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Caps face challenge in new-look Metropolitan Division

Aug 28, 2013, 5:34 PM EST

Oates Capitals

Death, taxes and Washington dominating the Southeast Division.

While that wasn’t exactly a household mantra over the last six years, it did ring true. Washington captured five of the last six Southeast Division banners and, in doing so, was a perennial top-three seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs (the Caps finished third, second, first, first and third in years they won the division.)

Last season, Washington’s dominance of the Southeast was more valuable than ever. The strike-shortened season eliminated inter-conference play, meaning 18 of Washington’s 48 games came against the Lightning, Hurricanes, Panthers and Jets — none of whom made the playoffs.

In those 18 games, the Caps went 15-3-0. The only more successful team in-division was Chicago, who went 16-1-1 against the Central en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

“It’s been our saving grace this year,” goalie Braden Holtby told the Washington Post. “It’s been lucky that we’ve got to play those teams so much, but at the same time, we’ve done a good job with them and we haven’t taken a lot of those games lightly because we know how important they are.”

Heading into 2013-14, that saving grace is gone.

The Caps now find themselves in the new Metropolitan Division, an eight-team circuit featuring just one other ex-Southeast member (Carolina) and a host of new rivals: Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

It’s a dramatically different landscape. The Penguins, Rangers and Isles were all playoff teams from a year ago; Columbus fell just short in its push for a postseason berth; the Devils knocked off the Flyers en route to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

So, safe to say the Caps won’t be dining out on divisional opponents anymore.

“It’s a tougher division, much tougher,” defenseman Karl Alzner told the Washington Post. “It’s going to be probably a pretty good battle, and the nice thing about our division now is we’ve had the luxury of not having to be the best all the time and still get into a good position in the playoffs.

“That’s the way it works.”

  1. fivetozeroingame7 - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    must be a conspiracy orchestrated by the league office

  2. billyhauntswizards - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    this will definitely be the real test for the Caps to prove if they’re for real. Can they hang with the real elite teams? We’ll find out when Philly, NYR, NYI, and Pitts are constantly at their throats.

    • trh6152 - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:14 PM

      NYI…. elite? huh, who knew! I don’t really consider them elite. The Isles are just on the cusp of returning to the “top tier” They are a young team, who have the potential to develop nicely. But it’s going to be tough to go far in this league with suspect goal tending, especially in this new division

      • billyhauntswizards - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:39 PM

        I’m not that high on the Isles either, I don’t think they’re elite. But they will be a real problem for the Caps, who will likely battle with them for that wildcard spot (if they even get it), so I mentioned them.

      • 19to77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 8:43 PM

        I don’t think they’re elite yet, but they’re only a couple steps away and have a stellar pipeline with which to get there. Once they make an upgrade in net (and there are some good names up for grabs this year – Hiller, Miller, Halak and Crawford to name a few) and pump some more scoring depth into the lineup (Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, some improvement from Josh Bailey) they’ll be a very good team. The Caps are in for a hell of a challenge for the next few years, this division is VERY good.

  3. watermelon1 - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Perhaps now that they’ll play each other more, the officials won’t be so blindsided and actually call the matches more fairly?

    Tired of seeing the “darling” teams get away with so much even after the whistles. Too bad we couldn’t have thrown boston in this division as well.

    • chanceoffleury1 - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:25 PM

      In a perfect world without time zones, ticket sales, or television ratings affecting anything then the 8 teams would be Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philly, Rangers, Islanders, Boston, and Montreal. That is like all the greatest rivalries of the moment in one division. And something tells me the new opponents would take no time growing a fond hatred for each other.

  4. chanceoffleury1 - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I think Carolina and Washington are going to have their hands full and end up pretty overwhelmed. I think they could come out firing and impressing people, but after January I can see them dwindling off because that seems to be when the old Atlantic teams really broke away and separated themselves in the past. I say that because the tenacity I see when the old Atlantic teams played is crazy. They are as good or better than some playoff games when any 2 of them meet. They don’t just hate each other, they HATE each other. It’s like one giant quintuple of a rivalry. I have just never seen the same drive and tenacity night after night from the Caps or Canes. The old Atlantic teams seemed to just beat the living crap out of each other to the point where all of them were exhausted to no end. Like any game that wasn’t against an Atlantic team was just spent sitting back and licking their wounds to prepare for the next time they had to face off against a division rival. I don’t think Washington or Carolina will have the energy to keep up the pace and land a top 2 spot. I think Columbus will struggle,too, but I think they’ll be more used to the pace from playing in the Central which is usually just as crazy as the Atlantic. The Caps have never had anybody truly challenging them in that division. I feel like they’ll either fall flat on their faces or have me eating some serious crow.

