A friend of mine asked me last night if I was rooting for the Caps to make the playoffs. My response was yeah, I am. But if they don't make it, it won't bother me at all. I am honestly split 50/50 on it. Yes, I hope they win their last 2 games and get in as the 8 seed. At the same time, if they don't make it, I will be happy that the 'Bears' players on the team will be returning to Hershey for a Calder Cup run.
He felt differently. While he isn't actively rooting against the Caps, he sure as hell isn't rooting for them either. And I am guessing there are many in Bears nation who feel the same way. And with good reason. Should the Caps miss the playoffs the Bears team would get immediately better with the additions of Keith Aucoin, Dmitry Orlov, Cody Eakin, and Braden Holtby.
Obviously, considering the injuries in Hershey right now, an influx in talent like that could be a difference maker. Especially when you are likely facing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first round.
Now, he also said to me that if he felt the Caps had a legitimate chance at the Cup he might feel differently, but in his opinion they are basically playing for an early exit.
This is where I guess him and I disagree the most. Despite their uninspired play at regular intervals during the season, including as recently as Monday in Tampa, I believe that they have as good a chance at the Stanley Cup as any other team in the league.
Is that crazy? Probably. But with a healthy Nicklas Backstrom this team is mostly the version that the Capitals envisioned when they put it together last summer. And remember, this team was healthy at the beginning of the year as well...and they went 7-0 to open the season.
But let's forget about that for a second. Obviously I am a nut-job if I think the Caps have as good a chance at the Stanley Cup as the Flyers or Penguins or Rangers. Obviously.
So, the question is...what are the Bears chances at winning the Calder Cup?
Healthy? Pretty damn good.
Current state? Not likely.
That means that if the Caps are eliminated the Bears chances would skyrocket...right?
I don't think so. The Bears need to be healthy to compete with the top teams in the league. Jacob Micflikier, Graham Mink, Christian Hanson, and Patrick McNeill are all injured and are either barely practicing (Mink and McNeill), not practicing (Micflikier), or OUT for at least the rest of the regular season (Hanson).
Add to that list Boyd Kane, DJ King, and Ryan Potulny who sat out practice on Tuesday for a 'maintenance day'. Nothing to be alarmed about, but when guys start missing any practice time you start to worry a little.
Will adding Aucoin, Eakin, Orlov, and Holtby really make up for all the other injuries?
I don't think so. Yes, getting a healthy Aucoin (still #4 in the league in scoring, 2nd in assists) would be huge. But would it make the Bears better than Norfolk? A team that hasn't lost since February 4? Doubtful.
Who knows what Orlov will be like in Hershey. I am sure he will play hard, but he hasn't been a Bear since before Thanksgiving. Will his return cause more issues on the blueline then help?
Eakin is a stud and definitely makes the team better...but he isn't going to win games on his own.
And Holtby...let's just say there are still huge questions about his playoff ability. He has played 9 playoff games and his goals against average is well above 3.00 and his save percentage is well below .900. And he wasn't exactly setting the league on fire before his recall to Washington.
So, yes. If the Caps miss the playoffs the Bears would be in better shape. But unless they get the rest of their players back from injury, they aren't legitimate title contenders.
So...again...I am rooting for the Caps to win their last two...but I won't be disappointed if they fail to show up in those games too.
How about you, are you rooting for the Caps to win or to do what they have been doing for most of the season, fall flat on their faces?