Are Caps good enough to win four-horse race?

Are Caps good enough to win four-horse race?
March 26, 2014, 5:15 pm
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(Associated Press)

Somehow, we all knew this was going to happen, didn’t we?

The Eastern Conference playoff race has become one big cattle chute, with four teams trying to squeeze themselves into the two wild card playoff spots.

With 18 days remaining in the NHL’s regular season, the Capitals find themselves right where we thought we might find them. Good enough to be in the thick of a playoff race – and not good enough to make it easy on themselves.

Thanks to their [insert your own adjective here] 5-4 shootout loss to the L.A. Kings on Tuesday night, the Caps [34-27-12, 80 points] are locked in a four-way tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets [37-29-6, 80 points], Detroit Red Wings [33-25-14, 80 points] and Toronto Maple Leafs [36-30-8, 80 points].

Based on the assumptions the New Jersey Devils [75 points] will not make up enough ground to get into the post-season and the Flyers [83 points] and Rangers [84 points] are far enough ahead to secure playoff spots, let’s assess the Caps’ chances when measured against the Blue Jackets, Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

Games remaining: The Blue Jackets and Red Wings hold one significant advantage. Both have 10 games remaining. The Caps are down to nine games, while the Leafs, losers of six straight, are down to eight.

Regulation/overtime wins: This is the first tiebreaker in the event two or more teams are tied in points when the season ends on April 13. Columbus holds the edge with 32, followed by Detroit [28], Toronto [27] and Washington [25].

Head-to-heads: What’s amazing is that of those 37 games remaining for the Caps, Leafs, Red Wings and Blue Jackets, just one – this Saturday’s bout between the Red Wings and Leafs – matches two teams involved in the four-team race.

Handicapping it: Based on their points per game ratio, the Blue Jackets are on pace to finish with 91.1 points. The Caps are on pace for 89.9 points and the Leafs are on pace for 88.6 points. Assuming the three other teams remain on their current paces, the Caps would need at least 92 points to get into the playoffs for a seventh straight season.

And that means finishing the season with some equivalent of a 6-3-0 record.

[RELATED: Caps suffer tough loss to Kings]

Can they do it? Give us your predicted order of finish based on the schedules you see below:

BLUE JACKETS [5 home, 5 away]

Pittsburgh

at Carolina

Colorado

at Philadelphia

Chicago

NY Islanders

Phoenix

at Dallas

at Tampa Bay

at Florida

RED WINGS  [5 home, 5 away]

Montreal

at Toronto

Tampa Bay

Boston

Buffalo

at Montreal

at Buffalo

at Pittsburgh

Carolina

at St. Louis

CAPITALS [4 home, 5 away]

Boston

at Nashville

Dallas

at New Jersey

at NY Islanders

at St. Louis

at Carolina

Chicago

Tampa Bay

MAPLE LEAFS [4 home, 4 away]

at Philadelphia

Detroit

Calgary

Boston

Winnipeg

at Tampa Bay

at Florida

at Ottawa

    More Team Talk