Playing better isn't good enough for Caps

Playing better isn't good enough for Caps
March 31, 2014, 4:45 pm
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(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Following the Caps’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday night, Caps coach Adam Oates took solace in the fact that his team played better than it did in Saturday’s 4-2 loss home loss to the Boston Bruins.

Which is true.

But better isn’t enough for the Caps. Not at this stage of their season, when they may need 11 points in their final seven games to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“There aren’t enough games left to be too positive about only getting one point,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson told reporters following Sunday’s loss in Nashville.

“Yeah, it is a point, but it’s only going to make our road harder. I thought we were just a little bit lackadaisical here and there throughout the game. We’ve been talking since Day One about playing 60 minutes because when we all start going, it’s fun to watch. We control the play completely against every team we’ve ever played. We just have too many lapses.”

That quote pretty much sums up the Capitals’ plight for, well, seemingly forever.

The Capitals have enough talent and are healthy enough to get into the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean they will. They have not proven enough times this season that they can go 5-1-1, especially not when their captain and NHL goal leader, Alex Ovechkin has gone a month without an even-strength point and is an NHL-worst minus-34.

The Capitals [81 points] will need to play nearly perfect hockey down the stretch while hoping to get some help against their closest rivals for the two wild-card spots – the Detroit Red Wings [84 points], Columbus Blue Jackets [82 points] and Toronto Maple Leafs [80 points].

The Caps’ quest for that wild card berth continues Tuesday night against a team every bit as desperate as themselves. The Dallas Stars are one point out of the Western Conference’s final wild-card spot with a game in hand on the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes.

[RELATED: Did Capitals make the right call on Wilson?]

Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for the four teams chasing down the final two playoff spots in the East:

BLUE JACKETS [4 home, 4 away]

Colorado

at Philadelphia

Chicago

NY Islanders

Phoenix

at Dallas

at Tampa Bay

at Florida

RED WINGS [3 home, 4 away]

Boston

Buffalo

at Montreal

at Buffalo

at Pittsburgh

Carolina

at St. Louis

CAPITALS [3 home, 4 away]

Dallas

at New Jersey

at NY Islanders

at St. Louis

at Carolina

Chicago

Tampa Bay

MAPLE LEAFS [3 home, 3 away]

Calgary

Boston

Winnipeg

at Tampa Bay

at Florida

at Ottawa