I got back from a week in Los Angeles on Friday evening. I was there for the High Energy Astrophysics Division meeting, a meeting of the US high-energy astronomy community, of which I have found myself a part for the past five years. All in all it was a good week, and I learned a lot there. Some of what I learned was scientific, and some of it was political. High-energy astronomers can be a self-absorbed group at times. This is not meant to be a knock at the people I work with, but a comment on how easy it is to forget that there is a bigger world out there than what we see on a day-to-day basis. And part of that bigger world has blossomed into the Washington Capitals making their first playoff run in several years!
Last night, while I was enjoying the best meatloaf that I have ever eaten, the Capitals defeated the Florida Panthers to secure first place in the NHL's southeast division. Now, being first in the NHL's southeast division is akin to being the smartest member of the US Republican party, but it does guarantee a berth in the playoffs. The NHL's odd seeding structure guarantees that a division winner gets one of the top three seeds in each conference. So, Washington won the third seed when, if they had had to compete based on points alone, they would have barely slunk into the eighth seed. But I am not complaining. The Caps are in the playoffs, and I spent all of today doing happy dances. I get to grow a playoff beard this year!
So, now that the Caps are in the playoffs, what are their chances? How far are they going to go? To be honest, I do not expect them to make it out of the first round. The Caps have a lot going for them. They are a young team with a lot of talent; they are on a roll, having won 11 of their last 12 games; and they are going to be playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. However, many of those 11 victories where tough slogs where the Capitals barely won. They have often had to overcome poor playing early in the game. They will not have the luxury of doing this in the playoffs. The Caps have split the season series against the Flyers, and the Flyers have been fighting hard to make it into the playoffs themselves. Despite their recent problems, though, the boys from Philly have a fundamentally strong team that has the ability to defeat the Capitals. I suspect that they will. The season series looked like this.
|Nov 2||Phi 3||at||Was 2||loss|
|Nov 23||Was 4||at||Phi 3||OT win|
|Jan 13||Phi 6||at||Was 4||loss|
|Feb 6||Was 4||at||Phi 3||win|
There you have it. The Caps lost two games in regulation time, won one in regulation, and won one in overtime. That is not a record that inspires confidence. I hope that the Caps can pull it off. It would do wonders for the team to make it into the quarter-finals, and having Ovechkin playing for more than one round would be a publicity coup for the NHL. In a perfect world the Penguins and the Capitals will play in one of the rounds so that the world can see several games of Crosby vs Ovechkin. That would settle once and for all who is the better player. My money is on our favourite Russian.
So, bring on the first round!
It's time for me to do another happy dance!