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Capital Punishment

As I was sitting around today thinking about how to wrap up the season, a thought came into my head: "Hey, the Washington Capitals are really, ridiculously good, right? And since other teams in the Southeast have to play the Caps more, that's something of a disadvantage, right?"

So I decided to look it up. The number was shocking. This season, the Caps went 19-3-2 against other teams in the Southeast.

19-3-2. That's 40 of a possible 48 points. That's 83% of the possible points. That's like finishing the season with 137 points. (The Caps actually had 121. Their 82-game rate for non-SE teams would have been 115 points...)

The only other team to throw up that sort of record against a division in their conference (and I'm only looking within conference, as the sample size is just way too small if you look across conferences) is the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks went 16-2-2 against the Northwest division.

The Thrashers, in case you haven't forgotten, finished second in the Southeast division. That's right, we ended up ahead of the Hurricanes, Lightning, and Panthers. So really, playing the Capitals *had* to have something to do with it, right? Well, let's try this: let's look at the SE division standings if we remove all games involving the Capitals vs another SE team and adjust to an 82-game pace. We already know the Capitals would have fallen to 115. How about the rest of the division?

  1. Capitals 115
  2. Thrashers 90
  3. Lightning 82
  4. Panthers 82
  5. Hurricanes 78
Both the Panthers and Thrashers were utterly dominated by the Capitals, going 0-5-1 and 0-6-0 respectively. They gain the most by pretending the Caps don't exist. Carolina, on the other hand, had a pretty good record against Washington, so losing those extra wins causes them to drop in the standings.

There is a risk of perhaps reading too much into these numbers... Other teams in the East had to play the Caps as well, albeit a couple less times. It really gets you into an "if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle" sort of situation. However, knowing that the Thrashers went 0-6 against the Caps is an important part of evaluating their season. Better performance against our own division is going to be key to improving our record next year.