 for 31 out of 44 points
2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes went 10-8-4 for 24 out of 44 points
2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning went 15-5-1-1 for 32 out of 44 points
2002-03 New Jersey Devils went 10-4-6-2 for 28 out of 44 points
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings went 10-6-4-2 for 26 out of 44 points
2000-01 Colorado Avalanche 15-4-1-2 for 33 out of 44 points
1999-00 New Jersey Devils went 9-11-1-1 for 20 out of 44 points
1998-99 Dallas Stars went 12-7-2-1 for 27 out of 44 points
Again, the 1999-2000 New Jersey Devils squad is the odd-team in the pack, posting the only losing record to close out the regular season. Otherwise, every other team finished by picking up at least half of the possible points available over the final quarter of the season. So the question then becomes, how have our big four done down the stretch this season?
Red Wings – with three games left, they’ve gone 12-6-1 for 25 points
Capitals – with two games left, they’ve gone 11-6-3 for 25 points
Bruins – with three games left, they’ve gone 11-6-2 for 24 points
Sharks – with two games left, they’ve gone 11-7-2 for 24 points
Holy hell. That’s as evenly matched as humanly possible. Every team has already ensured they’ll finish with a winning record, and have earned at least half the points possible available. So which team will win it all? Honestly, any of the Fab Four seems to have a realistic chance. As a Caps fan, can you really ask for anything more than that?