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Capitals’ two-week gut check begins tonight

Mar 8, 2012, 7:30 AM EST

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals Getty Images

Many people in the hockey world have already made their minds up about the Washington Capitals – most likely in a bad way. Still, for those who are giving the struggling squad the benefit of the doubt, the next two weeks should provide a succinct answer.

Everything about their season would say that they’ll shrink from the challenge ahead, but that’s the fun thing about sports – if they flourish, they could very well be a dangerous eighth seed or even a surprise division winner. Here’s a game-by-game look at a trying and fascinating stretch.

Tonight: vs. Tampa Bay – The Lightning have been hot lately, but with Mathieu Garon on the mend, the Caps need to squash those upstarts.

Saturday: at Boston – An afternoon road game against the defending champs won’t be easy even with the Bruins being a little off.

Sunday: vs. Toronto – The last home game of this stretch comes against the only team that might be more desperate than them.

March 13: at Islanders – Washington better not take the Isles lightly – this could be a “trap game” considering the rest of the schedule.

March 16: at Winnipeg – The Jets are currently two points ahead of the Capitals and Washington’s game in hand advantage has dropped to one paltry contest. Winnipeg’s 21-10-4 at home so, yeah, this should be a big test.

March 18: at Chicago; March 19: at Detroit – The third and fourth road contests take the Capitals through two dangerous Central Division teams in back-to-back games. Normally getting two points out of that duo would be acceptable, but Washington will likely hope for more.

March 22: at Philadelphia – The tough two-week run ends against a bitter foe of the Capitals.

***

To review, this stretch includes three contests against teams at or around their playoff position, four matches against surefire playoff squads and a potential trap game against those meddlesome Islanders. Six of their eight games are on the road, which is the most interesting part since Washington is a pathetic 11-18-3 away from the Verizon Center.

If they can weather this two-week storm, they’ll be in great shape with four out of five home games and five contests in Washington vs. three road matches overall. With all that in mind, share your thoughts: will the Capitals flip the script and actually respond to the challenge or will this challenging run be their predictable undoing?

  1. sheppyshep8 - Mar 8, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    8 games…..2 wins. maybe one or two OT losses. 6 points max. Finish in 11th or 12th in the conference.

    McPhee will be kicking himself for not unloading a few vets for some draft picks.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 8, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      agreed, i dont think the caps will match the intensity of detroit, boston, philly, and especially winnipeg at their house. they might get wins against toronto or chicago but i dont even see them beating the islanders right now. unbelievable how they didnt sell before the trade deadline…

  2. dcfan4life - Mar 8, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Somehow in those 8 games i bet the Caps win 4, just enough to keep them relevant. Probably finish as the 8th seed. But unlike so many who call them potentially a dangerous 8th seed, i see another fast playoff exit. And no, i am not overly confident they will make the playoffs at all…

  3. watermelon1 - Mar 8, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    I think the Caps just want to fast forward to next year when they will finally get Kuznetsov on the ice.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 8, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      oh boy… another russian ego…we see how well that has worked for them so far. maybe they should just go ahead and look for a russian coach then too if they’re banking on russians to win the stanley cup. good luck with that

    • gocaps8 - Mar 8, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      What makes you think Kuznetsov will sign? Everything I’ve heard says that if he gets offered a long-term KHL deal, he’s staying put. I wouldn’t put the eggs in that basket.

    • kantnockdahustle89 - Mar 8, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      I think Semin leaving and Kuznetsov staying in the KHL may work out better. Less Russians may equal a better team.

  4. ravenscaps48 - Mar 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Kuzie better come over… At this rate, I’d rather keep Semin than Ovechkin… Semin has been hustling as of late and playing some physical defense… Ovechkin just cherry picks and fumbles potential breakaways

  5. baywatchboy - Mar 8, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    The Caps gut check doesn’t start now, it started with the 5 game homestand they’re on. Some said the Caps needed 8 points out of these 5 games (I said 7), but the best they can do is 5 and that’s unacceptable when you’re fighting for the playoffs. With more road than home games left for them, I don’t see how they make the playoffs. They not only need to decide on a goalie and hope he gets super hot, but they need more consistent scoring.

    @ravenscaps48 Unfortunately you can’t keep Semin over Ovechkin. Semin needs to go. he shows flashes of brilliance, but only when there is talk of the Caps letting him go. That’s a big part of why he’s been on one year contracts.

  6. watermelon1 - Mar 8, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Yeah… Russians are the problem. It has nothing to do with a solitary no real defenders, or the incredibly pathetic goaltending.

    I guess Malkin is what’s wrong with the penguins? Or datsyuk is detrots problem?

    Yes, Ovechkin is a rockstar. He also carried this team to incredible results not too long ago, then came the playoffs where he got a solitary no help and teams realized they can focus pretty much all their efforts into stopping him.

    Kuznetsov might not sign, but I’m sure the Caps want to get to next season and find out.

    And anyone who would keep Semin over Ovechkin is obviously as blind as Flacco.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 8, 2012 at 3:06 PM

      please tell me the last time the stanley cup has been handed to a russian captain….oh wait…its never happened.

  7. ray21230 - Mar 8, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    What is all this talk about the russians being the problem are you all so closeminded to remember thats who brought us to this level, one bad year and everyone is jumping ship. We dont need fans like you go jump on somebodys band wagon cause you have no idea what a true fan is.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 8, 2012 at 3:14 PM

      bruce boudreau brought you to this level…you can think what you want but you cant argue with the win % with and without BB. ovechkin is the reason he is gone and 8 will be the reason the caps are no longer relevant in the east.

  8. bcisleman - Mar 8, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    The ONLY reason the Caps are not 0-3 vs the Isles going into Tuesday’s contest is that the Isles, with a 2-0 lead, stopped playing with less than 4 minutes left. That won’t happen again this time.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 8, 2012 at 3:21 PM

      i have to agree with you for once. i just cant understand why the islanders dont start playing good hockey until its too late or irrelevant every year.

  9. hawknuts - Mar 8, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    fire mcphee

  10. 8man - Mar 8, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    I think I saw all I needed to see in the 5-0 figure skating contest against New Jersey last week. These guys seem like they are already planning tee times.

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