  5. DTF31 - Aug 28, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    It’s a reason why the caps doing so much nothing this off season is a little baffling.

    • therealjr - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:48 AM

      Grabovski is nothing? They basically have three additional top 6 guys in him, Laich and Erat that weren’t in their lineup most of last season.

  6. claysbar - Aug 28, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    Where’s the guy with the Glen Metropolit comment??

  7. lowenni - Aug 28, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    This new division is what is going to make or break the Caps. I think, although it might affect their statistics, this division change will actually benefit them in the long term. What has always hurt the Caps is their lack of a killer instinct: that drive to get the lucky bounce, make the big play, land that big hit when it really counts. I think the reason they haven’t developed that killer instinct is because they grew so used to dominating their division. The Caps can compete with the big dogs, and they’ve shown they can, but come playoff time they always fall short. And in the playoffs, it’s a teams killer instinct that wins them games, not their roster. This year, the Caps are either going to get thrown about in their new division, or they’re going to quickly learn and develop, and then translate that into harder work. Come playoff time, HOPEFULLY they’ll show they’ve learned something.

  8. blomfeld - Aug 28, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    DITTO THAT FOR VANCOUVER !

    If the Capitals have been getting away with ‘murder’ these past six years, then the Vancouver Canucks have been getting away with ‘cold, bloody’ murder during the same time … no two ways about it. In fact, it could be argued that they wouldn’t have won the two Presidents Trophies had they been in a normal division. But like the Capitals, the ‘free lunch’ for the Canucks is now over, as they’ll have to start actually ‘earning’ their points the hard way, just like every other top-tier team has to do.

    • 19to77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      Huh. For once we actually agree on something. Beating up Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado a few times a year certainly made things pretty easy on them. Fighting the Sharks, Kings and Ducks for position is going to be much harder. Granted, the Flames are still there for free points, but that goes for all those teams.

      On the bright side for Calgary, at least they’re pretty much guaranteed a top-3 draft pick. They’re going to get absolutely destroyed this year.

      • blomfeld - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:24 PM

        ‘He who seeks agreement & thumbs-up is nothing more than a lowly ant on the sidewalk whose only certainty is to be stepped upon’ … Mathew 13:7

        1977 – Here’s the deal friend. Over the past decade, the Canucks have perennially been handed as many as 64 ‘free’ points on a silver platter by virtue of the ‘infirmary’ previously known as the Northwest Division. You take Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Minnesota at 8 games per (32 x games total) and times that by 2 and it’s like presto man … 64 ‘free’ points ! Well that ‘free lunch’ now comes to an end. All three California teams are going to have their way with the Canucks in no uncertain terms and it won’t be pretty, believe me. And if there’s anything leftover from that, then look for the Coyotes and Oilers to get their ‘pound of flesh’ too. For years now the Canucks have been upsetting a lot of people (myself included). But now comes the time for retribution, as the ‘heels of justice’ will grant no quarter to these people !

  9. bmoreredfury311 - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Good God! you people act like you’ve never heard of the Patrick Division. The Caps, have faced these teams before,yes the never won a cup, but they weren’t a bunch of push over’s either. The Caps will hold there own. So get over it and the Caps are done with the SE, B.S.

    • DED - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:20 PM

      The Patrick Division ceased to exist 20 years ago. Yeah, the teams still exist but the players and coaches are long gone.

  10. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:43 AM

    What strikes me is the lack of inciteful/analytical content. The guy who tried, got thumeb down significantly.

    Pretty weak reflections of the Caps fans/followers.

  11. capsfan19 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Even if we need railed, it will be a great experience for our team. Only way to get better is to play better competition night after night. However, im confident that we’ll be ok. Im looking foward to playing these teams more often anyways.

  12. thecrabcakestate - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Regardless of how THIS year turns out. I think the caps will be better because of this division. The players will hopefully adapt and gain some mental toughness.

    That’s what bothered me the most in last years playoffs. Sure the refs didn’t give us a fair game in MSG. The bounces didn’t go our way. The other goalie was great. But what really killed me was how they gave up in game 7 early on. The good teams don’t fold so easily. The bruins fought back their whole game and look how that ended. I would love to see that determination in the Caps.

  13. thecrabcakestate - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    And I do know people will get on me about the red comment now that I read that post over. I never said that’s why they lost.

    Either way look at the penalty difference and try to remember all the crap the rangers pulled before and after the whistle. Callahan especially

  14. thecrabcakestate - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    *ref comment. Damn auto correct

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