FanPost

Should we be worried how the Caps are finishing the season? History says "maybe not".

The big worry in DC these days is that the Caps are coasting into the playoffs and, consequently, won’t be able to turn on the intensity once the second season begins. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the Stanley Cup Finalists for the last 20 years and see how they finished up their regular seasons. As you would expect, almost all were above .500  in their last ten games. What is surprising is that very few of the Finalists went into the playoffs on any kind of major role. In fact, only five teams out of the 40 listed won more than six games out of their last ten and the average was five wins. Now, obviously, the numbers don’t tell you how the teams were playing, but my guess is that their on-ice performance probably mirrored their record. So why then did the teams that played the best in the post-season “coast” into the playoffs? It’s hard to give a definitive explanation but it was probably a combination of 1) knowing their playoff position was secured and 2) the opposition played with more intensity as they tried to secure a playoff spot. Coaches are always trying to preach how every game is important, but players aren’t dumb. They can see the standings and understand if a game is crucial or not. Right now the Caps know they’re pretty much locked into the third seed (although #2 is still possible) and their play is reflecting that mindset. Would we all rather they look great and roll through the remaining games? Probably, yet looking at the last 20 years I have to wonder if the team isn’t better served by holding back some of that emotion and drive for when the games really matter. I have little doubt that when they drop the puck in Game 1, the Caps will have an entirely different look than the team we’re watching right now. Time will tell which approach is right, but at least we can see that what the Caps are going through right now isn’t unique. In fact, it’s probably the norm.

1988–89

Calgary Flames 8-1-0

Montreal Canadiens 6-2-2

1989–90

Edmonton Oilers 4-4-2

Boston Bruins 4-2-4

1990–91

Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3-2

Minnesota North Stars 3-5-2

1991–92

Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3-1

Chicago Blackhawks 5-4-1

1992–93

Montreal Canadiens 4-4-2

Los Angeles Kings 4-3-3

1993–94

New York Rangers 7-2-1

Vancouver Canucks 5-5-0

1994–95

New Jersey Devils 5-3-2

Detroit Red Wings 5-4-1

1995–96

Colorado Avalanche 6-3-1

Florida Panthers 3-6-1

1996–97

Detroit Red Wings 4-2-4

Philadelphia Flyers 5-3-2

1997–98

Detroit Red Wings 6-4

Washington Capitals 7-1-1

1998–99

Dallas Stars 6-4

Buffalo Sabres 4-3-2

1999–2000

New Jersey Devils 5-5

Dallas Stars 4-2-2-2

2000–01

Colorado Avalanche 6-3-1

New Jersey Devils 8-2

2001–02

Detroit Red Wings 4-2-3-1

Carolina Hurricanes 5-3-2

2002–03

New Jersey Devils 6-4

Mighty Ducks 5-2-1-2

2003–04

Tampa Bay 5-4-1

Calgary Flames 6-4

2005–06

Carolina Hurricanes 5-3-2

Edmonton Oilers 5-4-1

2006–07

Anaheim Ducks 5-3-2

Ottawa Senators 6-2-2

2007–08

Detroit Red Wings 7-2-1

Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3-1

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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