Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Importance of Perspective

This time last week, I was all set to publish a scathing article about how the season is over. Thankfully, I waited.

Since then, the Caps have won 3 in a row, including an upset over Pacific-leading Anaheim on the road. Obviously, every Caps fan now considers it a foregone conclusion that the Caps are making the playoffs.

I hate to be that guy, but just so that we don't have our hearts broken again, I'm going to have to try to put things in perspective.

Coming into today's game against the Kings, Sports Club Stats has playoff chances at 22.6%. In order to have an above 50% chance of making the playoffs (which is not what you want to count on), the Caps have to go 6-3-3.

Here's who the Caps play in their last 12 games: Kings (twice), Sharks, Bruins, Predators, Stars, Devils, Islanders, Blues, Hurricanes, Blackhawks, and Lightning. Of those eleven teams, 6 are all but guaranteed playoff teams, two are still in the hunt for the playoffs, and only three are not fighting for much of anything, and those games (Predators, Islanders, Hurricanes) are all on the road.

One can't even assume the Caps will win their remaining home games, considering that they play the Kings, Bruins, Stars, Blackhawks, and Lightning. Realistically, at best the Caps may be able to beat the Bruins, Stars, and Lightning, while hopefully pushing the Blackhawks and Kings to extra time (they played very well in Chicago in the first game of the year; we'll see today how they do in LA). If they do that, they are 3-0-2 before counting road games.

Let's do those road games now. They play in LA, in San Jose (where they haven't won in more than 20 years- chalk that up now as a loss), in St. Louis (who have the second-best home record in the league), in New Jersey (who we are fighting for a playoff spot) and the last three are the ones I talked about earlier (Predators, Islanders, Hurricanes).

OK, so now chances. First let's look optimistically. The Caps win their five remaining home games, win the three 'easy' road games, beat New Jersey and LA on the road as well, and lose to San Jose and St. Louis (who have two of the best home records in the league). They therefore end up 10-2, which Sports Club Stats gives a 100% chance of making the playoffs (lets be honest, if the Caps can do that, then they deserve to make it).

Now let's look pessimistically. The Caps only win the three 'easy' games and lose everything else (3-9). Sports Club Stats puts this as a 0% chance of making the playoffs.

Now let's look in the middle, comparing the teams' respective records at home and road. Based on this, here are the winners in each game:
Caps @ Kings: Kings
Caps @ Sharks: Sharks
Caps vs. Kings: Caps
Caps vs. Bruins: Bruins (OT) (These teams had very close respective home/road records. I gave this to the Bruins because they've been unstoppable as of late)
Caps @ Predators: Predators (Surprising, but the Predators are slightly better at home than the Caps are on the road)
Caps vs. Stars: Caps
Caps @ Devils: Devils (NJ plays 9 of their last 13 at home)
Caps @ Islanders: Caps
Caps @ Blues: Blues
Caps @ Hurricanes: Hurricanes
Caps vs. Blackhawks: Caps (The respective records are extremely close, but I gave this one to DC because they are desperate at this point, if not out already)
Caps vs. Lightning: Caps
Overall, the Caps finish 5-6-1, which Sports Club Stats pegs as a 0.9% chance of making the playoffs.

Now let's look at the non-scientific, non-biased approach which is probably the better fit. The Caps will probably lose to the Kings (both times), Sharks, and Bruins, can possibly beat the Predators, Stars, Devils, and Islanders, lose to the Blues but beat the Hurricanes, then lose to Chicago in OT at least before beating Tampa Bay in the season finale. This gives the Caps a 6-5-1 record, which Sports Club Stats gives 13.0% chance of making the playoffs.

The road for the Caps is extremely tough. Unless they can steal a few of these next games like they did against Anaheim, the chances of making the playoffs are very dim.

Before I leave you, I give you this note: if the Caps lose in regulation today, their playoff chances plummet to 15.0%. If they steal a point, their chances only go down to 22.3%. If they win in the shootout, chances go up to 31.3%, while if they win in OT or regulation, it goes up to 32.4%.

Let's hope the Caps can get it together and win a few games, and as always, Let's Go Caps!

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