Yogi Berra could have been talking about the Capitals when he said its getting late early.
When the Capitals woke up this morning in Winnipeg they were in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers and one point behind tonights opponent, the Winnipeg Jets.
In fact, if things in the Eastern Conference continue at this pace, the Caps might need to win the Southeast Division for a fifth straight season just to make the playoffs.
Usually, weve got a pretty big lead in the division, defenseman John Erskine said. Now Florida is real strong and Winnipeg knocked off Minnesota, so theyre playing well.
All the teams are so good right now you cant let points slip away. When it comes down to the last five games of the year we dont want to have to win every game.
It starts with playing better defense.
The Caps have allowed 94 goals this season. No team in the top eight seeds of either conference has allowed more than 86 goals.
Thats where our game has to start, Brooks Laich said Its early, but were in a dogfight and weve got to find a way to rise above that pack.
Erskine said the Caps success in previous seasons might have led to them believing a playoff bid is academic.
We dont wan to be winning two, losing two, he said. We want to put together a little streak here. Some teams are so close this time of year you need to bear down and get these points because one or two points can be the difference between first and seventh or eighth.