By SEAN KINSLOW
After a season of highs and lows, the Washington Capitals now have their eyes set on the NHL playoffs. The recently revamped formula to determine what teams make the playoffs has kept things interesting as teams head toward the post-season.
The NHL consists of two conferences, the Western and Eastern conferences. Those two conferences are further broken down into two divisions. The West consists of the Central and the Pacific divisions, while the East is broken down into the Atlantic and Metropolitan division, of which the Capitals are members. Eight teams from each conference make the playoffs. The top three teams in each division make the playoffs, with the remaining two teams coming from the wild card spots, determined by the next two teams with the best records within that conference regardless of division.
With 73 games played so far, the Capitals have nine left on their schedule. The Caps currently sit as a wild card team in the Eastern Conference and would be the seventh seed in the East if the playoffs started today. The team cannot slack off in these last nine games, though, with many good teams behind them vying for a playoff spot. They will need their stars to shine and continue on their stellar season.
Team Captain Alexander Ovechkin is leading the league with 47 goals. Star center Nicklas Backstrom leads the NHL in assists with 54. Starting Goalie Braden Holtby is also having a breakout year, saving 92.4 percent of the shots fired at him while boasting eight shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.18.
If these stars continue to play well down the final stretch, the Capitals should find themselves in position to not only make the playoffs but to have a chance to make a deep playoff run.
On the basketball courts, the Washington Wizards are in good shape to make the NBA playoffs, with 10 games remaining in the regular season. However, they are not as highly seeded as they may have originally hoped for.
Of the 30 teams in the NBA, 16 reach the playoffs, with the top eight teams from each conference, Eastern and Western, getting the nod. The Wizards currently hold the fifth seed in the East. If the playoffs were to start today they would take on the Chicago Bulls in the first round. This would be a rematch of last year’s playoff series, in which the Wizards beat the Bulls in five games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
The Washington Wizards had a hot start to the season and early on looked like one of the best teams in the NBA. The team, however in recent months, has cooled down considerably. They do not seem to be playing with the same intensity on defense and the passion in which they started the season.
In these 10 remaining games the Wizards will need to get back to playing the brand of basketball they did earlier this year in order to generate some momentum going into the playoffs. Between now and the end of the season, Head Coach Randy Whittman will be stressing to his team the importance of playing with more energy on defense and getting shooting guard Bradly Beal more consistent and better shots, as well as all-star John Wall beginning to play at a superstar level again. If the Wizards can do these things then they will have a good shot to advance at least to the second round of the playoffs, if not further.